“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD.” (Isaiah 2:2–5, ESV)
Our hope is for a future that has already begun.
You see, Jesus Christ came in history. And while he is completely human, he is also completely divine. He is nothing less than the renewed Temple of the New Creation, the way that God dwells forever with his people.
He loves us so much that he died for our sins on a cross, an act of love so powerful that death could not stand before it. He was raised from the grave in victory so we know that our sins have been dealt with. The forgiveness of sins is possible.
Eternal life is possible because of Jesus Christ! That’s the thrill of hope!
We were dead in our trespasses with no hope, but because Jesus came in history, the possibilities for abundant life give us a jolt of rejoicing in a weary world.
But there’s more! The future presence that Isaiah saw has in fact come in history, in Jesus, and comes now in mystery. Yes, Jesus has come and indeed comes in mystery in the present through the church.
This is what the sacramental life, begun in baptism and sustained in Holy Eucharist is all about. These are holy mysteries of the presence of Christ. As we order our lives around confessing and professing Jesus as Lord, our very bodies become temples of the Holy Spirit, and we are built up together into Body of Christ on earth!
The very hope that Isaiah saw, divine, dwelling, and teaching presence of God has—in Jesus—come in history and indeed comes to us in the present in mystery…and one day, we will experience it in majesty when our Lord returns to establish his kingdom in all its fullness.
What does this good news mean for you today? It means the church is the place where hope is—or at least where God desires to put it on display for the world. Isaiah urged the people of God to respond to his holy vision by walking in the light of the Lord.
Just like ancient Israel, the Church has been entrusted with the law of God to teach, and the word of the Gospel to preach.
In practical terms this means that when we are faithful to the biblical witness, the church is the place where we do not war with each other or anyone else. The church is the place people can come to see what it looks like when people let God settle disputes by his word, and get on with the hard labor of making peace instead of war (it’s tough work to beat a sword into a plowshare).
The church is the place people can come to learn to be at peace with God by trusting his judgment—carried out on a cross and recorded in the Bible—that one man has died for the sins of all, and it is enough.
It is not too bold to say the church is the hope of the world, because Jesus is the head of the church! This doesn’t mean we’re perfect! But he is. So, it does mean we have the most precious treasure imaginable to share.
We have the truth and hope of the Gospel. The truth that peace was won at the cross and the hope that peace will be the way of all the nations. The truth that heaven came to earth in Christ and the hope that it will one day fill the earth with God’s glory. The truth of God’s unrelenting love for each person and the hope of resurrection.
We witness to this most faithfully when we live in light of it. When we trust the grace of God deeply, Isaiah’s divine vision breaks into our daily, common life and becomes our reality.
Eugene Peterson said, “The Christian life is the practice of living in what God has done and is doing” (see his intro to the book, God with us). If I might be so bold as to add something to such a wonderful turn of phrase, I would also say: “The Christian life is the practice of living in the hope of what God will do.”
This is nothing less than the hope of reconciliation of all people to him, and to each other, all because of what God has done in Jesus and what Jesus is doing in the Church by the Holy Spirit.