1 The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.Isaiah 2:1-5
In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
3 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 instruction
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
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 any more.
5 O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord!
So many people avoid the prophetic texts in their Bible study. Many of the books are long and their messages can be confusingly hidden in poetry and metaphor, however for those who take the time to read deeply they are a rich source of inspiration. The prophets were tremendously influential on Jesus’ ministry and message. There are over 50 references to Isaiah alone in the New Testament, and he is quoted directly several times by Jesus. So, if we do not attend to the prophetic books, we cannot fully understand the one who came not just to fulfill their message, but to proclaim it in a way that was fresh and new in his own time, and continues to enliven and transform us today.
In this passage, Isaiah invites all of Israel to imagine a different world for themselves. Echoing Moses’ encounter with God on Mt. Sinai and the receipt of the Law for Israel, Isaiah expands the invitation from just one representative person to the entire community gathered together to hear from God themselves. Whereas one person’s message can be misinterpreted or diluted in the retelling, here God seeks to provide a wholesale culture shift in the people where God’s will is instructed to the whole community to be passed down from one generation to the next.
Having experienced corrupt leaders and unfaithful Kings, Isaiah here asserts that in this perfect time, God will be the King and ruler. In this Kingdom of God, things will look different, begining with Israel’s relationship to war. The image of beating swords into plowshares is one that has been used and interpreted by artists and poets in so many ways because of its beauty and power. Having grown up in the city, however, I only had a passing understanding of the agricultural context that Isaiah uses in this image. However, my family recently moved to a more rural part of the country where I now pass by gardens and farms everyday. This experience has deepened my understanding of Isaiah’s imagery. In addition to the literal call to lay down arms, I believe that Isaiah is also calling the people to a mental shift as well.
If you have ever watched a pirate movie, or fencing match, you will know that sword fighting is moments of action with long pauses for strategy and posturing. Similarly, a spear when thrown at an enemy, is then unavailable to the soldier until it is retrieved. As a metaphor for war, this is fitting. Wars are often defined events. They get declared and then concluded with an armistice. Battles begin and end with victory or defeat. Peace, on the other hand, is less easy to measure. While historians often define “peacetime” as the period between wars, this definition is very reductive since it assumes war and violence as inevitable parts of civilization. Isaiah’s vision, defies this assumption by proclaiming an alternative reality where one day the time of non-violence will be forever.
Isaiah’s images of a plowshare and pruning hook help us to understand how peace can be more than an interim season, but a constant reality. In contrast to the sword, a plowshare requires consistent movement. When planting a field, if the tractor pulling the plow goes in starts and stops, the lines will be uneven impacting the future harvest. Similarly, if the ongoing work of pruning and maintenance of the field is not maintained throughout the growth of the plants, weeds will grow, the plants will become unruly, and the harvest will suffer.
In order for us to be people who can imagine peace, we must be willing to continue to work towards obedience and justice on a daily basis, not just when a crisis hits the news cycle. It requires to climb up above the arguments and challenges we experience and look at the systemic issues that give rise to our disagreements and fights as well as the larger work of God who is calling all people together. This sort of peace does not settle for an end to fighting, but presses deeper so that reconciliation is achieved and God’s justice is realized. This is a work that will require God’s grace and leadership as well as the participation of each of us walking daily in the light of the Lord.
God of Peace, I recognize our world is far from the perfect you desire. As I am tempted toward apathy or despair, help my imagination to catch your vision of a lasting peace. Help my life begin the transformation you are bringing to our world, where swords become ploughshares and habits of violence change into the steady patterns of peace. Amen.
This week’s recipe is a Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie. For me, chocolate chip cookies are the foundational cookie. It is the one I grew up eating raw out of my mother’s mixing bowl and was the first cookie I learned to make. Memory is an important sense in baking, and so as you begin this series, I encourage you to pay attention to the feelings and emotions that come up as you bake this and the other recipes to come.
The first step in this recipe is to brown butter. This may be a new technique for you, but it is one of my favorite things to do because you can watch such a simple ingredient dramatically gain depth before your eyes. As you watch the melting and transformation, imagine Isaiah’s vision. What would it look like if all the worlds weapons were melted down. If no one needed to give mental space to war or fear or violence? What would that world feel like? What new and greater things would be possible?
As you assemble the dough pay attention to its shape and texture throughout the process. Individual ingredients emulsify and break apart, only to come back together again as the dough is mixed. Then as we scoop, form, chill, and bake. Throughout that process the texture changes so many times. How is God forming and shaping you as we begin this season? What do you need to submit to God’s transformation? What aspects of your life are still being mixed?
Brown Butter Chocolate Chip
Adapted from Joy Wilson’s recipe at kingarthurbaking.com.
Yields 18-24 cookies
Before baking, review some of our baking tips.
- 2 Sticks of Butter (227g)
- 1c Brown Sugar (packed) (200g)
- ½c White Sugar (100g)
- 2tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1 Egg
- 1 Egg yolk
- 2 1/4c All Purpose Flour (270g)
- 1t Salt
- 1t Baking soda
- 1c Chocolate chips (170g)
- 1/4c Cacao nibs (or 1/2c roasted pecans)
- Get out both sticks of butter. Chop one into small pieces and place in mixing bowl (If your butter is at room temperature, you do not need to chop it). For the other stick of butter, place in a medium sized skillet and cook over medium heat. After the butter melts, it will begin to boil. As the water evaporates the milk solids will begin to brown. Pay close attention at this point. Once you begin to smell a nutty aroma and the solids turn light brow, remove from heat and allow to cool. (Be careful, the residual heat in the pan can burn the butter, so move to a different bowl if you let it cook a bit longer).
- Get out the rest of your ingredients so your brown butter can cool.
- Combine in a bowl Dry Ingredients so that the salt and soda are thoroughly dispersed. (I usually find putting the salt and soda in a mesh strainer or sifter first makes them combine better.)
- To the stand mixer, add the sugars to the butter and cream them together for around 3 minutes. Scrape your bowl half way through.
- Add vanilla and cooled brown butter. Make sure you get all the tasty brown bits you worked so hard for! Beat for another 2 minutes, and scrape your bowl again.
- Add the egg and yolk and mix to combine. Scrape your bowl.
- Add your Dry Ingredients to the stand mixer and mix until they are almost combined. There will still be traces of flour showing.
- Add in your Mix-Ins and stir so these are evenly dispersed. (You can do this by hand if you are worried about over-mixing).
- Form the dough into golf-ball sized portions (around 2 ounces) and place next to each other on a parchment lined baking tray or plastic container. Place into refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or several days. (You can also freeze at this point to help with self-control!)
- When ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 350°F
- Place cookies cold out of the fridge, on a parchment paper lined baking sheet placed 1-2 inches apart. Bake in a 350°F oven for 12-15 minutes.