The Peaceable Kingdom: Katie Keller Koch on Stacey Hunter Hecht

One final tribute to Prof. Stacey Hunter Hecht comes from Pastor Katie (Keller) Koch ’02, who shared this reflection on the first verses of Isaiah 11 at Stacey’s memorial service on Thursday morning at Como Park Lutheran Church. A History and Poli Sci double-major at Bethel, Katie finished her M.Div. at Luther Seminary in 2007. She and her husband Paul have worked as Lutheran parish pastors for a number of years; Katie is currently on leave from call to care for their four children.

The wolf shall live with the lamb…a little child shall lead them…and they will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain. (Isa 11:6, 9)

Tucked in Stacey’s office at Bethel there was a painting, a print of the famous Peaceable Kingdom, depicting this scripture from Isaiah, chapter 11. And thanks to an art heist in the Political Science hallway yesterday, the painting is right down there if you’d like to look at it. It is a scene and portion of scripture befitting a political scientist.

The "Peaceable Kingdom" print above Stacey's desk at Bethel

Early in Stacey’s time at Bethel, I can remember her talking about this painting and Isaiah 11: that our world would always have the wolf and the lamb, the powerful and the weak, the fierce and the gentle, the proud and the humble. Over the years, students of Stacey’s poured over piles of assigned readings on these very topics.

Seeking Christ in her work as well as her life, Stacey would then point to this scripture to say, but look here.

See.

There is a kingdom.

A kingdom where wolf and lamb are together, where the lion and ox are side by side, and where even the baby is safe with the poisonous snake. In political science terms, there is a kingdom where power and powerlessness no longer clash against one another but rather live in a gracious harmony.

It seems that in every area, Stacey lived her own life striving for this when and where she could — believing that somehow deliberate acts of kindness and hospitality could make this all too harsh world a bit more like that Peaceable Kingdom.

Stacey seemed near constantly to be trying to open doors and build bridges for students and friends, for even complete strangers, and across cultures and economics. Even the whole Twin Cities seemed too small for Stacey and she kept taking her show on the road internationally in more recent years.

I’ve heard Steve say “Stace’s never met a party she didn’t love.”

How about, then, a party with a wolf and a lamb: perfect – it’ll be interesting! And lion and ox: even better. So why not combine Penn State and the U of M, with mainline presbyterians and neighborhood Lutherans, and don’t forget the evangelicals from Bethel; then mixing in foreign exchange students from Japan and China, along with just about the entire Twin Cities Chinese dance and language communities. Finally, let’s throw in a good measure of public television and political commentary, just to make things fun.

Now that sounds like Stacey. She could take people from vastly different parts of society and throw them together around a common cause and somehow make this all seem so very normal. And so beautiful.

Stacey just couldn’t stop herself from welcoming people in and making a difference in the world around her. Now, at times, you could say Stacey was meddling or sometimes a tad aggressive about her opinions, but it seemed she wanted to reach right out and grab this kingdom promised by her Lord and say, ok, God now deliver on this promise.

Thy kingdom come, Lord, on earth as it is in heaven.

Of course, I don’t need to tell you this. You’re here today, so you’ve got your own memories of Stacey and somewhere along the way, you too were caught up into Stacey’s determination and passion.

Stacey holding Katie's daughter BeatriceBut just as the prophet Isaiah spoke, so too knew Stacey that this kingdom is simply a perishable dream without the very certain hope in the one who was already reconciling one to another and each of us to God. Stacey’s connecting and teaching and friendship was motivated by the truths she knew from scripture.

She knew too that despite her best efforts, this world would alway harbor brokenness. And yes, our hearts hurt today with the brokenness of death.

So hope comes then in the one who truly reigns in this Kingdom of God. For in Isaiah we hear that it is a little child who shall lead this grand kingdom; this righteous branch of Jesse, this messiah, comes with such hope and promise that though this seems impossible on Earth, there is a kingdom of God where such perfection is finally known.

This day, we commend Stacey to the peaceable kingdom of resurrection, prepared for her by Christ’s very hand.

Amen.

– Katie Keller Koch

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