Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Let There Be Peace on Earth

Pay no attention to that date at the top. Sigh.

First Monday of Advent
Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4B, 4CD-5, 6-7, 8-9
Matthew 8:5-11

Today's first reading gives us the very familiar peace-making refrain: They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. Of course, most of us today have no concept of either plowshares or pruning hooks, and, unfortunately, destroying the swords and spears would have no effect on the tanks and bombers. But the idea is there ... this dream of a day without war, without violence; this leads us very nicely into the Peaceable Kingdom passage of tomorrow.

I was then struck when I read the psalm for the day, with its opening of "I rejoiced when they said to me, 'We will go up to the house of the Lord.'" Considering the first reading, which speaks of the nations "climbing the Lord's mountain" on this day when the swords are beaten into plowshares and when the spears do become pruning hooks ... then perhaps maybe we do have peace; we rejoice on that day when we finally go to the house because that peace has finally been achieved.

Unfortunately for us, we have not yet gone up to "the house"; our swords and spears are plentiful, and the plowshares used to create good out of the earth are lacking. There's the saying that often makes the rounds: "It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber." I'm not denying the need for well-equipped forces, particularly in this day and age when they are laying their lives on the line for us, but at the same time we do need to consider where our priorities as a nation lie. (As an aside ... as I was looking up the quote, I came across people holding bake sales for body armor. While apparently that was a big election ploy that got cited in the National Review as having absolutely no evidence whatsoever, the link that first made me wonder was an unacknowledge [by the Review] sale in Oklahoma. I haven't done the research to see the legitimacy of either argument but ... valid or not, it's still not the way to treat our troops.) We give all this hype to "No Child Left Behind" but we have teachers, even in the best of schools, paying out of pocket for classroom supplies; if nothing else, look at the salary arrangements. Although on that same front ... the emphasis on the military doesn't always come through financially, either -- I remember before I entered the community reading a series in the Washington Post about the number of active-duty service personnel who are living below the poverty line (I can't find that article, but here's a related story). There also has been some efforts made recently to create a US Department of Peace. We have a Department of Defense (formerly called the War Department); shouldn't we also give a title to our efforts for peace? Giving things a name really goes a long way in demonstrating the level of importance assigned to something.

If we want peace, we must work for justice. Isaiah speaks of terms "being imposed upon the people" — it's not easy; it's not an automatic. The swords don't just magically transform one day into plowshares; spears don't mysteriously get rebent and reformed into pruning hooks. The metal must get heated to an extremely high temperature and are beaten (literally!), pounded, and forced into its new shape. It takes a lot of work, strength, and hard effort. But, if you want something badly enough ....

We say we want peace, but do we really? Remember, peace isn't just about big tanks and machine guns. How am I contributing to our culture of violence and competition? How am I helping to create a new idea of peace in my own little corner of the world? Is there hatred and vengeance (and even annoyance) in my heart, or is it love, patience, and compassion (even for those annoyances)?

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there a letter here for you?

12/06/2006 2:07 PM  
Anonymous Nate Wildermuth said...

Great post!

There are many of us who believe that Christ ushered in a Kingdom whose citizens would beat their swords into plougshares, or more appropriately, crosses.

12/06/2006 7:33 PM  

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