“and they shall beat their swords into plough shares.” Isaiah 2:4
Advent is my favorite liturgical season. We are invited to travel with the prophets on a journey of waiting and longing. We see visions of heavenly feasts where righteousness and justice reign. We are promised a future of peace and tranquility, where love trumps violence and hatred. Our present struggles will fall by the wayside along smooth, straight paths.
Prophets know the power of the poetic word or phrase. It stops us in our tracks, nudging us into deeper pondering. Beating swords into plough shares is one of these phrases. Take a quiet moment to reflect on the richness of this image. What does it mean to our world today? What challenges does it bring? How can we respond to make this vision a reality?
Sadly, our world is filled with too many examples of scarce resources being used for war while millions of people are starving. We can point a finger at countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia. We can turn the same finger back on ourselves when our national resources are used for unjust wars and the build-up of weapons rather than peace-keeping. It boggles the mind to think of the global imbalance caused by war; where swords are becoming increasingly expensive and whole populations are dying of hunger.
What about the swords and plough shares in our own lives? Do we use the gifts and resources given to us to promote peace and unity, or dissent and division? Our words and actions have the power to slay for good or for evil. Working for a peaceful and just world does not mean being silent. It requires entering into difficult conversations; passive door-mats need not apply. But, how good are we at dialogue within our own families, our neighbourhoods, our places of work, our schools, and our churches?
What swords do I need to hammer into plough shares? This is a constant challenge with my writing. It’s a fine line between having a good, cathartic rant and using your words to attack. When an issue is close to my heart, it is easy to fuel the flames of dissent – in myself and in others. The flames have the power to heat up my personal views. Witty words add fuel, as does the support of kindred spirits.
I am not saying that we shouldn`t share our experiences openly and honestly. On the contrary! It is important that our voices are heard, and that we listen to the voices of all. But, once we have spoken, how do we take our own passions and unite them for the greater good? How do we hammer our own issues into plough-shares for peace in our church and our world?
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