Saturday, November 30, 2019

Neither shall they learn war, anymore. Year A, Advent 1, Isaiah 2.1-5

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
“I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside
I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside
I'm gonna study, study, war no more
I ain't gonna study war no more
Ain't gonna study war no more
I ain't gonna study war no more”

650 Billion dollars.
That’s more than the next seven countries combined:
China, Saudi Arabia, India, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and France.
650 billion dollars spent on the military.
CNBC reported last year:
  • The U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan have cost American taxpayers $5.9 trillion since they began in 2001.
  • The figure reflects the cost across the U.S. federal government since the price of war is not borne by the Defense Department alone.
  • The report also finds that more than 480,000 people have died from the wars and more than 244,000 civilians have been killed as a result of fighting. Additionally, another 10 million people have been displaced due to violence
To put that in perspective, the human cost of the wars that we fought in response to the 9/11 attacks has now exceeded 250 people, dead or wounded, for each person killed on 9/11.
Financially, what that means is that since 9-11 each one of us has contributed approximately $18,000 toward that war effort.
During that period of time, then, my wife and I together with my children account for $108,000 in spending on those wars.
On an annual basis, our government spends $2,000 on the military for every man, woman, and child.
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.
Isaiah also says in Chapter 11:
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

There are many markers that Christians have used to determine “genuine” Christianity.
When the Roman empire required people to declare “Caesar is Lord!”, the early Christians refused and instead confessed “Jesus is Lord!”  This witness cost many their lives, and for a while defined ‘genuine Christianity’.
Throughout the first centuries of the Church one of the sources of division was the understanding about who Jesus was.
The Nicene Creed was adopted in 325 and amended in 381.  This creedal statement became the enduring marker of the Orthodox Christian faith.
The Bible.
All Christians lift up the Bible as God’s word.
But how we interpret the Bible, what passages are most important, what passages can now be ignored, and all sorts of similar issues divide us.
For many, the approach a person takes to the Bible defines whether they are a genuine Christian or not.

Similarly, social issues become defining for many Christians—what is our response to:
·         Abortion
·         Homosexuality
·         Poverty
·         Immigration
·         Healthcare
·         Justice
·         Gun control
·         Drug and alcohol abuse
·         And Civil Rights, just to name a few.
I had a college professor who once mused that all of the divisions among Christians today were the result of the questions they asked during the medieval period.
He said that it might make more sense to define denominations today based on their positions on these very important issues.
What is the true Christian Church?  For many people that is defined by the position that a Church body takes on these various social issues.

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.
Although all of these things I have cited are important, today I’d like to lift up this issue from Isaiah.
An end, not only to wars, but to the education of warfare.
Imagine, for example, a world in which no one knew how to make a nuclear bomb, anymore.
Imagine a world in which our sons and daughters would not be sent off to die in a foreign land, fighting for a cause no one understands.
Imagine a world in which the government spent the tax dollars on programs such as healthcare, as opposed to the military, because it cared more about healing than killing.
Imagine a world in which no country would seek dominance over the other because they all submitted to the reign of God.
Is peace impossible?
And for people of faith, is there a disconnect between living in a land that considers itself to be founded on Christian principles, BUT which at the same time maintains the most lethal military force in the history of the world.
It’s the name of our congregation.
Ironically, our congregation was founded in part due to some conflicts within the other congregations in the Valley, back in the day.
A while back, someone commented online how ironic it was to see “Peace” and “Lutheran” in the same name.
We have become known for our struggles and the controversial issues we’ve dealt with.
What got lost in all the debate and the fall out was the official position that we could be one in Christ even as we disagreed on these issues.  It was called “reconciled diversity”. 
It was an effort to lift up ‘Peace’ as the defining quality of our Church. 
It didn’t work very well.  Many people left because they disagreed. 
Peace among Nations.
Peace among congregations and Churches.
And peace between people.
It all starts with that last one.
Can I so love my neighbor that I can give up any desire to prevail in a conflict and instead seek to live in harmony and peace?
If we are ever going to experience peace among all nations, first we will need to learn how to live at peace with our own families.
A marriage ought not to be a war zone.
A brother, a sister, is not an enemy.
Children ought not to revolt against parents and neither are parents to dominate their children.
Not learning warfare anymore begins at home.
It’s learning instead the way of Peace, of Shalom.
And peace is not just the lack of conflict, but healing and reconciliation. 

One of the most important things is to realize that "Love and Peace" is not just some “hippy” ideal of kids on pot, but the vision of God himself for our world.
When I consider the prospects of Peace in our world, I both despair and hope.
I despair because we simply cannot seem to break our addiction to the making of war. 
The United States has been engaged in military conflicts 93% of the years since its founding.  There have only been about 20 years total that we were not involved in any military interventions and wars.
That causes me to despair of any hope for peace.
But the other side to that is that peace begins with me.
I have learned over the years that I do not have to resort to conflict, I can choose peace instead.
If I have been wronged, I can choose to forgive.
If I have experienced hatred, I can choose to love.
I can seek healing and reconciliation, not vengeance and retribution.
That gives me cause for hope.
But more than that, much more than that, is the promise of God.
God promises us that one day he will bring peace to the earth and reconciliation to all people.
I may despair of the possibility that we humans will ever learn to live in peace, but God promises that that day will come, not because of our efforts, but because of his.
And so we wait.
And we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

No comments:

Post a Comment