“Pondering Power in the Pursuit of Peace”
Psalm 4 & Micah 4: 1-5 ~ November 7, 2021 ~ Northwood United ~ Rev. G. Scott Turnbrook
When will the world know peace? When will the wolf and the lamb lie together? When will swords be remade into ploughshares? When will the world know peace? These are the questions that we ask on Remembrance Sunday…when will the world know peace? We place poppies upon our hearts; the sounds of the pipes touch us deep inside and we wonder…when will the world know peace?
As we gather this morning, I would like for us to honestly consider if peace is something that we actively pursue in our living or whether it is something that we hope will, somehow, unfold in our world? Sadly, I wonder if our world believes more in the latter than the former. We believe that peace will….somehow come. We just aren’t sure how that will ever arrive. It is not that we are ‘bad’. Our world remembers…but we have taken to doing it passively rather than actively. We remember for a day…a Sunday…the 11th hour on the 11th month of the 11th day…a time of silence…and then life continues. And we somehow hope that peace will one day…somehow…come.
And so, for our brief time of reflection, I would like for us to ponder the nature of power… the powers that seek our loyalty; the powers that we prescribe to; the powers that lead to peace and the powers that lead us away. Rock legend Jimi Hendrix is not someone you might expect in a sermon; however, he is remembered as prophetically saying: “when the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” And as we take apart this consideration of power’s existence in the world, we find that the choices we make will guide us towards, or away, from peace.
At the surface, we seem to have a propensity for the power of war. A number of Remembrance Day articles that I have read lament how the last century moved from conflict to conflict. The power alive and well, has been the power of war. World Wars, conflict in specific countries, battles for power over others. And if we look further back, that is exactly what we see throughout much of the Biblical story. This morning’s text is set in the Babylonian exile when the warring Babylonians overcome the Israelites and dragged them off in chains. Before that, the warring power of Egypt, then Babylon, and the many conflicts that have existed throughout history. The power of war seems to be like a magnet to our humanity. We are more excited when see a fight occur at a hockey game than a skilled player making a goal. Last month, media-giant Netflix announced their most viewed series of all time is “Squid Games”, a ‘Lord of the Flies’ type series, where the participants compete for a jackpot by battling one another to the death. We love the power of war; we love the power of violence; we love power over others. Is there any wonder that conflict, violence and war are alive and well in the world? Is there any wonder that conflict continues, that wars rage…when we continue to bow down to the power of war?
And that is the human challenge that we bring in this pursuit of peace. We must consider what type of power we offer our allegiance to. If we have any hope of moving towards peace, we must consider the power that we bow down to. “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” There is hope, I believe, when we consider who we are…deep inside…when we consider our spiritual identity. The Creation story tells how we were made “in the image of God.” And, what this assures us is that deep our DNA…lodged in our spiritual essence…is a child of God’s peace. In a few weeks, we will commence the Advent journey leading to Christ’s birth. And, we will consider how He will arrive in ways of: hope, joy, love and…peace. While the world seduces us away, our spiritual ancestry is rooted in the power of peace…not war. However, the longer we become immersed in the ways of this world, the more we forget this spiritual identity!
Micah’s oracle depicts a powerful image of swords being re-made into ploughshares. It is so powerful that it was sculpted and permanently displayed at the United Nations building in New York City. Micah depicts a time when weapons of war will be remade into implements that will feed and care for humankind. And this change from war towards care will not occur without power. Look at the artist’s depiction of the blacksmith’s power! The blacksmith has heated the fire to be so powerful that the metal can be bent and reformed; the blacksmith is now hammering the sword with his powerful arms; reshaping this implement of war into one that will allows for the food of peace.
I was preparing this reflection this week as I, along with many of you, have been taking in the COP26 Climate Summit. As the Conference of the Parties hold their 26th meeting in Glasgow, this is the hopeful image that we have been seeing. Dialogue and commitment from many of the countries to move our world towards health. The world’s leaders have increasingly come to realize that we need to come together in peace in order for this fragile planet. We cannot wage war against the environment or, as we have discovered, Mother Nature will always win. We are increasingly seeing a vision of peace!
What we learn from Micah’s oracle is that a new kind of power will be required. It will be shift from a power of war towards that of a power of care and compassion for others. Peace will only arrive when we follow its power and seek its presence in our lives. The sword will remain the sword until powerful heat, powerful energy are cast upon the sword to reshape it into the pruning spear. The power of conflict; the power of hatred; the power of war will continue until we actively allow the power of peace to be that which we follow.
One identity of Jesus is ‘The Prince of Peace’ and we cannot follow him when we also follow the ways of conflict, violence, and war. I once was in a jewelry store and overheard an interesting conversation between customer and a salesperson. The customer was wanting to purchase a cross. (I, the nosy preacher, began to listen with great interest). “Hello…can you show me your selection of cross pendants. I’m wanting to give my daughter one as a gift. She is turning 16.” The salesperson responded needing a little more information: “of course…we have a great selection. Were you wanting a plain cross or one with the little man on it?” And it made me think of how easy it might appear to be…to take on the Christian faith. A plain cross?…one with the little man on it?…it is NOT that easy! The faith that we pursue is one where we turn away from the power of hatred, the power of violence, the power of war…the journey we walk is one where we bow down before the power of God’s love. Peace must be seen as an active pursuit, not a passive one, where we work towards this vision. We must be conscious of what we take into our minds and hearts. Do we consume violence and hatred? Or do we take in peace? Do we further build up the image of who we were created to be? The beautiful image of God…who is peace. Or, do we slowly, insidiously, allow the powers of the world to overcome and rule us. When the power of love overcomes the power of war, the world will know peace.
The gospel of Matthew closes with a powerful image of almost a ‘Cosmic Communion’. That is the table we consider gathering around this day for communion. It is an image of all the nations…all of them…gathered… gathered together. All gathered in a community of love, not hate. All fed, not hungry. All loved, not rejected.
May we bow down to the power of love that is God. May we actively work for this vision of peace.