A sermon preached
Readings: Micah 4:1-5, Rev 22:1-5
Two texts, the first from Micah, 700 years before Christ,
and the 2nd from the band U2 – from an album recorded in 2000:
They will beat their swords into ploughshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore. (Micah 4:3)
earth - we need it now
I'm sick of all this hanging around
Sick of sorrow, Sick of pain
Sick of hearing again and again
that there's gonna be peace on earth.”
[U2 "Peace on Earth” from “All that you can't leave behind" 2000]
Today we gather to remember those who have died in war.
here remember loved ones lost in battle or conflict
more than half a century ago – but still loved and missed –
thoughts are caught up with much more recent events -
the victims of recent terrorist atrocities in London,
or family members involved in armed conflicts in Iraq or elsewhere
if Remembrance Sunday is a particularly British occasion,
we are part of one world and indeed
here at the Mint very much part of a multicultural Church congregation,
and this is a day to share with those of every nation –
former allies and foes alike -
in recalling the horror, and the sacrifice of war.
All of us sharing in our memories and thoughts –
· giving thanks for selfless sacrifice
· confessing the failings of a sinful human race
· praying for peace on earth & an end to the madness & waste of war.
Micah predicts terrible times of war for the people of Israel.
But then he goes on with this amazing vision –
the day when peace will replace warfare
and swords will be made into ploughs.
Well, after 2700 years we are still waiting!
Indeed I read somewhere that since the end of World War 2
there have been over 150 major armed conflicts,
resulting in about 30 million deaths.
I don’t know how out of date those numbers are –
or how you define a war –
One statistic which won’t I think have changed of late is this -
In the years since the end of World War 2
there have been only 26 days
when there has not been a major war raging somewhere on the planet.
Well might we echo that song from U2
How long Lord, must we keep hearing the prophecy of peace?
When will it come?
Of course ultimate peace and justice and joy
will come only at the end of time in the Kingdom of God.
But that doesn’t mean that we just sit and
it is never too soon to start cultivating the oasis of peace
in the desert of our war mongering world.
In the words of Mahatma Ghandi,
“Peace is not something that you wish for.
It is something that you make, something that you do,
something that you are, something that you give away.”
And if we
really want to honour those who died in war,
we can do no better than by building a more peaceful loving world
for their children and ours.
vision may not be fully realized,
but we can do what we can.
HOW DO WE WORK FOR PEACE??
legitimate to use the weapons of war to work for peace??
1. There are those
of us who would argue that taking up your cross
means taking the way of vulnerability
in the belief that suffering love is a more powerful weapon
than the munitions of the world -
and that is part of a long and noble Christian tradition
going back to the Early Church
which resolutely refused to fight in Imperial armies.
2. Others of you
here would argue just as cogently
that in a sinful world we have sometimes
to use the weapons of evil for the good.
We will not resolve that issue here:
would say is this -
if we do choose take up arms we should do so in sorrow not anger –
and if we are victorious in war there should be no rejoicing,
only bitter regret that such a costly victory be called for
whether or not we are called to make war –
we can all agree as Christians we are called to make peace. –
to turn swords into ploughshares.
nothing - no sword, no gun, no bomb, no tank,
that, by God, cannot be turned into something else -
a shovel, a table or a hoe or a plough.
And as Jesus knew, there is no broken person or fractured community
which cannot be transfigured into something whole, beautiful for God.
I want to tell you about Senhor Sousa Manuel Goao,
who was born in the village of Boane Gegege,
near Maputo in Mozambique.
In 1981, aged 23, he was kidnapped at gunpoint
by anti-government rebel troops
and forced to march 150 miles to a training camp in the bush
near the border with South Africa.
'They made us march barefooted
so we couldn't run away.
Anyone who did try and run was lined up in front of us and shot,'
says Sr Goao. In order to survive, his unit would hunt wild animals,
raid farms or attack civilians.
When the cease-fire was agreed in 1992,
United Nations troops were meant to disarm both sides.
They collected some weapons but most remained hidden.
But in 2001 Snr Goao
handed over 5 guns -
four AK47s and an automatic rifle.
He gave them to a small church-based charity
supported by Christian Aid
called the Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM).
In return he received a sewing machine -
he had two already which were given to him
in exchange for guns he had previously handed in.
CCM is a small organization
working with a couple of old trucks that keep breaking down –
but the organisation has collected and destroyed
more than 100,000 guns, grenades and rocket launchers.
Those who give up their weapons are given tools -
ploughs, bicycles and sewing machines.
In a land where many struggle to make enough money to eat,
a simple plough can be the difference between life and death
The Mozambique government supports the operation.
It knows former rebels would not hand in weapons to the authorities
for fear they would be prosecuted.
The weapons are cut up in CCM's compound in
and the pieces are handed over to a group of Mozambican artists
who turn them into sculptures.
They even make chairs and coffee tables out of cut-up Kalashnikovs.
(see picture above).
“It is a practical solution based on the Bible”,
says Mozambican Bishop Dinis Sengulane.
”I say to people that sleeping with a gun in your bedroom
is like sleeping with a snake -
one day it will turn round and bite you.
We tell people we are not disarming you.
We are transforming your guns into ploughshares,
so you can cultivate your land and get your daily bread.
We are transforming them into sewing machines
so you can make clothes.
The idea is to transform the instruments of death and destruction
into instruments of peace and
of production and cooperation with others.”
And that story is echoed elsewhere.
I gather that you can find metal sculpture
made from decommissioned firearms
in Cambodia and in Washington DC.
And in Qandahar in Afghanistan
they say there is a trader
who will sell you beautiful white and pink flowers
in elegant vases made from the cases of American and Russian bombs.
Every generation can turn swords into ploughshares.
Of course you may not have a stock of AK47s under our bed –
indeed I hope you don’t.
Nor are many of us ever likely to be in the position
to broker any major cease fires
But we can all do our bit of peacemaking.
So think about the old prophet taking his sword from the wall
and taking it to the blacksmith saying hammer this out….
Think about the Mozabiquean farmer
digging up his AK47s from the floor of his house
and trading them in for a sewing machine.
Then think of whatever you have in your life
which has the potential for violence or destruction,
which could destroy peace and harmony, even life itself -
Offer it to God and say
Lord remake it – transform and transfigure it.
Peacemaking doesn’t bring in the Kingdom of
God just like that–
but when you start doing it, you start to get in tune with God -
and even if the storm still roars without you,
you start to find inner peace,
and as you live peace so you find it spreads –
and the bit of the world you live in begins to blossom
and the powers of death ands destruction out there
begin to lose their hold on you.
They say the age of miracles isn’t over.
Maybe 2700 years is long enough to wait.
Lets start peace-making!