During Advent we pray for peace. Not just the peace that is a pause in our busy schedules, but the end of wars and violence. People worldwide long for an end to conflict, but how do we work toward peace? We often forget that prayer is not just for grand visions; it is also for practical, baby-step miracles that will bring us closer to the Kingdom of God.
In today’s scripture, swords are beaten into plowshares. Instruments of war are ruined so that they can never be used again. This is a beautiful vision of peace. What Isaiah is really describing in this passage, however, is how to develop a willingness to put away violence. Isaiah gives us practical steps toward the smithy where we might turn instruments of destruction into tools of creation.
The mountain of God is where God proclaimed to Israel, “You are my people, and I am your God.” This is a radical picture Isaiah paints when he describes other nations climbing the mountain of God. It’s not just Israel, God’s special people, who visit God’s holy mountain anymore—it’s everyone!
When God said to Israel, “You are my people,” Israel was chosen as a beloved, special people. It was a gift of grace to be called God’s people. But Isaiah is telling the Israelites that they have taken this gift and viewed it as an entitlement, something they deserved. They have drawn lines in the sand, distinguishing who is part of the chosen people and who is not, creating division that is not part of God’s vision.
Perhaps peace has more to do with our idea of who belongs to God than anything else. It is easy to hate our enemy but hard to hate our friend. This is why loving our enemies was so important to Jesus. Jesus knew that excluding people and dividing the world into “us” and “them” breeds hate, and hate leads to violence. Jesus was telling us to put away the divisions so that we can put away the swords. Baby-steps.