A message from Rev. Lina Thompson, Lake Burien PC:
Like many communities in this region and across the country, we struggle to make real our desire for peace in the midst of senseless violence. On August 26th, nearly 250 people from our community, gathered to consider God’s word to us as peacemakers. We had the privilege of partnering with RAW TOOLS www.rawtools.org to create liturgy that spoke to the transformation of violence into peace - all who were there were witness to a beautiful and powerful image that you can read about below in Rev. Aaron Willett’s reflection.
Peacemaking Starts with the Heart
-Rev. Aaron Willett
The gun barrel entered the forge and the hammer pounded--bang, bang, bang--we prayed, we sang--bang, bang, bang--people whose sisters and brothers have died at the end of a gun shared their stories--bang, bang, bang--the Word was preached--bang, bang, bang--and then the forge was still and a pair of garden tools were given to those survivors as a sign of God’s redemption. We witnessed the hope-filled words of Isaiah 2:4 enacted before our eyes: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.”
I was particularly struck by the story of one young man who shared his story of having an older adopted brother killed by gang violence--killed by a gun. He told of the day, some years later, when another of his brothers shared a secret with him: a gun, hidden away. Together he and his brothers would just hold the gun, in awe of the power it represented. They bragged to each other of the people they would shoot if they were disrespected, threatened, or endangered. The gun represented safety, security, and strength. But then, on a fateful day in 2006, the gun went off and one brother was dead.
Here at Southminster, we had two students at Evergreen High School who were on the wrestling team with those brothers. They mourned with that family. That gun, acquired to be a sign of safety and power, brought darkness and powerlessness.
At Lake Burien Pres., on August 26th, members of John Knox PC, Highline UMC, and several other local congregations gathered under a gray sky that eventually broke into a chilling drizzle. In the discomfort of the cold, we heard the discomforting tones--bang, bang bang--as we faced the discomfort and darkness of violence in our community. Together we prayed:
“Lord, we know that if there is to be peace in the world,
there must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
there must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
there must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
there must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
there must be peace in the heart.”
We shared communion and we celebrated our God, incarnate in Jesus Christ, who makes peace in our hearts… that there might be peace in the world.
A Practice of Peacemaking
Each part of Isaiah 2:4 helps teach us the practice of peacemaking.
“[God] shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;”
God establishes our peace. In Jesus Christ, the peaceable kingdom has begun. The first step in any practice of peacemaking is to relinquish the responsibility and pressure for that first step! In our own peacemaking, we are participating in God’s own action and desire to establish peace in the world and in our hearts.
“They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;”
The first action belongs to God… but we own our responses. We do carry the responsibility to choose to act in God’s way of peace, whether it be smithing weapons into garden tools or choosing compassion instead of judgment when someone cuts us off in traffic.
“Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.”
Finally, God’s peace impacts both the political world of the nations, as well as the much smaller world of our homes. “Neither shall they learn war any more.” Choosing to teach peace requires that we practice peace.
Next time you are faced with the choice between violence and peace, give yourself a moment to consider Isaiah’s call to you. Move past your own fight or flight instincts to consider how you can refashion the violence in your own heart into a tool of God’s peaceable kingdom.