Monday, December 4, 2006
In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. ... The Lord will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
One of the most popular permanent exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago is its great hall of Arms and Armor. Standing at attention, the 14th and 15th century suits of armor are ready for killing, swords unsheathed, spears pointed and sharp.
So many people study war. And those who don't study often battle those who do. St. Francis (1182-1226) strove to bridge the gap between these groups during the Christian Crusades. He made a mission to the Moslems in Turkey. In his biography G. K. Chesterton writes that Francis thought simply "that it is better to create Christians than to destroy Moslems. If Islam had been converted, the world would have been immeasurably more united and happy; for one thing, three quarters of the wars of modern history would never have taken place."
Francis might have been successful. The power of his preaching and example, coupled with his willingness to suffer moved thousands of men and women to intimacy with Christ. He did not succeed, of course. The crusaders continued on their bloody, vicious way. The seminal conflict between Christianity and Islam sparked war after war after war. Unto the present day.
Isaiah writes of the day when we willingly carry our conflict to the Lord. He is the one who decides our way. There has been no effective human arbiter: Chesterton continues, "The modern mind is hard to please; it generally calls the way of Godfrey (warfare) ferocious and the way of Francis fanatical. That is, it calls any moral method impractical, when it has just called any practical method immoral." We will not agree.
In our disagreement, what community we have collapses and the suits of armor have their day. Again. Plowshares rust in the corner of sheds while swords kill men who farmed the land they die for.
Once his own eyes were turned toward heaven Francis realized the futility of his own efforts toward peace. So he taught those who listened to look away from themselves, to look only at the Lord. He insisted on poverty and chastity to further free his friars from competitions and collision with one another. In this freedom community came upon them. It was so much easier to wait on the Lord's timing, the Lord's gifts, the Lord's grace. It is just so now, as well.
Lord Jesus your hand points the way, your light shines where our light is extinguished. We can know your love for us, and see your path. Open my eyes, Lord!