He shall judge between the nations and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:4)
I cried when I put my kids to bed tonight. Tears of gratitude that my children are safe, home, and alive. Tears of grief and anger that 19 children of Uvalde, Texas, are not.
In the past 10 days, we have witnessed gun violence against innocent children in Texas, Black grocery shoppers in New York, and Taiwanese Christians in California. Closer to home, a large group fight near Alexandria City High School resulted in the stabbing death of one student earlier today. For the many in our church who live along the Four Mile Run corridor stretching from Columbia Pike to Del Ray (the stream in Incarnation's logo), this death took place within the local "fields" that we just asked God to bless on Rogation Sunday.
In the face of such overwhelming sorrow, tonight I found myself praying the promises of Isaiah 2:4:
One day God will judge the nations — and that includes us. Lord, have mercy.
One day we will beat our swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. The trajectory of human history is toward tools, not weapons; gardening, not warfare. Christ, have mercy.
One day we will no longer "learn war." There is something so disturbing about the idea that we learn war. Not just wage war, but learn it: direct our curiosity, intellect, imagination, and will toward more effectively destroying people who bear God's image. But one day, this perversion will cease. Lord, have mercy.
Eastertide is nearly over; just one more Sunday until Pentecost (June 5). Originally, I had planned to write this week's letter about Pentecost. The birth of the church, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the breaking of language and ethnic barriers as tongues of fire descended and the liberating gospel was preached: I love Pentecost! I love the red clothes, the multiple languages, the children's leadership, and the holy unpredictability of our annual Pentecost celebration.
But until then, I'm grateful for a little more Easter season. Tonight, I need the resurrection. I need Jesus to keep trampling death. I need to remember that Mary thought the resurrected Jesus was a gardener — and that she was right. I need that image of Jesus: a risen, death-defeating Gardener whose kingdom is won by plowshares and pruning hooks.
A favorite song in recent years has been Wood and Nails by Porter's Gate. There's a line that gets me every time:
"These wooden tombs, we'll break them soon / And fashion them into flower beds
The curse is done, the battle won / Swords bent down into plowshares"
Amen. May it be so.
In other Incarnation news:
David Griffin's ordination to the priesthood is this Saturday, May 28, at 10am at Greenbrier Baptist Church. Come celebrate and pray for our beloved deacon. Then he'll preach and celebrate the Eucharist the next morning on May 29, Ascension Sunday. This is the culmination of so many years of work and prayer and preparation; please pray for David this week.
Parents: check your inboxes for last week's email from Josie about opportunities for kids to sing, read, and contribute to Prayers of the People on Pentecost Sunday, June 5.
Finally, we still pray midday prayer every Tuesday and Thursday on Zoom. Join us from the Virtual Worship page. This Thursday, we'll include prayers for Uvalde.
I'm so grateful to be your pastor, and I'm always here to walk, pray, drink coffee, and listen.