“. . . neither shall they learn war anymore.” Isaiah 2:4c
It was June 1969. As the son of a United Methodist pastor I was spending a few days with the family at the University of Redlands where my Dad always went for the Annual Conference. As a soon-to-be ninth grader, my favorite part was the cafeteria. You could get a tray, and pick out your food, and get as many glasses of chocolate milk from the self-serve spigot as possible (until Mom caught on).
Anyway, we were sitting at one of the dining tables when the pastor of the church we were attending while Dad was on the Conference staff came over to us. In those days, Rev. Dr. Frank Finkbiner, or “Dr. Frank” as we called him, was the pastor of Reseda UMC. I was sitting with my older brother, David, who was a leader in the Sr. High Youth Group. Dr. Frank said, “David, how would you feel about getting some youth together to plan and lead a “Youth Worship Service” for the whole church? David said, “Okay.” I knew this was going to be big . . .
Remember, it was 1969.The Vietnam War was in full swing. The nation was in turmoil. The sixties had seen the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy, as well as others. It was also the year John Lennon wrote, “Give Peace a Chance.” The polarity of passions and opinions was great. Dr. Frank’s invitation seems even more courageous now than it did then. In those days when many feared what the future might hold, he gave the youth a voice, and the freedom to speak their hopes for their future and ours.
“. . . [t]hey shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears in to pruning hooks; nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4b) The words of this text were foundational to our message and our hope. We ended the service with the youth band and choir leading the entire congregation in singing over and over again, “All We Are Saying, Is Give Peace a Chance!” I am not sure I could have named it then, but now I recall feeling, “We can do it! All of us — young and old alike standing here in the sanctuary united as one proclaiming that the future can hold the promise of peace if we stop teaching war and start teaching peace.” I was inspired. And, I know now this was one of the foundational stones for my call to ministry in the church. In that moment, I believe the Holy Spirit was convicting my heart to the need of the witness of God’s church as a critical path for leading others to the Prince of Peace.
Inspired Hope. That’s what I end this first week of Advent with. That mysterious work of the Holy Spirit of God that warms my heart every time I read these beautiful words of Isaiah: “Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord . . . that he may teach us his way and that we may walk in his path.” I love this path, because I know where it leads!
Prayer: Lord, remind me that mountain top experience fulfilling Hope requires us to travel your path. Amen.