Longing For Armistice - Isaiah 11:1-9
As we consider the veterans that we just recognized for their willingness to lay their lives on the line to protect us and protect others around the world, it drew my mind to my own father. It makes me think of my dad for reasons you probably wouldn’t expect. My dad, whom some of you have met, is a retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 with more than forty two years of full time service in the Army National Guard where he served as the Heavy Mobile Equipment Leader at the CSMS. He was one of the first trained to repair the M1 Abrams tank, and was actually on standby to go to Desert Storm to lead a team in tank repairs when that action came to an end. Most of his service with the guard, the part that I think he enjoyed the most, was spent in disaster recovery. However, that’s not the real reason that Veteran’s Day draws my dad to mind. Yesterday was my dad’s birthday…he was born on Veteran’s Day—born at eleven o’clock on November 11th. Well, technically my dad is older than Veteran’s Day. It was his tenth birthday when it officially became Veteran’s Day.
Before it was Veteran’s Day, though, it was a still a holiday…November 11th, beginning in 1918, 99 years ago, was known as Armistice Day. It was celebrated as the cessation of hostilities during World War I, with the armistice signed at 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month. It was established as a national holiday not just in the United States, but in many of the nation of the Allies…today it is celebrated as Veteran’s Day in the United States and Denmark, as Remembrance Day in Canada, England, Australia, South America, and many other places. It is a day in most of the nations in which they remember those soldiers who have risked their lives, but it is also a day, from the very beginning that celebrates peace. Sometimes the idea of peace would seem like something that runs contrary to a day in which we remember the men and women who have served in the military. I think, though, it is our society that tends to glorify war and the killing that goes along with it—from video games to Hollywood to even songs in the popular culture, we encounter the idea that war and violence should be celebrated.
However, as I reflected over this past weekend, over conversations I have had with veterans over the last thirty years (going all the way back to the 4 ½ years I spent in Fayetteville outside of Fort Bragg), there are very few, if any who loved the idea of war. Most desired peace…most longed for a time when there would be no more war and no more killing. Most were marked by witnessing their fellow soldiers die in battle. Many lived with scars at their involvement with the taking the life of another human being. Many can’t even bring themselves to talk about what it was like to be in the midst of war, or can only do so with tears rolling down their cheeks, revealing tender hearts over a tough exterior.
I believe that most veterans, and many of our active duty personnel, long for that ultimate Armistice Day. It feels like we live in the midst of the warning that Jesus gave about the end of the age: “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.”[i]
Birth pangs…if wars and rumors of wars are, as Jesus says, are the birth pangs of the end of the age, creation has been in labor for centuries. And I think we are ready for Creation to give birth to Isaiah’s Armistice Declaration:
"A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. "[ii]
I believe we all long for that day when there will no longer be wars or rumors of wars…that day when, throughout all of Creation, those who had once been enemies will come together…they will rest together…they will eat together…they will no longer be a need for any sort of weapons…that day of Armistice when we will “beat our swords (and guns) into plowshares, and our spears (and missiles) into pruning hooks;” that day when “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”[iii]
I believe, my brothers and sisters, that is what our hearts have to long for and that is what our efforts have to work towards…that day when every veteran and ever active duty and reserve duty service person can lay down their weapons forever, knowing they will never have to take them up again.
When will that day happen? That day will happen when we all surrender our lives to no other agenda that that of the Prince of Peace; that day when we all align our wills with the will of our Savior. True Armistice will happen when we surrender ourselves to the One who gave up His life, “for He is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”[iv] That day of celebration, of partying on the streets, will happen when the world realizes that evil took its best shot and lost. It will happen when we realize that evil has been defeated and it is time for peace. Will all the world stop fighting at once? Probably not, but as we began our worship today, “let there be peace on earth and let it begin with [us.]”
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.