A few years ago, at the All-Age service for Remembrance at All Saints, I showed the congregation a paper clip, and asked them to come up with as many creative alternative uses for this simple object as possible. We had about 75 young people there, representing the uniformed organisations, and they weren’t short of ideas! Alongside the more obvious ones – replacement zip, for example – we had other more left-field options: fingernail cleaner , cheap nose-ring (don’t try either of those at home), and even strawberry huller i.e. removing the green stalk out of the fruit!
It was a fun exercise and reminded me that I grew up with the joys of ‘The A-team’ on TV, where the stars would be locked in a garage every episode, and somehow fashion a complex mechanical device out of a few bits of wood and a plastic sheet. Those were the days, eh?
But there’s a more serious side to these games as well. Between now and 11th November, we’ll be leading up to Remembrance by looking, firstly, at five famous passages in the book of Isaiah, all themed around the idea of peace; and in today’s passage we see the most famous biblical ‘alternative use’ of them all. To a small and fragile nation surrounded by hostile forces, and tired of violence, God promises that one day, things will be different. God will restore this fragmented world (v2), and people will seek God in unprecedented ways and in countless numbers (v3).
And the acid test of this new era will be that, across the world, swords will be turned into ploughs (v4). Implements that were used for fighting would now be used to grow food: a sign of healing and prosperity.
Sadly our world has not reached this era yet, despite the noble intentions of pan-global organisations like the United Nations, where, significantly, a statue of this very image stands outside its headquarters. But this passage promises that such a day is coming. Our God is a God who transforms, who restores, who brings peace for all. Peace with Himself, but also with ourselves, those around us, and ultimately all creation.
And this work of transformation goes on in our lives, too. God calls us to turn our own swords of division into ploughs of peace. If that strikes a chord, take a moment today to pray God’s peace into a particular situation or relationship.
The world is an anxious, even violent, place at present. It has always been thus. But it is not the whole story. And as we seize this great truth by faith, may we too live the final verse today: Come, people of God, let us walk in the light of the Lord.