"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. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!"
As we bumped along the deeply-rutted Tanzanian road, we passed a man pushing a bicycle loaded with an enormous bale of corn stalks. I could not help but admire the seemingly impossible balancing act on his bike. I watched until he disappeared into the cloud of dust kicked up behind our truck.
Tanzanians "re-purpose" just about everything. Old tires turn into sandals. Containers become walls of homes. Five-gallon plastic chemical buckets haul water and food. Any object that is no longer needed for its original purpose is refashioned into something useful.
Isaiah tells of a time when weapons of war will become implements of agriculture. I always viewed this as idealistic, futuristic imagery of a world living in peace. Perhaps the man with the packhorse-bicycle would regard this passage differently. He might imagine himself choosing several shiny steel swords, pounding and shaping them into plow blades, and then fixing them tightly to a frame to be pulled behind an ox. Where I see romantic platitudes, he sees practical challenges.
Our Tanzanian friends certainly view the world differently than we do. Each of us, however, hopes that Advent will "re-purpose" our lives. Pray that we see this as a real, tangible opportunity and not just as a far-away dream.
God of the mountain and of the suburb: Prod us out of the hiding places to which we have retreated and force us to expand both our boundaries and our imaginations. Re-purpose our lives right now as we care for Your truly remarkable world, and inspire us to build relationships of peace and justice. In Your holy name, we pray: Amen.
Prepared for St. John's Lutheran Church, Brookfield WI