The Battlefield of the Heart
This is the second mini-homily I had to write as part of my Doctor of Ministry studies. You can find the first of these postils here.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
Upon those who lived in a land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing;
They rejoice before you as people rejoice at harvest,
as they exult when dividing the spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
The rod of their taskmaster,
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
For every boot that tramped in battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be burned as fuel for fire.
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast
and forever peaceful,
Upon David’s throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains
By judgment and justice,
both now and forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!
(For a high school retreat)
Over a hundred years ago, the Great War, the War to End All Wars, was fought on the plains of Europe. What we know as World War I, the first war to encompass the entire world, was thought to be, in its day, the last war. It seems a little silly and definitely tragic. War continues to be part of our human story. Some think war is inevitable, just something that defines us. They’ll say, “Yes, it’s ugly. Yes, it’s brutal. But it’s part of who we are as human beings. We can’t change it.”
Isaiah has a different message for us. He saw war. He saw the devastation it brought to his home and his people. But he also saw God at work to restore what was lost, not just so that the people of Israel could go back to the way things were, but that the world itself, the way of being human, would be restored. Isaiah told us that yes, we can’t change who we are, but God can change us. God burns up all the boots caked with the slime of battlefields, all the uniforms stained with the blood of soldiers. He establishes a new ruler: not war, not violence, but the Prince of Peace. God makes a way for us to live according to peace: following the rule of the kingdom of God, the way of Jesus Christ.
Of course, for God to change the world, he has to change the people in it. He changes hearts first. He wants to begin with every single heart here, to destroy the effects of war and violence in every heart. We all give in to the lie that “this is just who I am, I’m not going to change.” But God never gives up on changing us, so that we can live in peace. What are the forces that keep your heart a battlefield, a place of strife, a place with no peace? Anger? Resentment? Gossip? Pride? Lust? Fear of looking stupid? All these things God wants to burn up as the worn-out boots and ruined clothes that they are. Let him. Give them over to him. God loves you enough to send you a hero, a savior, one who wants to put an end to the war in your heart so that you can start to put an end to war in the world. This is the true War to End All Wars, a war fought not with guns, not with soldiers, but with forgiveness, with love. Let the battlefield of your heart be invaded by love, and see how the Prince of Peace can change the world through you.