Swords into Plowshares

Swords into Plowshares

By: Rebecca Garrett Pace

Someone recently asked me, “Rebecca, why don’t you preach more often?” There are a couple answers to that question. First, I simply don’t know how Kerry and other pastors do it on a weekly or even monthly basis – I absolutely do not feel called to preach every single Sunday. Mad props to those who do.

But, perhaps more importantly, my answer is this: I already preach every single Sunday, through the words I write and the music I choose. Each week, I write the Call to Worship (or I derive it from one of my many, many books of prayers and litanies from all around the world); I write litanies for Pentecost, Advent, and other special days; and I help our pastoral staff weave music and spoken word together during the Pastoral Prayer. I choose hymns to enliven our worship in many styles (or streams) – traditional, folk, americana, bluegrass, alternative, contemporary, global, and the list goes on. We flow seamlessly from familiar to new, from challenging to comforting and back again, like hobbits going on brave journeys and then somehow always returning to their beloved Shire, changed, yet still themselves. (There and Back Again is the subtitle of The Hobbit, for those of you not quite nerdy enough to get my reference.)

In our current Unfold worship series chapter, Radical, we’re focusing each week’s worship on a different facet of this complicated concept. 
  • How can we practice radical compassion in the face of prejudice and hatred? 
  • Radical peace and nonviolence in the face of retributive violence and war? 
  • Radical hospitality in a culture of “me, myself, and I”? 
  • Radical prayer in an age where the phrase “thoughts and prayers” has been cheapened instead of truly intervening for and on behalf of those who need it most?
This Sunday, we’ll hear words from Isaiah 2, calling us to “turn swords into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks” – and for those of us not farmers by trade, that basically means this: God calls us to turn tools of war into tools of planting and growing and nurturing. War is a learned behavior, and anything learned can be unlearned. “Neither shall they learn war anymore.” It’s as simple (and as difficult) as that.

We’ll hear words from Matthew 5 challenging what we’ve heard and seen all our lives. We have heard it said, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth… but instead Jesus says, justice, love, peace – not at the expense of others, but in harmony with and for the flourishing of others. It’s as simple (and as difficult) as that.

As you worship with us this Sunday, I invite you really to tune into (no pun intended) the words we sing and speak. How do these songs speak to you? How do you hear God in your own voice and in others’ voices? If you don’t particularly like some aspect of worship, or if something is just your new all-time favorite thing ever, how do these complex emotions move you toward God and neighbor?

And most especially, receive these incredible lyrics of the folk band’s offertory, “Plowshare Prayer,” by Spencer LaJoye (they/them).

May anyone who has felt the name or presence of God used against them as a sword, find this song to be a plowshare of sorts, the tools of war transformed into the tools for planting and growing. And that, my friends, is simply radical.

Plowshare Prayer, Spencer LaJoye
(Listen to the song here)
Dear blessed creator, dear mother, dear savior 
Dear father, dear brother, dear holy other
Dear sibling, dear baby, dear patiently waiting 
Dear sad and confused, dear stuck and abused 

Dear end-of-your-rope, dear worn out and broke, 
Dear go-it-alone, dear running from home
Dear righteously angry, forsaken by family 
Dear jaded and quiet, dear tough and defiant

I pray that I’m heard
And I pray that this works

I pray if a prayer has been used as a sword against you and your heart, 
Against you and your word
I pray that this prayer is a plowshare, of sorts 
That it might break you open, it might help you grow

I pray that your body gets all that it needs
and if you don’t want healing, I just pray for peace 
I pray that your burden gets lighter each day
I pray the mean voice in your head goes away

I pray that you honor the grief as it comes
I pray you can feel all the life in your lungs
I pray that if you go all day being brave
that you can go home, go to bed feeling safe

I pray you’re forgiven, I pray you forgive
I pray you set boundaries and openly live
I pray that you feel you are worth never leaving
I pray that you know I will always believe you

I pray that you’re heard
And I pray that this works

Amen on behalf of the last and the least
On behalf of the anxious, depressed, and unseen 
Amen for the workers, the hungry, the houseless 
Amen for the lonely and recently spouseless 

Amen for the queers and their closeted peers 
Amen for the bullied who hold in their tears
Amen for the mothers of little Black sons
Amen for the kids who grow up scared of guns

Amen for the addicts, the ashamed and hungover 
Amen for the calloused, the wisened, the sober 
Amen for the ones who want life to be over
Amen for the leaders who lose their composure 

Amen for the parents who just lost their baby 
Amen for the chronically ill and disabled
Amen for the children down at the border
Amen for the victims of our law and order

I pray that you’re heard
And I pray that this works

I pray if a prayer has been used as a sword against you and your heart,
Against you and your word
I pray that this prayer is a plowshare, of sorts...

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