‘End to all Wars’, Remembrance Sunday Sermon, Isaiah 2, Revelation 1
Also Matthew 5:3-16.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in our sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Private (later Corporal) John Jackson, The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders
MEMOIR OF A TOMMY
‘’THE news must have been welcome at home, and in most countries of the world,
But no non-combatants could have any idea what the message meant to the men in the
I think we were slow to believe, it could really be true after the long years of
fighting. It was strange to think, and know, that once more, we could move about fully
exposed without fear of being shot at.
No more would we need to ‘duck’ our heads down in the trenches, as we’d had to do for so long.
The long nerve-wracking suspense was at last ended,
and we were glad,
but there were too many saddened memories to think of, too many old pals to mourn, friends who gave their all in brave sacrifice for their country, which was sufficient to keep us from going wild with excitement.
Instead, there were just quiet congratulations and a good hand-grip, pregnant with well-meaning, between old friends, still to the fore, who had battled side by side in many a fierce fight, and many a stirring escapade.
All that morning of the 11th November, the guns crashed and battered, with their customary thunderous roar, as if in protest that the end of the war had come, and as though an armistice was the last
thing in the world, that could happen.
Just as in a game of football, which is ended only when the final whistle blows, we fought on to the last minute; till on the stroke of the eleventh hour the sounds of war ceased abruptly, succeeded by the ‘Great Silence’.
To us, after years of noise, the calm and quietness of that cold, November, day was
bewildering, surely it was the strangest day of the whole campaign.’’
The Great War had ended. The fighting in World War One in Europe had ended at the 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11 month. At the time it was the deadliest military conflict in history – with an estimated 9 million military deaths and 13 million civilian deaths.
Around Europe there had grown a saying, that this Great War, was the ‘The War to end All Wars.’ This saying sometimes is attributed to Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States. But it actually came from the English writer, HG Wells, known most famously for War of the Worlds. In newspaper articles HG Wells wrote and argued that once the Allies were victorious – over Germany and Austro-Hungarian Empire – the world would have no reason ever again to fight wars. After 4 years of war in Europe, this catchphrase was synonymous with hope for a better future. That weapons of war would be no longer needed.
HG Wells was wrong of course and claimed later he was being ironic. David Lloyd George, UK PM for from 1916, mocked what Wells had said – ‘’the Great ‘War, like the next war, is a war to end war’. Many years later Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander in the final years of World War Two, in 1950 said: “No one has yet explained how war prevents war. Nor has anyone been able to explain away the fact that war begets conditions that beget further war.”
Isaiah receives a vision of the end of wars. But it is not war that will end it, it will be the Presence and the Instruction of the Lord.
‘’In the last days’’, Isaiah sees. Into the old, how things are, breaks God’s radical new.
The nations will come to Jerusalem.
This universal vision of God is reflected often throughout Isaiah.
We have used terms such as the First World War and Second World War, to reflect there was warfare across the world, and most of the world was involved in it. Yet here all nations will not be engaged in warfare as they come to Jerusalem.
All nations will stream to Jerusalem . The incredible nature of this event, is maybe hinted in the word used for stream. It used to describe water flowing downhill. But this is movement up – it defies gravity, it defies how things normally are, as if the vision is saying.
These nations do not stream in order to conquer – years after this vision, Assyria, would, in the times of Hezekiah, come to Jerusalem but to lay siege hoping to conquer, mocking the God of Israel.
They do not come in order to bring financial gifts – as in Isaiah 60 and like Queen of Sheba does. They do not come to take part in worship festivals.
They come to receive instruction from the Lord. They come to a future theology conference! They come to learn from God. Mount Zion, Jerusalem, becomes the ‘most important and respected pilgrimage destination for ‘all nations’. Zion is the worship centre you could say, for an huge international fellowship of believers in an era of peace for everyone.
Jerusalem will be known as the place where Yahweh is to be found. It will be his dwelling. They do not come to be taught by the priests or scribes, God will be present and active and teaching there. ‘he will teach us his ways’. The nations will be blessed – as God promised Abraham. These nations will flow up to listen to the Lord and the Law, a law which Israel – as God has been saying in Isaiah 1 – has been ignoring for years.
This is not about head knowledge. They are taught, the ways and they will walk. ‘Teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths.’ There is a program to study and paths in which to walk.
What these nations will learn, will eliminate war among them – the age of peace will come. Jerusalem, will be the spiritual capital of the world, the vision says, Jerusalem at the centre but the whole world will benefit.
There will be a world peace. A peace that goes far beyond mere arms reductions, and cuts in defence budgets. Hostility between nations will be totally eliminated God says. There will be an End to All Wars. People will have no need for weapons and so they will turn them into tools to produce food. The instruction will lead to massive disarmament. People will no longer ‘train for war anymore’, war colleges and training camps will be closed.
This vision shows a future not just without war, because absence of war does not mean peace, but it is a future of harmony. It reminds us of Isaiah 11 – how the Messiah will bring peace within creation, unlikely animals will be in harmony, even animals historically enemies;
Isaiah 2, peace will come between unlikely, even historical enemies.
That is the vision. And the Isaiah simply says – ‘Come o house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord’. He applies the vision to the listeners. Walking in the ways, leads to peace.
He challenges them – and us – if this is God’s direction, if this is where he is moving, if this is what his word can achieve, let us walk in the light of the Lord. To emphasis it, the Hebrew repeats it: ‘Let us walk, let us walk, in the ways of the Lord.’ Hear and obey the instructions as the nations in the future will.
Yet, as Isaiah writes in the very next verses, God’s people will not choose God’s path – they choose a path full of superstition Isaiah says – they turn to false, superstitions or occult ways; they choose a path full of silver and gold – they seek to accumulate wealth; they choose a path fill of horses and chariots – meaning they choose military power; they choose a path full of idols – false gods and images. They choose not God’s way, but a way of false worship and idols and seek to accumulate wealth and military power. They choose not God’s way and therefore, no a way to peace.
The word of the mountain reminds us of another Mount. ‘’Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.’’ Words we have heard many times in the past months. And at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, ‘Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.’’
Isaiah 2 shared about all nations coming to Jerusalem to hear; how instruction leads to action; and how actions will lead to and include peacemaking.
On the mountain the disciples of Jesus receive instruction. Jesus sat down and taught them.
His instructions were to be put into action – ‘Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.’’
Part of that teaching – as they live out Jesus words, they would be peacemakers – loving your enemies, not holding vengeful anger, overcoming good with evil.
Now in Sermon on the Mount, Jesus does not speak to all nations but they are in view. He tells these Jews, that they are salt of the earth, light of the world.
And Another Mountain.
On the second mountain. Jesus declares all authority in heaven and earth has been given to him. Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing … and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.
Isaiah 2 is of what will be.
We are in the inbetween times and Jesus sends his followers out – to the nations, to bring instruction, instruction that will include teachings about being peacemakers, and promises that his presence will be with them.
There is the hope of the future. An end to Wars. That mere thought, as Revelation comforted Private Welsby, can bring comfort. God desires peace.
Seeing this secret behind the course of history may not keep God’s people from pain, but it will keep us from being hopeless.
A rough analogy.
During the Second World War, the Germans were quite confident of the unbreakability of their Enigma code. But British and Polish mathematicians and scientists cracked it with their own Ultra system.
Then they had to keep it secret about how they knew German secrets.
It was of great assistance. The first British military use of it, was in March 1941. Ultra decoded plans of the German Luftwaffe and the Italian Navy were to assault British convoys in the Mediterranean. British ships set out to meet the threat.
To keep the Germans from thinking the British had cracked the Enigma code, the Royal Navy Commander sent out a Sunderland flying boat on a reconnaissance. The Boat was seen by the Italians who later decided the British has accidentally discovered their location. The naval battle which followed the Italians suffered heavy losses.
The fact that the British had Ultra did not mean that they could forget the war. But it was a real morale booster for the British leadership that they could know what was going to happen ahead of time.
(Example from Dale Ralph Davis, Daniel. P.101).
That is the effect that Isaiah 2 can have on us – they say to us, as they have had down through the ages,
‘Here is what’s going to happen – heaven’s plans and kingship are firm – it may not eliminate suffering but it will give hope and peace will come.’
There is our role as God’s people. To walk in his ways. The teaching of Jesus. That is God’s direction. The vision of Isaiah 2 is not something to be owned by the united nations – as we know the words of Isaiah 2:4 – engraved in large letters on the wall opposite the United Nations HQ in New York – ‘’They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war any more.’
We know that is God’s direction and we have that hope but also pray towards that promise, for the day to come, we act in that direction for that is where God is moving.
But we are inbetween times.
John’s vision is to a people 60 or years after Jesus words on the Sermon on the Mount. The world remained violent. Christians were increasingly persecuted in the Roman Empire. John shares:’ to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.’ In our different nations – UK, Netherlands, South Africa, Australia, American and others – we remember those who have sacrificed their lives to bring freedom, in the World Wars and conflicts since right up the present day.
We stand in a world of warfare, conflict, and we remember that Jesus loves us and has freed us from our sins and made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father.
We remember the One we serve is the one with scars. He has freed us from our own sins by his blood. Those scars were taken into heaven. Those scars remind us of his own suffering. As we, on this day look back, we remember the suffering of Jesus. In the face of great suffering past and present, the profound Christian truth is that God not only understands and see our suffering and trauma, in Jesus Christ we worship a God who suffered and died for us, and by his scars, our own scars are healed… (Lectio 365 quoted, Phil Togwell, 11th November 2021).
Edward Shillito was a Free Church minister. John Stott writes: Shillito was ‘shattered by the carnage of the First World War, found comfort in the fact that Jesus was able to show his disciples the scars of his crucifixion.’’ Stott, Cross of Christ, p.388. It inspired him, in 1919 to write this poem.
If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow,
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.
The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars, we claim Thy grace.
If, when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know to-day what wounds are, have no fear,
Show us Thy Scars, we know the countersign.
The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.
We have hope. Does this world’s ongoing suffering with war matter to God. It does. He is the one who will bring everlasting peace with his return – so we cry out – Come Lord Jesus.
In this inbetween time, we walk in his paths, the Prince of Peace, to help make peace, and we bring his presence and instruction to others.
We remember that our Lord loves us, freed us by his sacrifice, he understands our suffering and the worlds.
‘’Almighty God, our heavenly father,
We remember with thanksgiving those make the supreme sacrifice for us in war.
We pray that the offering of their lives, may not have been in vain.
By your grace, enable us this day to dedicate ourselves anew to the cause of justice, freedom and peace, to walk in your ways; and give us the wisdom and strength to build a better world for the honor and glory of your name.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.