I’ll never forget the Wednesday afternoon in the spring of 1990 when I went home and told Diane, my wife “Guess who’s coming to dinner?”
I had just completed arrangements for a prominent Rabbi from the Jewish community, the Presidents of the Bahai and Muslim faith communities of Greater Indianapolis to come to a dinner at our house.
Diane gasped with a look of fear in her eyes “what will I cook that everyone can eat?” “Oh you’re a great cook you’ll figure something out,”I replied.
“Now remember, Dr. Athar from the Muslim community comes out of the Sunni tradition and his food needs to be kosher, his wife comes out of the Shiite tradition and cannot eat any fish with a blood vein.
Rabbi Boxman and his wife cannot eat any food that is not kosher and the President of the Baha’i community and his wife are vegetarians.
I know that you’ll figure something for us to eat that will be great! You know that this is the first time that representatives from these four different faith communities have ever been together for a meal! Isn’t that wonderful?”
There are many actions that we live out in life that have a ripple effect .It is not until much later that we see the good or the bad consequences of our actions.
In Isaiah 2:2-4 the prophet Isaiah looked into the future. He told the people of Judah how God would judge between the nations and they would beat their tools of war and destruction into instruments of farming and life.
In verse 4, Isaiah says “Nations shall not lift up sword against nation. Neither shall they learn war anymore.”
Isn’t that a wonderful image where people take instruments of war and transform them into tools of life?
I have seen words used as tools of war that have spewed hate and prejudice but I have also seen words shape and create a new understanding for our lives.
I have seen hands made into fists that have beaten a child into submission or hands used to build homes after a flood or disaster.
There are other tools of war / peace that are as powerful as bombs and guns.
Stephens Hawking who is one of our greatest physicists and the author of the book, A Brief History of Time,
If we refuse to transform these instincts, we will destroy ourselves.
As Diane and I were building our home this last year I became fascinated with the different entrances that people had to their homes.
I became intrigued with the walkways that had bricks, which interlock with one another to make a beautiful design.
I found out that these bricks were called “pavers”. I like the image of being a “paver ”, each of us interlocking with another to build a beautiful pathway to the entrance into a new century.
What would that look like to be a “paver of peace”.
There will always be those who do not want peace in our world and want to cause war. I realize we have to have national defenses to protect our country and even personal boundaries to protect ourselves but let us be proactive rather than reactive to the ways of the world.
Let us make a decision to be a “paver of peace” and not a warrior for war. Whether it’s in our personal relationships with family, our relationships at work, or nation with nation.
Let us see God’s future that Isaiah has prophesied for us and live into that dream.
The night came for the dinner in our home with these leaders of different faiths. Everyone was a little nervous.
Even though we had been to meetings together, we had never been together with our families and in this type of setting.
When I had set the time for the dinner I had not realized it was before sunset .
As we gathered, Dr. Athar from the Muslim community asked if he could go somewhere out of the way for his evening prayers.
It was in the Muslim tradition that they pray at sunset every day. I asked if we could join him in his prayers and he was elated that we would desire to join him.
Dr. Athar took out his prayer cloth and laid it on the floor so he would have this to kneel on, as he would say his prayers.
For a moment we all stood there following his example of facing east towards Mecca and looking up to the heavens before we would kneel down in prayer.
Max saw the nice cloth on the floor and decided to go roll around on it as cats love to do! I began to panic thinking to myself “This cat is going to ruin this whole event!”
I shooed him away just as Dr. Athar started to kneel down on his prayer cloth. I was so relieved. (Wars have been started over something less offensive than this!)
After we prayed in the Islamic tradition, we gathered around the table to eat and Rabbi Boxamn gave a prayer out of his tradition.
Then Dr. Niss from the Bahai tradition prayed and then I had a prayer for the meal, and by this time the food was a little cold because of all of the praying!
It really didn’t matter that the food was a little cold or that I had to eat things that I never have eaten since but what we found around that table was the beginnings of our interlocking together as “peace pavers”.
We talked about our families. We laughed about experiences we had as we had traveled around the country. We dreamed together about our hopes for our organization.
When Diane and I moved from Indianapolis to another church Dr. Athar gave me the prayer cloth he had brought to our house on that evening of the dinner.
I have it in my office at home reminding me of that dinner and that time in my life and the opportunity I had to learn and expand my understanding of other faiths and people.
It reminds me that people strike out in ways of war many times out of ignorance or fear. A prayer cloth can be used as a tool of war or an instrument of peace.
God has given us all tools that can be used for peace or war. How will we use them as we move into the future? Will you make a commitment to be a “peace paver”?
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, exploitation of people and the earth, so that you will work for justice, equity, and peace
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer, so you will reach out your hand to comfort them and change their pain into joy.
May God bless you with foolishness to think that you can make a difference in the world so you will do the things which others say cannot be done.” (author unknown)
May God bless us as we strive to be Pavers of Peace.
Be a Miracle