Is Your Time Different Than Mine?

Isaiah 2:1-5  – First Sunday of Advent – for December 1, 2013

“The word that Isaiah, son Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem…” (Isaiah 2:1)

sparksThe foolish dreamer.

The blind believer.

I’ve been called worse than those. I’ve heard the insults, jeers and taunts.

How is it some don’t want to be reminded of faith’s hard work? Why do we think things will get better if we do nothing? What makes so many blame neighbors, but never admit their own fears or failings?

I live in a time when people forget history and scoff at the future, when children are bartered and sold, women are abused and abandoned and the only God worshipped by all is gold.

I live in a place where people avoid certain sections of the city and erect huge walls around their own homes, where the foreigner is demeaned, the stranger is viewed with suspicion and those who speak differently are . . . damned as different.

I live when most of the news is about the war just fought and why we won, or the war soon to be started and how we can’t lose, when the news is controlled by the spiteful and powerful and any voice of truth is crushed or forced to bow to the gods of gold.

Is your time different than mine?

*         *         *

Soon after dawn, day after day, we all scurry into the streets. We have survived another night.

We kiss our children as they go to school.

We bake our bread, sell our wares and tend to our business.

“How is the weather?”

“Did you hear so-and-so is getting divorced?”

“I’m betting today is the day I win the lottery.”

Every day I hear the same chatter and patter; everyone talks, but so few say anything.

“How are you doing?” we ask.

“I’m fine.”

No one is.

Is your time different than mine?

*         *         *

Near the end of the day, like most days, I pause in the shade from the brutal sun to watch the ironsmith.

Hammer. Metal. Fire. Sweat. Grunts. Clangs. A formless thing takes form.

Bellows bellow.

Flames rise.

I have known the ironsmith since our youth, when we played tag while our parents visited and talked and seemed so boring. Now we both do our own work. He fashions metal tools. I craft fragile hope. My friend the ironsmith has the better task.

The sun slumps into the horizon like a heavy fruit at the tip of a branch. Shadows lengthen. Fire. Sweat. Grunts. Clangs. The hammer rises and falls, rises and falls.

Yesterday, at this same spot, I wasn’t sure what my old friend was making. Now I know.

A plow.

My old friend has courage, certainly more than me. He has seen his children die. He has too many widows in his family. And so, not long ago, when a rich man came and asked the ironsmith to make a score of swords, the ironsmith refused.

“I’ll pay you well,” the visitor said. “I am told you are the best.”

My old friend, who manages a hammer better than words, shook his head.

“If you don’t, none of my friends will do business here. I know important people. I can make sure you’ll never have one of them come to this . . . junkyard,” the rich man said.

The ironsmith bowed his head and continued to work.

“Who can afford your plow, you stupid man? Who needs another pruning hook?” the rich man said. He spat on the shop’s floor and left.

Shadows lengthened. Sparks flared as the bellow heaved. The hammer smote metal, at the exact spot, at the perfect temperature. A straight piece curved. The ironsmith grunted with contentment. In the day’s final, ghostly light, he glanced my way. He nodded. And I did too.

I tramped home though the darkening city.

*         *         *

oil_lampA solitary wick in a clay lamp flickered at my table; just enough light to see, just enough light to last through the fearful night. I held my writing stylus like a hammer and began.

Like my old friend, I have witnessed too much death. I live in an age of orphans, widows and the bereaved. I live in an age when the wealthy scheme for more wealth. I live in an age where religious authorities lord over the poor and ignore the Lord’s call to heal, feed and give shelter. We lust for war, and if there’s no enemy, we’ll search for a new foe like men scouring the desert for a drop of water.

And yet I choose to write in this darkness to hold back more darkness. I choose to remember. I choose to describe today’s hard truths. I choose to scribble my dreams, praying that my paltry words can bring holy fire and blessed purpose to those few trusting more in Holy compassion than humanity’s corruption.

I recall my oldest and dearest friend, his grimy hand grasping the hammer, and with surety of experience and imagination, he crafted metal into a tool of life. Of hope. Of nourishment.

In the solitary flame, in the silent room, in the sleeping city, I sense the presence of the Other. The Almighty. The One that bellows hope and fashions the dawn.

My name is Isaiah.

I am of the house of Jacob, and I walk in the light of the Lord.

For today, even in the depths of night . . .

I dream.

I believe.

(Image of hammer and sparks from here; lamp from here.)

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2 Comments

  1. Ohhh I just love this. Started out and oh yes you make me think, and want to make sure others know that there is a world beyond themselves. But when you get to the ironsmith and the bellows. Oh what wonderful memories you brought up for me. I grew up in a small rural community and still live there, and for may years as a kid I would visit my uncle Herman. He owned the blacksmith shop like his father before him. He was a WW1 veteran. He was a big man. A gentle man. But when he was working you could hear the ringing of the metal on the anvil, from a distance on the street. I watched with awe when he used his bellows and made the sparks and fire rise. I was always full of questions. And yes he always answered every one of them. And yes I watched as he formed molten metal into shapes, including plows. But never until just now have I thought about the metal plows he made in such a way. Thank you for bringing scriptures to a totally new light today. And thank you for letting me conjure up wonderful childhood memories as tears fall down my face.

    1. Thanks, Nancy! I wasn’t sure if I’d trigger any ironsmith/blacksmith memories from readers. Glad I did, though.

      As with many, I’ve loved to read and reflect on Isaiah’s call to turn swords into plowshares . . . and for this reflection, I wondered where/how the prophet may have been inspired to use that imagery.

      Thanks for reading!!

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