Seven score and twelve years ago, Julia Ward Howe, author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, issued a proclamation calling for the establishment of a "Mother's Peace Day":
Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. “Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.” From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says, “Disarm, disarm! The sword is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonor nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each learning after his own time, the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God. In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.
Every line of Howe's proclamation now peals like measures of Taps from a lonely bugle in the
blood-soaked breadbasket of Europe.
While we celebrate yet another commercial holiday that could have been about promoting peace—Christmas in May—Russia and Ukraine are at war.
Mothers are still burying and grieving their slaughtered children.
Children are torn and banished from their mothers' arms.
The amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace are still distant and disregarded.
The news is not new.
Putin is trying to be a czar, which is a Russian word derived from Caesar, the source of
suffering for John and the people he loves.
John writes Revelation to encourage Christians in a Roman empire where inflation is high, Christianity is illegal, and problems are solved by Caesar with military muscle under the
marketing banner of Pax Romana—Roman Peace.
Caesar's "peace keeping forces" are everywhere.
The news is not new, and it's not good either.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, Jesus taught his students to pray before Rome came for him and crucified him, you know, to keep the peace.
That's why he appears in John's vision as a bloody Lamb.
But who are the countless crowds around him, the great multitude of Russians and
Ukrainians and others from every nation, from all peoples and tribes and languages?
Does heaven have an immigration problem?
One of the elders lets us know: These are they who have come out of the great ordeal.
These are the dead.
These are the slaughtered.
These are the casualties of Caesar's world.
This is an Al-Anon meeting for victims of violence addicts: teenagers sent off to war,
children sent off to school, elders caught in the crossfire.
They have washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb.
They have mended their clothes in the fire of the cross.
At this point the vision becomes an Escher drawing, full of images that spin our minds so fast
and far we finally realize that we have no idea which way is up.
Red blood makes robes white.
The casualties of war are conquering heroes.
The mighty lion is a butchered lamb, and the lamb is a shepherd.
And the center of glory, the God on the throne that makes Caesar's look like a tattered lawn chair, isn't sitting – God is stooping down and standing up to wipe tears from the eyes of children and their mothers.
Those who have to choose between food and medical care are both nourished and healed.
Those who withered in the police car headlights before they died for looking suspicious to Caesar bask in the sheltering shade of safety.
At last and forever, the great human family can live in peace, each learning after his own time, the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God. What Julia Ward Howe pleaded for, John of Patmos saw as the end game of history, the reality beyond our wildest imagination and hopes to which we are headed, and death has been transformed into its front porch.
The Lamb slaughtered in Caesar's name is shepherding us there.
There is hope for the hopeless, and there is another way to live.
We work for peace, we pray for peace, we negotiate and plead for peace, we craft and create peace, we practice peace, not only because we need it now and always, but also because eventually we're going to have to get used to it.
Like the destination on a trip, the future we see shapes the choices we make.
John's vision, God's complete and inevitable victory through loss, is written to show us how to live now—with justice and compassion, with tender kindness in the endless crowd of people we view as different from us, with charity, mercy, and patience.
We watch what God is up to tomorrow to learn how we can best live today.
For followers of the Lamb, Perfect makes practice.