Isaiah 2:4 and Beating Guns: Hope for People
Who Are Weary of Violence by Shane Claiborne & Michael Martin
July 9th, 2023
Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche
Well thank you for being here again! I invite you now to take some deeper breaths, to tune into your heartbeat and the gift of being able to be here together! And thank you Alex and John!
And I offer this preacher’s prayer from Psalm 19.
God may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation;
neither shall they learn war any more…
These ancient words are ones that many of us in the movement to end gun violence know by heart and they have guided our efforts here as a church as well.
These words are not just an expression of what could be, a hope for a world where humans can get more creative and find new ways to solve disagreements…
But also, these words are a how-to- an instruction manual for peace- this is what transformation looks like!
And I mean that metaphorically and I mean it literally. I will never forget what it smells like when part of a gun barrel is put to the chop saw. And I will never forget the first time I smelled it… on the sidewalk out in front of this building. On that Sunday afternoon in June of 2021 tears rolled down our faces as the chop saw buzzed and turned its way through…and still I can hardly tell the story…. we smelled and saw transformation.
Kathy, Jackie and I spent many days, what felt like weeks at some points, at the 34th General Synod of the United Church of Christ. We gathered with over 700 delegates and friends in downtown Indianapolis for worship, educational intensives, keynote addresses, commemorations, plenaries and more. It was exhausting and frustrating, beautiful and meaningful. We were there to bring a resolution asking each and every setting of the United Church of Christ to do something to help end gun violence, whether it is giving away gun safes and gun locks and teaching gun safety or whether it is finding partners to host events to safely surrender unwanted firearms. And this resolution passed with a larger margin than any resolution that was presented to the body!
And as I stood next to Jackie as she spoke to the whole room, it was just so clear to me what happens when we are driven by love, what happens when we are not stopped by fear, not limited by all the obstacles, not torn down by the naysayers! It’s what happens when we are driven by love, when our church chose to respond to that massacre in our grocery store by doing something, instead of doing nothing, we are having the chance to experience transformation, we are living it right now, we are living proof of what happens when we are driven by love, when we choose faith over fear, what a gift to get to be alive for and a part of this change, the growing of a movement!!!! And that’s because of you all!
It would have been easier to do nothing. Are you with me? It would have been easier to agree with all of the reasons why it wouldn’t work. Are you with me? Or probably wouldn’t happen and it would have been easier to listen to how little good it would do. Are you with me?
But do you know what I have learned about movements? About transformation?
When you are driven by love. You do something anyway. Not because you know where it will end up, but because something must be done!
It’s not about doing it perfectly, it’s about doing it!
Every event that happened after ours is better! And was better! And I am not ashamed of that! I am proud of that! We went first! Thanks be God they learned from us and they are doing it better! That’s because we were brave and were willing to say yes to God, before we knew what that meant!
It’s not about knowing how, it’s about finding others who do!
It’s not about being sure, it’s being faithful!
It’s being able to handle some heat but not melt,
It’s being willing to go where we haven’t been before, but not crack…
And this is what Mike Martin, visionary and founder of RawTools, says when he writes of transformation.
“To turn guns into garden tools, you have to add some heat—a little more than 2,000 degrees of controlled flame. If the steel is too hot, it melts or burns off. If it’s too cold, the steel cracks under the hammer. There is a happy medium range of heat where the magic happens—where transformation takes place.”
This is what a God-infused, Higher Power-fueled movement looks like, this is what transformation looks like!
Driven by love, able to handle some heat but not melt, willing to go where we haven’t been before but not crack!
They shall beat their swords into plowshares…
An instruction manual for peace…
And also a threat to the power of some, the idea of turning weapons of war into garden tools.
For most of my time in Indianapolis, the national convention of School Resource Officers AKA police officers in schools happened to be sharing the hotel where I was staying and it felt like God was testing me.
I was like, are you kidding me?
We are here to talk about chopping up unwanted guns and I am surrounded by armed humans…
Oh and BTW in Indiana anyone can have a gun and conceal carry without a permit. So it was just a fascinating collision of paradigms.
By the third night, I was feeling courage and it also helped that I was sitting at the bar and two sips into a Manhattan when two tall men chose the stools to my right. One of them wore a hat with a blue lives matter flag and I could tell he didn’t want to connect, I was the wrong kind, but the guy he was with was curious.
And he asked about the pride flag pin on my jean jacket. I asked them what they thought about the School Resource Officer in Parkland, not entering the building and the recent verdict in the trial.
We found common ground and here’s a lesson if you want to connect with anybody in America right now, anger with members of Congress! And then on we went. And I also realized that it was highly unlikely that I would ever see them again so I decided to have a bit of boldness. And then we got to guns.
Then one of them began to tell me how much he loves his assault rifles. I tried to keep breathing and decided to find something to affirm! There it was: I said that I thought he was probably a responsible gun owner as a member of law enforcement (in my head I was like please God let that actually be true!) And then I said good for him for keeping them locked up, etc. And then I asked him if he thought that anyone should be able to have access to a firearm like that? He paused. Yes, he said.
But there’s the thing, it’s like he didn’t want to say yes, but the only thing he could possibly imagine was that not saying yes would be taking away his gun.
I mentioned that in most communities there literally isn’t a place to get rid of UNWANTED firearms and he said you can take it to the police department. His friend said, even before I had to, that this wasn’t true in every town. And we didn’t even get into the fact of the number of people who have guns illegally who aren’t just going to show up to the police station with their unwanted firearm…
They weren’t moved by the fact that guns are now the number one killer of kids and teens in this country.
But do you know what else I have learned in this Guns to Garden movement?
It’s about just as much about creating space for truth telling for conversation for stories to be shared, it’s about getting unwanted firearms out of closets and out from under beds and out from gloveboxes in cars and into safes to prevent death by suicide and accidental shootings of little cousins playing. It’s about protecting older male veterans who are dying by suicide this way.
Even if people aren’t moved right now, they will be soon!
Kathy reminded us all again and again that Guns to Gardens is about planting seeds! It’s about being willing to put something into the ground even where it seems like there’s no way in the world it will grow.
Trust that it just isn’t about this one little thing, but if we aren’t bold in little and big ways, we know these seeds will bloom beyond us.
This ministry is about supporting one another and others in the work of being willing to be driven by love! Not stopped by fear, not limited by all of the obstacles! And today we have exciting news! Are you ready? Today, we are excited to be launching Guns to Gardens Boulder!!!
We have the website, the resources, the networks, the learning and the people and the Spirit! And we are ready! Our first event will be to support a safe surrender event for unwanted firearms in Lafayette in October. Our next will be education and planning for an event possibly in March. We will meet this fall and begin our work!
Here’s part of what the vision looks like!
Building a supporting the disarmament network
Training more people on the chop saw so that a thoughtful team could gather here on site to do a ritual, and safely disassemble an unwanted firearm after a suicide
Our dream is to have many teams!
Begin to build a series of smaller and more regular safe surrender events for unwanted firearms
Brainstorm and dream about how to help our kids and youth have hope too and create events for them with things like a summer camp for peacemakers and blacksmith experts and be able to use a chop saw and disassemble unwanted firearms and more!
Begin to build a network of artists and poets who can help make art, jewelry, children’s books and more
If you want to be among the first official members of Guns to Gardens Boulder, we want to hear from you! You can put your contact information on the clipboard available at the Welcome Table or you can email me or Jackie or Kathy.
Shane Claiborne and Mike Martin wrote, “Love does not have room for fear. And fear does not make space for love.”
Beloved of God, thank you for letting love lead instead of allowing fear to stop us!
This is what it looks like to be driven by love!
This is what a God-infused, Higher Power-fueled movement looks like, this is what transformation looks like! Able to handle some heat but not melt, willing to go where we haven’t gone before but not crack! Thank you. Well done. Onward we go, driven by love, may it be so. The movement grows! Amen.