By Jim Brenneman, president of Goshen College
Reprinted from Advent Devotionals
Teachers are visionaries. At their best, teachers inspire their students to dream of and work to create a better world. There is a famous scene in the movie “Dead Poets Society” (1989) when the odd out-of-bounds teacher Mr. Keating, played by Robin Williams, has all the boys stand on their chairs to get a different perspective on the world. In the process, he turns teenage boys into lovers of poetry, dreamers of a new way of living as a “band of brothers” in a community of passionate learners.
I am struck by how Isaiah’s Advent vision describes God as a teacher standing on Mt. Zion. And like the Master Teacher that God is, God’s lecture is magnetic. The nations stream to class, like a river flowing upward against gravity to the highest of mountains. It’s as if God has all the nations stand on their chairs to imagine a different possible future. The instruction, the Word of the Lord, goes forth with such sway that the nation-students do the unimaginable: they beat their instruments of war into farming implements, no longer willing to go to war against one another. They leave their mountain-classroom singing what would become the great African American spiritual inspired by this Advent vision, “Gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside… I ain’t gonna study war no more!”
In this war-weary world, let us stand on chairs, if we must, to catch a glimpse of Isaiah’s vision of nations who one day willingly turn their war colleges into colleges of peace; nations who one day choose to study war no more. Now that would be worthy of an Advent anthem, “Gloria en excelsis, Deo!”
Isaiah 2:1-5 (NRSV)