The Berlin Wall came down on 9 November 1989 without a single gunshot, largely thanks to the church’s role in organizing non-violent resistance to the East German regime. Every Monday night, prayers for peace were conducted across East Germany. One month before the fall of the wall, in and around St Nicholas Church and other churches in Leipzig, more than 70,000 people gathered to pray for peace.
This poster announces these prayerful demonstrations. The logo of a blacksmith hammering a sword into a ploughshare, illustrating Micah 4:3, is modelled after Eveniy Vuchetich’s statue donated to the United Nations by the Soviet Union in 1959. In 1980, graphic artist Herbert Sander adapted the image for the East German Protestant church, which created 100,000 copies for distribution through its congregations. Through the eighties the image was widely reproduced on metal buttons, decals, posters, banners, and placards. When students started to wear it as a badge, the German regime prohibited its public display and expelled anyone who wore it to university, with the result that people began to appear in public with a hole cut out of the clothes where the logo had once been fastened.
Though Micah 4:3 sits alongside the image, an exegetical gloss might well be Colossians 1:19–20. Colossians celebrates peace and non-violent reconciliation in a provocative way. The words ‘to reconcile’ and ‘making peace’ are imperial terms celebrating the power of the emperor to pacify enemies through war. But in Colossians peace and reconciliation come through Jesus’s self-sacrifice. This is where the fullness of God is revealed, where swords are beaten into ploughshares, as the little one from Galilee dies in obedience to his own command to love one’s enemies and not to retaliate with violence.
In Leipzig, 70,000 little ones gathered to express Jesus’s way and for a moment the fullness of God was once again made flesh as the Son became incarnate amongst them. Such incarnation causes powers and principalities to quake as God moves the world towards justice and love. It happens in as small an act as praying with one another for reconciliation and peace, at 5 PM every Monday.
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ at Colosʹsae:
3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which you have for all the saints, 5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel 6which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—so among yourselves, from the day you heard and understood the grace of God in truth, 7as you learned it from Epʹaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf 8and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
9 And so, from the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; 16for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. 19For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.