Tag Archives: Peace

Incarnation

god-with-us2Advent
November 23, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 122

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
   ‘May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
   and security within your towers.’
For the sake of my relatives and friends
   I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
   I will seek your good. –Psalm 6-7

For whom do we wish peace? The author of Psalm 122, outlines a listing of recipients for whom he desires peace: Hometown, relatives and friends, and for the sake of the house of God. When peace exists for the house of God, all benefit.

Peace is not just the absence of war. Rome proclaimed the Peace of Rome through the threat of violence which held people in a constant state of fear. Peace, the Hebrew word in English is Salem, means completeness, soundness, and welfare*. I think of it as wholeness with God and with all others, a world without “us” and “them.”

It seems most people want the reality of peace. The problem is we see very different, often contradictory ways of attaining it. As a global community, we seem to be at a crossroads regarding how we want to live and move and have our being**. As we begin the annual reawakening of the incarnation, we are called to recognize that the way toward such peace is laid out for us. Let us dedicate this Advent season to a revitalization of our commitment to follow the way of Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Lord, pray with us when we do not know the words to say. Write on our hearts your message of renewal, so we can be fully the people you have called us to be. Amen.

*http://biblehub.com/hebrew/7965.htm
**See Acts 17:28

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

The Intentionality of Love

toJerusalem-218x300Lent
March 17, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 19:28-40

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.  

When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” just say this: “The Lord needs it.”’ So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’ –Luke 19:28-34

Luke’s story of what has come to be known as Jesus’ Triumphal Entry illustrates a lot of intentionality. Preplanning seems to have taken place. Perhaps the owner of the donkey willingly shared his or her animal but for his or her own safety remained anonymous. There was even a signal message set up so the donkey could be released to the right people. Luke was also well acquainted with the Hebrew scriptures describing the coming of a king riding on a donkey (Zech. 9:9)

Across town history tells us, the Romans used grand entries to enforce their authority. Rulers, Pilate perhaps, would ride into town after battles or otherwise in ceremonial fashion on grand horses leading a mass of soldiers. The Peace of Roman came through power and fear and aggression. Quite a contrast, wouldn’t you say, to a lowly Jewish Rabbi riding in on a working animal. Was Jesus mocking the Romans?

Jesus professed that communal peace, world peace, can truly only come via love and justice. Personal peace, too, is ours through a radical relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Yet the fall back on violence is just so tempting. It seems to satisfy some kind of primal urge to establish one’s self worth. Created in the image of God, all people are children of God and have worth beyond measure. Think what a wonderful world it would be if everyone could accept that simple fact. It would be truly the Kingdom of God.

Prayer: Lord, let your ways be known to us so that we may live with the intentionality of love you modeled for us. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Enabled as Peacemakers

peace-in-handEpiphany
January 10, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ –Luke 21-22

The Dove has been a symbol of peace and love for centuries, not only in Christianity, but across religions. The Dove has been a symbol of the presence of God’s work among God’s people since the story of Noah. A dove was released when the rains had subsided. It returned to the Ark with an olive branch in its beak telling Noah that the waters had receded and he could leave the Ark. It later denoted the presence of God described as the Holy Spirit in the story of the Baptism of Jesus.

The presence of the Dove at Jesus’ baptism is significant as it foretells the role of this One chosen by God to bring love and peace into a world. His task was to bring about peace without the violence of the Pax Romana, the reality that Rome defined as peaceful.

This Roman view of peace is still prevalent in the world today. It is the peace that ISIS pledges, but it is not far removed from the responses desired by some in the world who wish to defeat, by any means necessary, the ISISes that have arisen throughout history.

The peace of Christ is achieved one commitment at a time. This too is symbolized in and through our baptisms. As we each strive for the wholeness of God initiated at baptism, we experience the oneness of God as we work for the peace of God that surpasses understanding. It is the only peace that can and will conquer the world.

Prayer: Grant us your peace O Lord, renew our baptismal commitment. Holy Spirit, continue enabling us as peacemakers. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Timing is Everything

All-the-forces-in-the-world-are-not-so-powerful-as-an-idea-whose-time-has-comeChristmas
December 27, 2015

 Scripture Reading: Luke 2:41-52

When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, ‘Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.’ He said to them, ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.  

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor. –Luke 2:45-51

Timing is everything. Historians looking back on the time of Jesus backtrack the perfect timing of his arrival. It was the right place, right time for a confrontation of the peace of Rome, a phenomenon of power and violence, with the Peace of God, the outcome of love. Few of those who were experiencing such a revolution could probably not even perceive such a shift in the societal plates of the world as possible. Some, indeed, recognized it as the better way but merely  a pipedream. Others found it threatening to their chosen way of life. The interesting thing is that some two thousand years later we are still having these same reactions. If we can just win one more war than we can have peace.

In our story today, Jesus recognized the need to bide his time. While a few teachers might be impressed with a well-studied 12 year-old the masses would not. The scripture says Mary remembered this event. Even though I change gospels, I could not help but remember that it was his mother at the wedding in Cana (John 2) who pushes Jesus out into ministry when he said his time had not yet come.

What is God’s call to his children today? Are we hearing it? Are we living it? Are we enabling it in others? Emmanuel is with us. Now is our time.

Prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy*. Amen.

*First verse of prayer by st. francis of assisi see at http://www.worldprayers.org/archive/prayers/invocations/lord_make_me_an_instrument.html

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Peace through Love

PowerAdvent
December 20, 2015

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:46-55

He has shown strength with his arm;
   he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
   and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
   and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
   in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
   to Abraham and to his descendants forever.’ –Luke 1:51-55

Church historian John Dominic Crossan* notes that the town of Sepphoris located a short distance from Nazareth was a major Roman controlled city. It was perhaps Mary’s birthplace. The residents of the area saw first-hand the peace of Roman in all its victory through violence. The experience left a lasting impression. At the time of the death of Herod, the Great, there was apparently a Jewish uprising in this city toward the end of regaining Jewish control. It was quickly ended by the war machines of Roman. In some accounts, mass destruction, rape, and pillage was reported.

Mary, like those fleeing the war in the Middle East today, was shaped by the events of her day. Her song reflects the frustration of one living under an oppressive regime. It reflects a faith that God was ultimately in control and would send a Savior at the right time and in the right way and she was willing to play her part in making that a reality.

Many probably wanted another mighty warrior like King David. They got a wise son of a peasant girl who understood that victory through violence is not victory at all. Violence just begets more violence. Can we ever have a world without war? Yes, we can, but we can only do that when we quit letting the violent set our agenda. We, like Mary and like her son Jesus, have the assurance of the God of Abraham that peace through love is possible.

Prayer: Lord move among all the children of Abraham rekindling the hope for a world ruled by love not war. Amen.

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dominic_Crossan

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Becoming One

God's childrenAdvent
December 14, 2015

Scripture Reading: Micah 5:2-5a

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
   who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
   one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
   from ancient days.

Therefore he shall give them up until the time
   when she who is in labor has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
   to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
   in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
   to the ends of the earth;
and he shall be the one of peace.

 If I counted right, I have 42 first cousins on my father’s side of the family some of them around my father’s age. I have two first cousins on my mother’s side. Therein, lies the difference in a larger clan and a smaller clan. Funny, because I was raised nearer to my father’s family, I know that massive flock of 42 better than the two from another state. They lived about three times the same distance from where my family lived as Nazareth is from Bethlehem. We, of course drove, rather than walked or road on a donkey, to visit. We made the trip a couple of times each year, often at Christmas. My Dad’s clan rented one of the buildings at the fair ground for its family reunion. My Mom’s family fit nicely in my grandmother’s house. Bethlehem was the ancestral home of King David and it is surprising that it was a small clan. How many wives did Solomon have?

Micah is taking us back to the roots of Israel scattered throughout the known world described as lost tribes. Micah foresees the children of God reunited as one again and led by one coming from a very small clan, one without a natural force of relatives from which to form a mighty army. Micah understands the breadth of God’s peace and nurture as the strength of God’s people. We should also.

Prayer: Lord, help us invest our lives in being a part of your peace and your nurture as we welcome all of your children to your reunion. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

The Peace of God

peace through loveLiving in the Spirit
November 22, 2015

Scripture Reading: John 18:33-37

Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’—John 18:37

Biblical historian, John Dominic Crossan in his work The Challenge of Jesus* describes the siege of Israel the Romans accomplished when a Jewish uprising occurred at the death of Herod shortly before Jesus was born. The Romans quickly used overkill, literally to remind the Israelites who was in control. The town of Sepphoris, located a short distance from Nazareth, was destroyed and many of its inhabitants killed. Jesus grew up in the shadow of this devastation, which no doubt left a lasting impression on him and his parents.

We experienced the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing and its impact, still are probably. Add 9/11 to that and we have the makings of dis-ease among the people. Crossan strongly suggests that the young Jesus took all this in and understood the Roman idea of peace via violence, known as the Pax or Peace of Roman, was a false façade. The only way to peace was through love. He lived it up to and through the cross and displayed its truth through his resurrection.

We are seeing, maybe even experiencing, some of the dis-ease that results for senseless violence in our world today. It seems its purveyors, like the Romans, take some satisfaction from it. They most likely have suffered some loss, humiliation, shame themselves and are targeting others in an impossible attempt to rectify through violence whatever they have experienced. It will eventually work no better for them than it did for the Romans. It will not work for us either.

Prayer: Lord, in these difficult times teach us how to love our way toward peace. Guide our leaders as they must make the difficult choices regarding how to protect the populace while bringing the terror to an end. Amen.

*http://faithandreason.org/index.php/store/product/the-challenge-of-jesus

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Sing!

Just singLiving in the Spirit
September 26, 2015

Scripture Reading: James 5:13-20

Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. –James 5:13-16

I think this entire scripture is good advice but when I read it today, I wanted to add a sentence encouraging those who suffer and are sick to also sing. Of course, that makes sense because I love music.

Saul was soothed by David’s playing of the harp,

And whenever the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand, and Saul would be relieved and feel better, and the evil spirit would depart from him. (I Samuel 16:23)

Congreve said it well, Music has charms to sooth a savage breast  

 We make choices every day that impact the quality of our lives. We can wallow in self-pity or we can look for the good in a bad situation. Can’t you just picture Paul and Silas singing in prison? What gave them the peace to sing in such a place as that? The answer is threefold: The presence of the Holy Spirit, the surety of Gods abundant love in all situations, and the knowledge of the Suffering Servant, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We each have these same resources available to us.

O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. (Psalm 96:1)

Prayer: Lord, we thank you for your gift of music. Let ours songs of praise to you be a wonderful gift in return. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Walking in God’s Way

twoways-600x369Living in the Spirit
August 11, 2015

Scripture Reading: I Kings 3:3-14 

O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?’  

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.’ –1 Kings 3:7a-14

Solomon’s prayer is one we all could pray as we wrestle with discerning between good and evil for the difference is often a fine grey line. The United States is in the midst of such discernment regarding the Iranian nuclear agreement. Can a negotiated peace ever work between peoples that share no trust? My first thought was that we have short memories, because I can remember when we were in accord with the Shah of Iran, never mind we may have been the reason for his being in power. If we look back to our faith history we might also remember that Cyrus, the King of Persia, was led by God to return the people of Judah to Jerusalem to rebuild God’s house. (2 Chronicles 36.17-23) Do we not believe that God can still work with leaders of other countries and even other faiths toward God’s purpose of peace?

We, like Solomon, are called to walk in God’s way. The way of shalom weaves throughout the history of the peoples of God. Yes, we will change Presidents in 2016 and, yes, the Iranians will change leadership at some point down the line. The history of God’s people clearly illustrates the ebb and flow of our trusting God. Routinely though we have the stories in that history where the people did choose to walk in God’s way and God blessed them for it.

Prayer: Lord, help us to walk in your way today and trust that you will take care of our tomorrows. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Spreading Shalom

swords into plowsLiving in the Spirit
August 4, 2015

Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him.

 Then the Cushite came; and the Cushite said, ‘Good tidings for my lord the king! For the Lord has vindicated you this day, delivering you from the power of all who rose up against you.’ The king said to the Cushite, ‘Is it well with the young man Absalom?’ The Cushite answered, ‘May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up to do you harm, be like that young man.’

 The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, ‘O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would that I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!’ –2 Samuel 15, 31-33

What about human nature allows us to get to these points in life when we cannot seem to come back from the tragic consequences of our own making? Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, political parties against political parties, nations against nations strive for success at the price of their very souls.

There is a great debate in our world today, a continuation of one that has been fought for eons, whether it is better to negotiate peace or obtain it by force. It seems to me an oxymoron to go to war to obtain peace. It also seems, by responding violence for violence, we are allowing our enemies to define us, sap our resources, and perpetuate the cycle of society’s destruction.

Our individual relationship with God is the starting point for world peace. The oneness we share with others who are also honing their relationship with God is the starting point for sharpening our abilities to create a foundation of shalom designed to undergird all relationships throughout the world opening the door for negotiation. It all starts with trusting God more than we trust violence.

Prayer: Lord make us instruments of your peace. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.