Tag Archives: War

What Do We Treasure?

Living in the Spirit
July 30, 2017

Scripture Reading:  Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. –Matthew 13:44-46

I worry about the greed and lust for power that is epidemic in our land. It is so common place we accept it as normal. Some intentionally pursue either or both. The prophets of the Hebrew Bible spoke eloquently about these sins, and their words ring true today. I fear our results will be the same as that experienced by the people of ancient Israel if we do not change our behavior.

What do we treasure? It is important to identify what we treasure. Jesus said, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21.) What are you willing to sell everything you have to purchase? Are you willing to sell your soul? Greed devours souls.

Our economic system demands below living wage incomes to reap greater profits, which results in the inability of larger and larger numbers of people to purchase the products being sold. Such a system cannot be sustained. My Mom would have called that cutting off your nose to spite your face.

We see it in our personal lives, and it spills over into our civic lives as cuts are proposed in Social Security and Medicare to pay for increased military spending which has not resulted in peace. It does support the continuation of a vast military industrial complex. Are we destined to be at some level of war forever? Fear undergirds greed.

Prayer: Forgive us of our greed and lust for power. Help us to hear the wisdom of your prophets and Jesus and recognize what our treasures really are. 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 America. Used by permission. All rights are 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.

Refugee

refugees4Living in the Spirit
October 26, 2015

Scripture Reading: Ruth 1:1-18

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there for about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons or her husband. –Ruth 1:1-5

It is an ancient story told many times in the Bible, leaving one’s homeland to survive. In the story above a family became refugees because of drought. Today refugees are created from war, various climate change events, oppression, and poverty. Our great challenge is to determine the best way to help people dealing with the issues that force them from their homelands. There are no easy answers. Is it better to help people remain closer to home in refugee camps with the hope that they well be able to return home soon or to move them from their culture to a strange land?

We non-native Americans in the United States are the descendants of immigrants some of whom were refugees although they may not have been formally recognized as such. Refugees are people by definitions who must leave their home area for their own safety or survival.* One of my ancestors came in 1630 as a pilgrim escaping religious persecution so technically he could have been considered a refugee, I suppose. I am not sure but one might have come to the US as a result of the potato famine in Ireland. That was the reason many of my hometown German neighbors traveled to the US in the late 1800’s. I don’t really know why my other ancestors came. I assume they were at least looking for a better life.

With refugees pouring out of the Middle East and Africa escaping war and oppression, it might be a good time to come to terms with the ideas of refugees for they are our neighbors and we are called to love them as we love ourselves.

Prayer: Lord, according to the book of Matthew you were a refugee in a foreign land when your parents escape with you to Egypt to save you from the terror of Herod. Help us to see you in each of the refugees we have an opportunity to serve whether near to their homeland or here in ours. Amen.

*http://education.nationalgeographic.com/encyclopedia/refugee/

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.

Inherited Leadership

LeadershipLiving in the Spirit
October 21, 2014

Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses. — Deuteronomy 34:9

Before we explore forward, it would seem wise to look back toward from where the Israelites had come. Abraham was actually the one who first received the promise of the land and he faithfully followed God’s guidance in his journey to find it. There are no battles reported; he simply settled on land among the Canaanite people. They all had to deal with famine. Abraham and his company traveled to Egypt to survive. During that travel Abraham was fearful of the strangers so he told the leader there that his wife, Sarah, was his sister. He did use a small militia once to save his nephew Lot. But other than the normal challenges of an agrarian society, his greatest perplexity was establishing his linage. He accomplished that by having two sons, Ishmael, the son of his wife’s slaves, and Isaac, the son of Sarah. Life is always more complicated than the simple reporting of facts. People are humans after all and humans can be drawn into discord when pride and land and power come into question. Ishmael and his mother were sent away and Isaac became the heir apparent.

Isaac’s son Jacob, later to be named Israel, had twelve sons but favored his son Joseph much to the chagrin of the others. The older brothers sold Joseph into slavery and he landed in Egypt, but things worked out well for him there. When Jacob and his sons back in Canaan experienced famine Joseph moved them all to Egypt and provided for them. After Joseph’s death the remaining family, now known as Israelites, were enslaved by the Egyptians where they remained for some 400 years until Moses was called by God to lead them out of Egypt, which he did. In the aftermath of that exodus the Israelites wandered through the wilderness for 40 years until they arrived at the point of today’s scripture.

I review this story to give us a feel for what had happened to these Israelites that brought them to the edge of the river that led into their “Promised Land”. Had they kept the quest for their homeland alive through all those years telling stories of their forefathers around the evening fire? What impact would several generations of slavery and its oppression have had on this population? I have always wondered why they wandered in the desert for so long. The Promised Land was not that far away. Did they need that time to prepare for such a new and different life? And what happened to Ishmael?

Now this is an extremely truncated version of the story but it illustrates well that humans can do some pretty stupid and sometimes even evil things while under the guiding arm of God. It shows that God seeks leaders to clear the paths for God’s people, and as needed turn them around when they wander down the wrong way. It also reminds those of us who have accepted the call to love God through our Lord Jesus Christ from our doorposts to the ends of the earth that our answer to that call has never been more needed. The misuse of power and greed that has spread throughout the earth has caused famine, oppression, war and contagion and all of God’s children are in need of God’s restorative love. In our scripture above, it was Joshua’s turn to inherit the mantel of leadership. Today it is our turn.

This story makes me wonder what the backstory of ISIL is. Radical Islamist, I hear, but what made them that way? Whose sons are they? Who were their grandfathers?

Prayer: Almighty God, may all your children from the east and the west, the north and the south across borders of land and borders of fear and isolation find your peace, hope, and love through our acts of love as taught us by your son Jesus, the Christ. 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.

 

Fear Begets Fear

Living in the Spirit
July 24, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Romans 8:26-39 

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. — Romans 8:26-27

Who knew that all that memorization I did in school would still impact me or that Rudyard Kipling’s poem, If for Boys*, would pop into my head when considering the trials of our times? Here is the first verse. I would encourage you to read the full poem.

If you can keep your head when all about you
 Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
 But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
 Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
 And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

Fear is permeating the very fiber of our beings across the world. There are, in fact, some things out there about which fear is a most appropriate response. But fear seems to beget fear and when we are facing very real threats we also tend to imaginee ones that are not present. Such fear can make us do things that we would never do under normal circumstances. A plane was destroyed over war torn Ukraine. Some 300 people heading for the south pacific, many on vacation, were killed. The cause is not fully known, but it was most likely a byproduct of war or terrorism. Do we never get on another plane because of this incident? Good friends apparently returned from a trip through Israel just in time to miss the start of warfare again there. Do we no longer seek peace in the Middle East? Murder is becoming routine here in Oklahoma City. Do we stop loving our neighbors and welcoming strangers? God never said the world wouldn’t be scary. God said “Fear not”.

I have not the words to pray regarding seeking solutions to the dangers that face us every day but I take great heart in our scripture today for I know the Spirit is praying with me and knows exactly what to say.

Prayer: Spirit of the Living God, thank you for your indwelling presence. Please pray the words I cannot form. Amen.

http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/if/

 

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.