(So much bravado in the political debates this week: ¨I would bomb the bleep out of them all, etc." If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.) The Reverend John Smith
Peace on Earth
Great and wonderful things come in small packages. God seems to agree. God raised up Micah to tell God's people that his plan for the peace they longed for would be revealed along a path of humility. To everyone's great surprise, God would use Bethlehem of Ephrathah, a "little clan," to bring forth a ruler who would stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord and bring, for those who heeded his example real security and peace.
God doesn't see things the way most people do. We shun any kind of victimhood, but Jesus embraced it. He refused to use military might to do violence to his enemies. His power was found in forgiveness instead of whipping up his followers to do vengeance against those who would harm him and them.
Jesus, whose Incarnation we will mark in just a few days, ratified, in God-person, a covenental sea-change that began with Abraham on the mountain with Isaac.
Let me explain. Usually we think in terms of two Covenants: one with Abraham and Moses enshrined in the Old Testament (now referred to as the Hebrew Bible), the second with Jesus, enshrined in the Gospels and other writings of the New Testament. These two Covenants are helpful in ordering our reflection upon the revelation of the living God to his people and the world.
But what if there is another way of ordering God's will and interaction with all people of Abrahamic faith? Before Abraham, all religions of the world (and there were many) were based on a sacrificial model: people and things were offered (sacrificed) to the God(s) to gain salvific favor. In the midst of this world religious practice God calls Abraham and enables he and his wife Sarah to have a son-- Isaac. All hope resides in Isaac, yet God tests Abraham by telling him that Isaac must be sacrificed. During an ordinary day in his village, Abraham walks down the street toward the mountain carrying Isaac and a big knife. Seeing Abraham pass by, no one thinks anything of it. Abraham, leader among the people, is going to do something normal: sacrifice his son Isaac to God on behalf of his people. You can almost hear the people sing to themselves-- Happy days are here again! With Abraham's great offering to God things will definitely improve!
Abraham gathers wood for the immolation of Isaac's soon to be lifeless body. He finds a suitable place for the offering to be made. Isaac asks "Dad, who's going to be offered for the sacrifice?" "God will provide," As he places Isaac on the place chosen and has Isaac look away, he raises the knife, and, on the downward motion, a Voice stays Abraham's hand. Abraham would have done it, would have offered the ultimate sacrifice, as many do even to this day. But God would not have it! Stop!
We neatly divide God's revelation into Old and New Testaments. But I would suggest a different, even more helpful division that respects religious history in a more comprehensive way: The sacificial model of religion existing everywhere from Creation and Cain's murdering of Abel to God's stopping of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac and all human/child sacrifice done to win God's favor, ratified, as I said earlier in Jesus' own sacrifice to put and end to all religion based on the sacrificial model.
This is what the writer to the Hebrews is talking about with some resistance:
Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me . . . see I have come to do your will. He abolishes the first (the sacrificial model of religion) in order to establish the second (Abraham and Jesus' non-sacrificial model). And it is by God's will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
All religious history (which includes every person who has ever lived and those alive today) is hinged upon this "sacrificial" or "forgiveness/mercy" model. The struggle continues today, 2000 years after the ratification by Jesus of the second model. The vast majority of Jews, Muslims, and Christians still hold on to the sacrificial model to bring peace, but, requiring necessary deaths, all it brings is war after war. Can all the great Abrahamic faiths get back to what Abraham learned about sacrifice from God that fateful day?
Mary's Magnificat (based on Hannah's Song in 1 Samuel) bubbles forth with joy of the One growing within her and the hope he will bring to the whole world:
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with is 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 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.
What can we do? We're a small community of believers, but God can use us. Let's try to atune ourselves to Mary's Song. Doing this, we can never go wrong!
YOU ARE INVITED TO OUR CHRISTMAS FEAST: Christmas Day Eucharist and Supper Father John and Doña Terri
Thank you all for making our Advent celebrations so special! Now the Christmas Feast is upon us! Terri and I are hosting a Christmas Eucharist and Supper at our home in Jacarandas y Gravileas at 3pm on Christmas Day. About nine have said they would be coming. All are welcome!
When you get to the Garita (gate) the "codigo" is 5326 and the call button. We will press a button for you to enter. At the gate office just say you are going to the Smith's at "Flor de Maria" Casa 10. Just come up the road from the gate and make a left after the "tumulo" (speed bump). We're in the white house on the left and will be looking for you! Sounds complicated, but it's not ;-)
Our Christmas celebration will continue with our regular Sunday schedule on December 27th at 10am.
St. Alban's made thank you gifts to those who help with the set-up of our chapel each Sunday. We are sending Deacon Phyllis Q1000 for a special celebration for the children of the church in Chimaltenango. We are also buying school books for the children in Chucalibal after the first of the year when they start classes. We are putting together a budget to help the Guatemala Project sponsored by my former parish. It helps support trained health promoters in 22 villages in the Western Highlands and purchase needed supplies. U.S. Tax deductible contributions can be made to St. Michael's Guatemala Project. I will personally see that the checks are received and see that each donor a report on how money was used. Thanks for your stewardship in helping with these projects of the Episcopal Church. St. Alban's can continue to do much good and more in the years ahead!
Have a blessed Christmas- let us be united in prayer for one another! John+ and Terri