Monday, August 15, 2016

JESUS OFFERS US A WAY TO TRUE PEACE: "He eliminates the us-them mentality and introduces the world to his Father, revealing everyone as brothers and sisters in one human family..." John+

Pick Your Peace

One of my favorite TV shows growing up was "I Love Lucy."  The show revolved around a couple, Ricki and Lucy Ricardo, and their neighbors, Fred and Ethel Mertz.  Ricki was a Cuban-born band leader and Lucy was his loving wife.  Ricki was famous and always was in the spotlight.  Lucy wanted to share some of spotlight with Ricki so she would cook up various ways to get on the show and invariably mess things up.  When he got home he would be furious with Lucy and always say with his thick Cuban accent "Lucy, you've got a lot of "splaining" to do!"

I thought of this "splaining" when I read the Gospel for this week:
I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!  Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division!

Is this permission for Christians to act in "sacred violence" against evil.  Some Christians think so.  But one of the key themes of the Gospel I've been sharing for some time now is that God (and Jesus) never sanctions violence of any kind, or the taking of God-given human life, and that the "wrath" of God is always of human origin, projected on God, who is "on our side."  As human beings we have evolved to an "us-them" way of looking at everything and sought peace by eliminating the "them" that cause our fear, disturbs our way of life, individually, or, writ large, threatens our "national" interests or security.

So how do we "splain" Jesus words today:  Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No . . . rather division!  Doesn't this uphold the us-them vision that I've been talking about which, I believe,  is so far from the will of God?  And, to make things more complicated, Luke's word "division" is a replacement for the earlier parallel text of Mathew which uses the word "sword."  Mathew's Jesus says:  Don't think I have come to bring peace to the earth, but rather a "sword."

One of Jesus' most loved titles is "Prince of Peace," but, reading these texts, he seems like anything but a Prince of Peace.  How can we "splain" these texts of Luke and Matthew?  Think of other texts.  Like when they went to arrest Jesus in the garden and Peter slashed at the Chief Priest's guard, Jesus told him "Put away the sword.  Those who live by the sword will die by the sword."  And how about the text from John "Peace I give to you.  My peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives peace, do I give to you."

These seem like direct contradictions:  I've come not to bring peace, but division on earth, and my peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you.
To resolve these contradictions it's important to remember that Jesus talks about his way to peace by forgiveness and love and the world's way to peace that requires the suffering and death of some in order to achieve peace and prosperity for the many.  The world seeks to achieve peace by maintaining a strong "us" over against a weaker "them."  Jesus comes among us and offers us a different way to true peace.  He eliminates the us-them mentality and introduces the world to his Father, revealing everyone as brothers and sisters in one human family.  If the world accepts Jesus' way it will find a true and lasting peace, if it refuses Jesus' way, then, and this is what I think Jesus is saying, it will continue to use the sword and experience division,  even at the most basic familial level:  father against son and mother against daughter, and so forth.  Refusal to love and forgive leaves us to our own devices, always having to find someone to blame and scapegoat, put our sin on, and drive away to experience a false and temporary peace.

The Gospel ends with a description of our situation:

You hypocrites!  You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

Violence, lack of salvation where it counts:  here on this earth.  We must pick our peace.  If we find we've been living ans supporting the world's vision of peace, then we must extricate ourselves from this vision and choose Jesus' way to peace, knowing for a while it might cause division.  Where is the Good News in all this?  Maybe it's this:  Right now, if we choose to love and forgive, refuse to live in the category of us vs. them, and refuse to participate in a culture that exalts death over life, we will, yes, with suffering for a time, experience new Life.  And we will be part of God's Kingdom where no one is forgotten or required to suffer for the "peace" of the strong and powerful.  Jesus Christ on the Cross has made this possible and revealed the way of the world.  Jesus has made what's seemingly impossible true peace, absolutely possible.
Every time we gather at the Holy Eucharist, the open table fellowship we  experience reinforces our choice of Jesus' way to true and lasting peace and the last days of violence.  The eucharist is a pledge of God's faithfulness and love to create and accomplish this true peace we desire. 
(emphasis added/lr) 

St. Alban
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.

The Reverend John Smith, Vicar.
5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)


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