(Background: Since Trinity Sunday I’ve been talking about the “density” of God’s Love. This Love is so dense it can admit no violence or retribution whatsoever. Our human love changes and admits hatred, violence, and division, but God’s Love does not. How do we deal, then, with Jesus’ saying about bringing not peace, but a sword?)
Not Peace but a Sword
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
This verse from today’s Gospel is one of the most problematic sayings of Jesus. We’re taken aback by this saying because we want believe that Jesus did come on earth to bring peace among all the peoples of the earth, and yet when we look around us, read the daily news, it seems things are getting worse, not better. There is more sword than peace, more division than unity. What gives?
We usually think of a sword as a weapon, but a sword, apart from killing an enemy, can also cut things open, exposing something hidden. Could it be that when Jesus brings a sword it means that he is exposing something that has been kept secret for a long time, namely: the human need we have for victims and scapegoats to bring or “keep the peace.” The sword Jesus brings is not a sword of war (if Jesus would have brought a sword of war he would been the most popular of men), but instead Jesus brought a sword that once and for all time exposes the futility of humankind’s way of seeking peace (making Jesus hated by many and a source of division, even at the level of flesh and blood). This “exposing” of evil makes things worse before they can get better.
Jesus was persecuted and executed by the “powers” of this world, like the prophets before him, for exposing the unpopular truth that behind the world’s desire for power, greed, and disrespect for creation and human life, is Satan, who has always despised humanity and who, in every way possible, enjoys fostering turmoil, hatred, and loss of life: giving the “finger” to God. Satan, the “god” of sacred violence, seeks to destroy humanity and God’s Creation at every level, in whatever place. Satan, not God, encourages the “living by the sword and the dying by the sword” that keeps the world in constant conflict and resulting death. Satan, not the true and loving God, is the one to fear and “has the power to cast into hell.”
Jesus told us that he came that we would have life and have it abundantly. For each one of us it’s a question, as it was for Paul, of finding ourselves, aided by the Spirit, with a new way of looking at the world through Jesus’ eyes. This is a process that, for most people, begins with our baptism in Christ. We die with Christ in baptism and rise to new life, we realize that we no longer require the death of others in order to find peace. We are enabled to leave the old familiar habits and patterns of life that foster pride, greed, lust, anger, prejudice, and hostility and leave them behind. We find peace, not as the powers of this world give it, but as the Risen Jesus gives it to us directly. It may take time, but we find this peace of Jesus alive in us and are able to live a new way and see the world differently, with compassion. Paul describes it: No longer is it I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
All of this “seeing the world through the eyes of Jesus,” is a real time, this world, experience. This is not about “going to heaven,” but something real, in the here and now. It’s not a question of “doing” something to arrive somewhere, but a question of finding a new, Holy Spirit within us, thankfully acknowledging it, and living life differently, no longer beholden to sin and violence, but confessing our sin, living in God’s grace and nourished by the Sacrament that gathers us here today!
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) 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|
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