Posts Tagged ‘peace’

ACTS 10:34-43

34 Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 

39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

The message of peace by Jesus Christ has often gotten lost in the Christian crusades for political power, the control of property, and religious dominance. With the name of Jesus on her lips, the official Church has perpetrated violence, condoned apartheid and oppression, and is presently supporting the instruction of fundamentalism in her seminaries and congregations.

If we were to use Jesus’ own evaluative principle, we would have to conclude that the fruits of much contemporary Christianity indicate an unhealthy tree indeed.

In this speech of Peter, which will signal the “second wave” of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2: the Jews; Acts 10: the Gentiles) Jesus is remembered as one who “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.” He had a teaching ministry as well, of course, but what brought it all down to earth was his daily practice, his manner of life, and his commitment to human liberation.

One wonders what would become of Christianity if his followers today would give their concerned energies to similar goals. What would happen if we made universal benefit (good for the greatest number) and setting people free – from political oppression, psychological depression, emotional attachment, physical addiction, and spiritual ignorance – our overarching objectives?

The peace that Jesus brought to the earth includes peace in the world, peace between neighbors, and peace with God. For him, peace with God is the ground of all else.

                                                                                              

The two principal “schools” of early New Testament Christology (theory of Christ) have been named high and low Christology, with the qualifier indicating the starting-point for interpretation. High Christology started from above, in the divine realm, and defined Jesus as the incarnation of deity. At the other end, low Christology began its consideration of Jesus from below, in the human realm, and defined Jesus in terms of his humanity being “anointed” or “adopted” by the Spirit of God.

It is important to realize that these are not mutually exclusive alternatives; much hardship and bloodshed have resulted from not respecting the paradox. Empire and orthodoxy have little patience for paradox, as it violates (but actually transcends) the binary logic of either/or that is so key to the ideology of power and privilege.

While the Fourth Gospel (John) clearly stands in the tradition of high Christology, Luke (the author of Acts) favors the approach from below.

There are reasons for Luke’s preference, perhaps chief among which is his special concern over the conspiracy of social oppression, violence, and injustice that holds the human spirit in bondage. Again, the difference between Luke and John is instructive: while John’s portrait of Jesus features the revelation of a saving knowledge (the “truth that will set you free”), Luke’s is more focused on confronting the web of dehumanizing prejudice that perpetuates the division between the rich and the poor.

That’s why Luke’s Jesus begins his ministry with the announcement that he brings “good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18).

JEREMIAH 31:7-14

7 For thus says the Lord:
Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
    and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
    “Save, O Lord, your people,
    the remnant of Israel.”
8 See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,
    and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
    those with child and those in labor, together;
    a great company, they shall return here.
9 With weeping they shall come,
    and with consolations I will lead them back,
I will let them walk by brooks of water,
    in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;
for I have become a father to Israel,
    and Ephraim is my firstborn.

10 Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
    and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him,
    and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.”
11 For the Lord has ransomed Jacob,
    and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
    and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
    and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall become like a watered garden,
    and they shall never languish again.
13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
    and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
    I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
14 I will give the priests their fill of fatness,
    and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty,
says the Lord.

There is a critical difference in significance between those things that happen to us, those that are made to happen by us, and those that happen through us. Considered from a spiritual perspective, we might distinguish these distinct modes of experience with the words encounter, achievement, and evolution.

Each of these, in turn, calls forth from us a response that is peculiar to its own dynamic: sustained attention in the case of what is happening to us, moral commitment with respect to our goals and objectives, and radical trust in the guiding wisdom of our personal growth and transformation. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that, if only we could raise the degree of sustained attention, moral commitment, and radical trust in our lives, the world would be a totally different place.

Staying with these themes a while longer, we begin to notice that they correlate to the major trimesters in a human lifespan – youth, maturity, and late adulthood.

In the first trimester of youth our experience is predominantly focused on what is happening to us, which must mean that the skill of cultivating sustained attention is one of the major tasks of this period of development.

As we mature and find our place in the culture-play of our profession and family life, we become producers, managers, custodians, and laborers – responsibilities that call upon our moral commitment to achieve outcomes of real value and lasting impact.

And in our later years we begin to relax into being, and come to rediscover ourselves as vehicles of a timeless (but always timely) wisdom and inner peace.

                                                                                          

After a detailed explanation of the great themes and their respective trimesters of emergence in a human lifespan, we must press on to acknowledge the obvious fact that, in any given moment, life is happening to us, by us, and through us.

Furthermore, depending on where we are in our life at that moment, our urgent need and higher calling may be for greater attention, stronger commitment, or deeper trust. (The theory of trimesters in human development is still helpful nevertheless, as it highlights the shifting accent of concern and opportunity throughout the course of life.)

Jeremiah envisioned the day when God’s people, both young and old, women and men together, would join as one chorus in praising their redeemer. It is important to remember that at the time these words were being proclaimed, God’s people were languishing in exile.

To this oppressed and dispirited community Jeremiah announced that something extraordinary was going to happen, that they needed to prepare for its coming, but that its accomplishment would require their full surrender to God’s unfolding purpose through them.

In a sense, the circular path of Israel’s biography represents the journey each of us is on: beginning in God, advancing into ego-consciousness, and coming home again.

ISAIAH 11:1-10

11 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
    or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
    and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
    and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
    and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
    the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
    and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
    and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
    on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Because we in the modern West have so divorced religion and its concerns from the political sphere, it takes effort on our part to recapture the power of the kingdom of God as a biblical symbol of salvation.

The prophets especially were grasped by its imagery of equity and justice, righteousness and world peace. Their vision extended beyond the human plane and into the realm of nature, where the future reign of salvation would reconcile the deep antagonisms between predator and prey.

No level or corner of creation would be left outside and untouched by the transforming event. And all of it turned on the axis of the messiah-king, the descendent of David whose arrival and ascent to the throne would usher in the new age.

There is no going back to a time before critical reason, when the mythic imagination was the dominant mode of interpretation and understanding. Just as the development of intelligence in children approaching adolescence must transcend (but not abandon!) the creative magic of fantasy thinking and awaken the capacity for a more objective realism, so our task now is to take up the symbolism of the Bible into an historically responsible worldview.

                                                                        

Jesse was the father of David, the shepherd boy who became king of Israel. As king, David had made his share of strategic mistakes and moral blunders, but his humble and contrite heart before God had left an indelible impression in the Jewish imagination as a truly righteous and godly leader.

After his death, however, David’s magnetic example of leadership integrity was progressively lost on his heirs, as they allowed Israel to drift farther and farther from her intended destiny as a blessing to the nations. When his son Solomon reached the end of his life, the question of succession had become hopelessly complicated, with sons, stepsons, and army generals all vying with one another and hatching assassination plots to improve their chances of success.

By the time of Isaiah (eighth century, BCE) two hundred years of romantic nostalgia for a savior-king and son of David, who would restore Israel to her former glory, had produced a highly charged messianism that would still later become the culture of expectation in which Christianity was born.

For Isaiah, however, the day of God’s messiah would not be an entirely positive experience for everyone. If peace was to come to the earth, then perpetrators of injustice and oppression would have to be uprooted and destroyed. If the world is to be made safe, then every threat and danger must be removed.

This very commonsense logic would eventually turn apocalyptic in the coming centuries.