Yes or no? The Good Friday edition.

EDITmoab (1).jpgMy friend Kevin Ahern, who is a theologian and ethicist said this on Twitter on Holy Thursday. I found the photo and added the text to it as a reminder of what forms crucifixion comes in. Systematic violence is inherently challenging because it is systematic. We “need” to do this, what are the “alternatives” if we do not do this, we will “get” the bad guys, and so forth.

As Jesus Christ hung on a cross he was flanked by a cross on each side. Crucified next to him were two thieves, and to one, the one who asked for help, Christ promised heaven.

There is no reconciling or rationalizing violence and death. Even when it is done to us, did we not receive the greatest lesson in not retaliating? I get the desire to retaliate, but what about the consequences? What will we choose this Triduum? To follow the Prince of Peace, the great reconciler and restorer of order and good? Or will we follow the path of crucifixion and death? The choice is ours, even if we wait until the last minute. Yes or no? To crucify or to be crucified? Yes or no? What will we choose?

Can we follow?

gandhiimagesOn this day in 1948, the man who did more to show the world the power of non-violent resistance and peace was assassinated. That man was Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi used Jesus Christ as his inspiration and example, although he did not subscribe to the dogma of faith. He was a lifelong Hindu. His peace civil disobedience movement brought forth the freedom of India, once a colony of England.

He offers us an example to follow today. He followed Jesus more effectively than most of us. Can we follow now?

This scene from the 1981 film “Gandhi” is a powerful one indeed. Will we have the peaceful reserve that these people had? It was their fortitude as people of peace, not their weapons, that brought forth change. Can we follow this example? I hope so, because I think we are going to need it.

What will we choose today?

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Tenderness or severity? What will we choose?

What will we choose today? Tenderness? Severity? We seem to believe that severity is the go to for keeping law and order, but I’m not sure it is all that simple. Many of us profess to follow the Prince of Peace. Severity did not seem to be his thing and here we all are, 2000 years later, still worshiping a man who was hung like a shameful thief on a cross. He never resisted, he did not fight back, he did not choose severity – even when it was chosen for him.Knowing that death was coming for him, Jesus responded to violence by saying

“Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”- Matthew 26:52

What will we choose today? Especially we who follow Christ? Will we “show them” who is in charge, whoever them may be… Black people, Muslims, fill in the blank, there are many “thems.” For some, out of madness and rage, out of destruction, “them” are the police. More death does not bring forth life, it brings forth only more pain, sorrow, anger, and ultimately, even more death.

What will we choose today? Will we blame all of “them” and hold ourselves unaccountable when in fact we all have a role in what is happening? Will we clasp our hands in prayer and pray for a new president to “fix” things? Will we keep saying “if there were no blacksgaysmuslimsdemocratssocialistsimmigrants then we would be ok?”

What will we choose today? And what will be on our heart as we take our last breath, whenever that may be? Will we be glad that we spent more time wallowing in despair or spouting anger? Will we be glad that we used all the power given to us by God to keep order? Or will we regret that severity won the day, leaving tenderness in the dust? Discernment is of the highest order, when we consider each moment of our own precious lives, and of the precious lives of others.

What will we choose today? Why wait for death to find out? What will we choose?

 

War and peace, the Advent edition

i_am_for_peace_logo (1)To the LORD in the hour of my distress
I call—and he answers me.
“O LORD, save my soul from lying lips,
from the tongue of the deceitful.”
What should he give you, what repay you,
O deceitful tongue?
The warrior’s arrows sharpened,
with red-hot coals from the broom tree!
Alas, that I live in Meshech,
dwell among the tents of Kedar!
I have had enough of dwelling
with those who hate peace.
I am for peace, but when I speak,
they are for war.
Psalm 120

One week ago today, I who –  to quote the psalmist – “am for peace” became consumed with the fire of my own anger. If you do not know what I am talking about, you can read the blog post from that day, but I’m not linking to it. Righteous anger is one thing, but that was something else! Again, referring to the psalm above, “red-hot coals from the broom tree” were Continue reading

Retreat

QuietI just returned from a wonderful retreat at Wisdom House in Litchfield, CT, a place that I have long wanted to visit. A number of years ago, I did visit Litchfield a few times, but I have not been there in a long time, nor had I been to this place.

In the on-going embarrassment-of-riches department known as my life, (thank you God)  I was asked to help facilitate this retreat, which was being presented by a team. What a joy to be able to say yes.

For almost 48 hours I did not listen to a radio, watch a television, look at a computer screen, see or hear any news. What I did do was receive the grace to be able to fully sink into a real place of peace – a true retreat.

There were 18 retreatants, and 6 of us on the retreat team. My portion was near the very beginning so I really got to participate and relax with everyone else. The topic of the retreat was prayer, with different forms presented. There were no shortage of both aha and ahhhh moments. This diverse group of women was a joy to get to know; I arrived knowing only one of them and I left feeling my heart touched by many. God shows up in everyone, giving new meaning to the Catholic idea of “here comes everybody.”

LabWisdomDawnWe had a good amount of free time and I walked the labyrinth more than once. This morning I arose, heading out there shortly after sunrise. Oh, how I loved walking with the sun peeking over the hills and trees in the morning quiet, barefoot in the wet grass.

Returning around noon, I made two more turns, quietly praying the Jesus prayer at first, then making up a short prayer of my own. The space between heaven and earth seemed little more than a diaphanous veil at that point. Many prayer intentions and thoughts of friends and loved ones were alive in my heart during these two days.

Today I drove home in silence, relishing the quiet and peace. Now to find ways to continue to nurture this gift, one I have been actively trying to cultivate in the garden of my heart this summer. I am so thankful for the gift of retreat.

What would the world look like if we all had time for retreat, or at least some respite from every day living? Very different, I suppose. Very different.

A lot of words about the lack of peace

images“Immediately he went over to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!”* and he kissed him. Jesus answered him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then stepping forward they laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. And behold, one of those who accompanied Jesus put his hand to his sword, drew it, and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” So says Jesus in Matthew 26:49.

In John 14:27 Jesus says: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”

Yes, I understand the need and the right to self-defense, but honestly, I do not totally understand it. Jesus was pretty much, table-turning not withstanding, the original passive resistance protester. He did not raise a finger against anyone, other than those tables.

Whether it is the once-petty-now-out-of-control political divisions that are everywhere in the US, the crisis war between Israel and Hamas, the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight 17, allegedly by rebel forces in Eastern Ukraine, and so much more, the world seems to be a mess.

Compare this to situations Continue reading

Planting Peace

l_hope_bwToday is the day that I celebrate each fall, a day that I designate as “Annual Acts of Hope Day.” I put it in purple because that is a color that just seems hopeful to me.  Today is the day when I will go out and plant about 100 bulbs in and around my yard. Planting bulbs is a “small s” sacrament to me!

bulb_daffodilHonestly, bulbs are one of my greatest joys. You take this dead looking thing, you dig a hole, you plant said dead looking thing into the hole, cover it with soil, then winter comes and freezes us all to bits and pieces, and you wait for something amazing to happen. Or maybe you even forget all about it and then something amazing happens months later…

idp-poster-07Today is also the International Day of Peace, as designated by the United Nations. In my mind, every day should be the international day of peace. *deep sigh*

Peace is not solely a matter of external acts, but of internal decisions. Peace is an intentional way of being. Now, my desire to follow Jesus and my inner dirty filthy hippie combine into wanting to make me all peace-positive all the time. That sounds great, but I know and God certainly knows, that I bring plenty of disturbance of peace all around me, within me and outside of me. Just ask anyone who lives or works with me! Peace is a very conscious and deliberate way of life. A way of life that I strive for, but that I fail at quite often. Very quite often.

So it seems to me that if I can go plant my bulbs, each one a prayer, I have some small shot at being peace today.  Here’s the rub… just like the “peace” that many of us long for, we are not too patient about “being” peace, and then waiting in joyful hope for that peace. At least that is how it works for me! Which is why the bulbs are such a tremendous reminder that peace requires hope. As with all things of God, dynamism is necessary, not any simple “if this, then that” binary equation. Oh, the bulbs may appear very “if this, then that,” but I don’t think that is the case.

Yes, the bulbs remind me that I throw these dead looking things into holes, and much, much later, something happens. Is peace any different? We put our peace into our hearts, sometimes the dark holes of our hearts. In what seems an inhospitable winter, something is happening, that dynamism again, the Spirit. Then almost without warning, we are astounded.422All those dead things into holes over the winter and then this? Not to mention, the many that return and multiply year after year?

And so it is with peace. Let’s plant those bulbs of peace in our hearts. With some patience and prayer, we might find ourselves surprised and delighted by the result. And like with the bulbs, our own hearts, we might put peace out, let it go, and see what blooms in God’s good time.

FAMS501BeTheChangeYouWishToSeeHow to be peace in the world? Respect yourself, but don’t elevate yourself. Smile. Say hello. Don’t expect the worst. Don’t suspect people of some awful thing. Say thank you. A lot. To others and to God, especially when God serves up what appears to be a big problem.

Oh, I don’t do this so well, but as with most blog posts, I’m talking to myself, out loud at that, and you can hear me.

Bonus peace prize: This past Easter, the retired pastor at the church where I work gave me a grocery store lily. It was not in great shape and I did not take care of it very well, if I am honest. (This is not a commentary on his generosity, which is legend, but simply on the condition of the lily!) In its almost deadness, Mark thought that we should plant it. I scoffed at first, but then he planted it and it perked up, giving us another flower in the late spring. It was not well cared for this summer, yet, this was taken this morning. The surprise of peace!

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