Day 1: Peacemaking
Matthew 5:9 – 9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
“The pain of life I know it well; it knows me well. The road to peace I know is hell, I know it well. May the seeds of peace be scattered, birthing trees whose shade give us rest.” Peacemaking is one of the most desperately needed practices of the Christian faith today. How do we become peacemakers? Are we willing to actually step into darkness? Do we see the humanity and dignity of those in conflict? I think peacemaking starts with the ability to see and listen, tied with a vision of reconciliation. The darkness of humanity is a response to immeasurable pain and suffering. I have gone to Israel and Palestine three times on peacemaking pilgrimages with an organization called Telos, learning about the conflict that Israelis and Palestinians live in, and learning how to listen and engage in the stories of heartbreak and tragedy from both sides. I have learned on these pilgrimages to be Pro/Pro/Pro; Pro Israel, Pro Palestine, and Pro peace. One of the most important experiences I had was meeting members of the parent circle, a group of parents who have lost children in the conflict. To hear parent after parent sharing the story of their loss, their child; and then to witness the compassion they share at the stories of their “enemy’s” children whose lives have been lost. The pain and trauma somehow draws them together with hearts of forgiveness and peace. The heart of the peacemaker longs for reconciliation and knows the only path ahead is one of pain and forgiveness. Pope Francis once encouraged a group of ministers I was with to learn and practice the ministry of the ear. To learn how to listen to those you disagree with, even when it is excruciating. Do we actually know how to listen? My encouragement to you is to take a posture of humility to learn, love, and listen. Peacemakers are called children of God, because they see the humanity and dignity of all as children of God, and call us back into the vision of humanity where peace is possible. Today, think of someone that you are in conflict with. Can you learn to see their side of things? Perhaps with compassion, you can start a dialogue and walk towards the path of reconciliation. May you become an instrument of peace. It is the music of humanity that the children of God sing.
Day 2: Joy
1 John 4:16 – 16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
John 15:10-11 – 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
Morning comes with the light of Your Presence. What does it mean to love God? How does one love God? Read John 15:10-11. 1 John 4:16 “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” Abiding and remaining in God’s love gives birth to joy. Divine JOY comes when we are united to God, and God to us. When we abide, we are enabled by grace to experience the fullest and deepest joy. How does one abide, or remain in God’s love? By keeping God’s command. So what is God’s command? John 15:10 “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” John 15:12 “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:17 “This is my command: Love each other.” Love gives birth to Joy. John 15:11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” When we practice loving one another—charity—joy is birthed. Charity is God’s presence in the life of the wayfarer. As Aquinas stated, “the necessary result of charity is joy, because every lover rejoices at being united to the beloved.” DIVINE JOY manifests itself in right relationship with others. JOY has a corporate and theological quality, and is not just an individual, subjective state or emotion. Joy is meant to be shared. Joy is relational. “Joy is not only shared with others, and occasioned by relationships, but wells up from a sense of having received a gift from someone. In a relational context, joy emerges from a sense of resting on someone who gives; in such a context, having received—being a recipient—is not experienced as a debt but rather as the basis for joy. In this way, joy seems inextricably linked to both gratitude and contentment as the baseline from which joyous revelations/epiphanies emerge.” – James K. A. Smith. Joy is linked with GRATITUDE AND CONTENTMENT. So what today brings you joy? Are you sharing that joy? Are you grateful for it? We rejoice in the gift of this day.
Day 3: Fear
1 John 4:16-18 – 16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
Luke 4:18 – 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
Will we ever rise? Will we ever rise above the fear? Fear tears us apart. It is the root of all exclusion. When we think of judgment, we tend to think of who is in and who is out. We fear those who are unclean, those who are different, those who don’t fit into the systems in which we’re comfortable. We fear those who are different than us. Are you in friendship with anyone outside of your circle of belonging? We so easily exclude those outside of our social systems, often without a second thought. The homeless, the uneducated, the poor, the sick, the dying, the old, the disabled, the strange, the ugly, the weak; the list is unending. We objectify those whom we are afraid will threaten our systems of comfort and belonging. We fear the dissident or the one who seems to threaten our existing order or system. The one who threatens those with vested interest in money, power, and control.The gospel that Jesus shares in the book of Luke has a radical theme. Jesus brings a social revolution in which the previous systems and hierarchies of clean and unclean, sinner and saved, and up and down don’t mean what they did before. Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.” Jesus was killed for being a dissident. Followers of Jesus were persecuted and killed for living out a life that threatened the systematic vision of the existing order. “The story of humanity is that of heroes and martyrs with a new vision for humanity regarded as dissidents by some, as prophets of freedom by others. Christians were thrown to wild beasts in the coliseum because Romans saw this new, strange religion as a threat to the existing order.” – Jean Vanier. We FEAR that if we actually try to break out of our system of exclusion, we may be excluded. And we fear the injustice in which we play a role. Our own injustice keeps us up at night. We cling to security, and we become obsessed with defending our way of thinking, refusing to loosen our grip on the systems that allow us to feel safe. However, I think a lot of us are feeling that this isn’t a good, healthy, loving way to live, that there has to be a better way for us to live, to follow Jesus. “To be open is an enormously risky enterprise; you risk status, money, even friendship, the recognition and sense of belonging that we so prize; you risk the chaos of loneliness.” – Jean Vanier How is Jesus speaking to you in this moment in time? How is He showing you His way of love, of openness? We do this exercise at our church where we all sit up straight, hands open in front of us to receive, and we breathe. We take a deep breath and then we let it out, and we exhale all the fear and anxiety we’ve been carrying. And then we breathe in deeply, breathing in the love and peace of Christ. Take a moment out of the busyness and chaos and overwhelming noise that barrages us daily, and sit down and breathe. Then take the risk of friendship towards those you fear.
Day 4: Neighbor
Mark 12:28-31 – 28 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
“When I see you in the stranger, I’m no longer a slave.” The Greatest Commandment is found in Mark 12:28-31. Who is your neighbor? Who are the different? The strange? Karl Barth, the brilliant Swiss theologian who died in the 1960’s, wrote, “The strange, the different, the unintelligible, the subjective aspect of my neighbor, is the garment in which the one thing meets me [grace]. We discover respect for one another, not on this ground or that, [BUT] counter to every ground, simply because we are bidden to look at the one thing, which is grace. The claim my neighbor makes on me, on my patience, on my attention, on my consideration, on my love, is the claim on the one thing [grace].” The neighbor that Jesus talked about was anybody who is around us. They are the people we like, and the people we don’t like. They are people who could have a different cultural upbringing, race or ethnicity, a different language, or a different belief system. We fear those we don’t know and so we often avoid them. How much kinder we all would be if we could see that truly we are more alike than we are different. If we take the time to listen to the stories of our neighbors, to understand who they are and how they became who they are, we can offer a truer compassion and love, in the way of Jesus. Loving our neighbors is not treating those less fortunate than us as charity cases, but as wounded healers that we can learn from. Those who have experienced pain and loss are often the ones who can teach us the most about life. When we open our eyes and see the stranger, we see Jesus. “We refuse to be our brothers enemy, we will stand for all mankind.”
Day 5: Blessed are the Poor
Proverbs 31:8-9 – 8 Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.such…: Heb. the sons of destruction
9 Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.
God sends rain on the righteous, the common, the rich, and the poor. Trinity dancing in darkness, God’s love gives hope evermore. Luke’s parable in chapter 16 provides the perfect narrative expression of his own beatitudes and woes. Luke 16:20 “Then he looked up at his disciples and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Luke 16:24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” In the Gospel of Matthew the poor are spiritualized as follows: Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In Luke it is incredibly straightforward. Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. The parable of Lazarus is a dramatic reversal of fortunes, and it can seem odd. Is he being punished just for being rich? Most of us have been conditioned to listen to scripture through a self-centered lens rather then a theological one. We like to ask, “How is that about me? How does this apply to my life?” Scripture always and everywhere primarily speaks about God; and then, secondarily, about us. We must remember, as in all of the parables, God is always the Savior. We are the lost coin, the lost sheep, the one in the ditch, the prodigal; we are the ones in need of saving. With that in mind, we approach the parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-26. “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’” What separates the rich man from Lazarus? It is the vast chasm of those who have, and those who have not. Who has the resources, the food, the money, the status? Who has their health, honor, and belonging? These people are the privileged. For many of us, it is uncomfortable to address issues like privilege because we feel like whatever we have, we have earned it. And when our own hard-earned life is questioned, we become hard of heart, defensive, and ultimately blind to our privilege. How are you privileged? Most of us would be content to remain in the dark about how unfair life can be for the poor. Once you are aware of and experience the trauma of the poor, of those on the underside of power, you now are held accountable for what you know. So most of us just don’t want to know, and often choose to remain blind to those on the underside of power. This parable also holds accountable those who may not know the true pain of the poor. This man had not only been rich and extravagant, he had been hard of heart. His wealth made him insensitive to the demands of the Law and the Prophets alike, that the covenant demands sharing goods with the poor. The Talmud has a saying that “whoever turns away his eyes from one who appeals for charity is considered as if he were serving idols.” In spite of the pharisees’ claim to uphold the Law, they reject the outcasts among the people just as the rich man has rejected Lazarus. And this great chasm, THE CHASM of the heart, it separated them in life and in Hades. There is still a chasm, a great abyss. The rich man just doesn’t understand it. Luke 16:24 – 28 “So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire. But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’” The rich man doesn’t understand the chasm. What is it the man wants in hell? He wants Lazarus to get him water. The rich man wants Lazarus to serve him. I once was on a flight where a man nearby snapped his fingers at a flight attendant to draw her attention, so that she would get him a drink. In response to his snap, she said, “I am not your servant, please don’t snap at me.” In their previous life, the rich man saw himself as better than Lazarus, and now, in hell, the rich man still sees himself as above Lazarus. The rich man’s plea reveals his continuing arrogance – he wants Lazarus to cool his own tongue, as though he were a servant, and to be sent as a messenger to his brothers. The chasm is the rich man’s heart! It hasn’t changed, even in death and torment and agony. He’s still clinging to the old hierarchy. He still thinks he’s better. May our eyes be opened to the chasms within our own hearts. Give us the strength to not only face our own privilege and the suffering of the poor, but also to do our part to ease that suffering.