Tag Archives: Peace

The Forgotten Story of Palestinian Christians

There are times when things that we should know about are lost in the avalanche of information that surrounds us each day. The stories of what happened to – and what is happening to – the Palestinian Christians is something that we should know more about. Sadly most of American Protestant Christianity has bought into a theological system that rejects these followers of Jesus while embracing the secular state of Israel.

Though it may not be a popular stance, I firmly believe that followers of Jesus MUST stand up for each other no matter what our ethnicity or race. As such while I don’t have a problem with existences of the nation of Israel, I do have a problem with the way they treat the Palestinian Christians – not to mention Palestinians in general.

And, yes, I understand that there are Palestinian groups who are actively fighting against Israel. And yes, I know this causes security issue. So why I’m not smart enough to know how to solve the political situation, I do know that Jesus of Nazareth said to love and bless EVERYONE – even those who are trying to kill you. As such I feel that American followers of Jesus must learn how to shift through the noise to hear the voices of our Palestinian brothers and sisters who are following Jesus.

The book Blood Brothers: The Dramatic Story of a Palestinian Christian Working for Peace in Israel by Archbishop Emeritus Dr. Elias Chacour of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church is a good starting point in learning about the history of Palestinian Christians.

Published in 1984, the book starts off with Chacour’s family getting ready to celebrate the return of the Jews in 1947 to the land. As Melkite Christians, they often prayed for their Jewish “blood brothers” and were glad to have them return to the land. Sadly the military machine of the new nation didn’t like having a group of Palestinians living near the Lebanese border, so they forcefully removed Chacour’s family and all the people of Kafr Bir’im. Later on the military will destroy all the buildings in the village in an effort to keep the people from returning. Despite losing everything, Chacour’s father modeled the forgiveness of Jesus while teaching his children what it meant to be a peacemaker.

As the book goes on, the reader learns more about Chacour’s journey with Jesus and how he became a priest. Woven throughout the book is the theme of forgiveness and understanding. This is not a book that seeks to slander the nation of Israel or the Jews who were returning to the land after War World Two. Rather it looks at the historic facts while bring to light that not all the Jews who returned to the land wanted to drive out the Palestinians. Sadly the voices of peace and love were crushed under the war machine of anger and hate.

The people of Jesus are to be peacemakers. And to be a peacemaker you have to know the history of those with whom you are trying to make peace. Hence I would recommendation reading Elias Chacour’s Blood Brothers. Read it as a history lesson from a group of people hidden from American church culture and then let the message of forgiveness and peace pour out to those around you.

Random Thoughts on Peace and Non-Violence

Like a lot of people, today has been an odd day with lots of thoughts floating my skull. It started last night though I knew nothing of the Las Vegas tragedy until this morning.

For me, my thoughts started with Thomas Cahill’s book Sailing The Wine-Dark Seas: Why the Greeks Matter which I was reading. In this book, Cahill notes that one of the most cherished philosophical foundation of Western culture is that war is a natural part of life. As Heraclitus (535-475 BC) once said, “War is the father of all, the king of all.” Plato (427-347 BC) would echo this saying years later with his statement that war is a necessity  “always existing by nature.”

Armed with this philosophical foundation, the Greeks developed a fighting style that could help them conquer the known world under the leadership of Alexander the Great. The Romans would later build on this foundation of war, gifting the Western world with the knowledge on how to kill people with great efficiency – as WW1, WW2, the Cold War, nuclear arms, and the like attest.

This morning on the way to work I found myself at a stop light staring at a “peace” sign made up of rifles with the phrase “There’s no peace without guns” next to it. As I sat there, I couldn’t help but think about the sadness of this saying… though it may make perfect sense to some, it seems counter to the way of Jesus of Nazareth who told his followers to turn the other cheek (Mt 5:38-40), love and bless those who hate them (Mt 5:43-48, Lk 6:27-36), and forgive those who harm them (Lk 23:34, Acts 7:60).

A few minutes after I saw this sticker, a NPR story came on about the Las Vegas shooting – which was the first I had heard about the tragedy….


Growing up I had a temper that went extremely well with my red hair. I would purposely pick fights with my older brother (who would then proceed to beat the snot out of me), friends, and various cousins. Though this temper dampened a bit as I grew older, it was an encounter with Jesus during my teen years that started me on a journey of learning how to control my emotions.

Years later I read Colin Woodard’s book American Nations which brought to light some of my feelings growing up. In this book, Woodard highlights the eleven different cultural nations within the United States. The area I grew up in was called the Greater Appalachia and was settled by folks from the “war-ravaged borderlands of Northern Ireland, northern England, and the Scottish lowlands” (a description that matches my family history perfectly). Immigrants from there areas brought with them a culture of personal sovereignty and individual liberty shaped by a “state of constant danger” and a need to protect their livestock (something cultural anthropologist have noted, especially in comparison with more farm based cultures which thrive in more peaceful areas).

I mention this background as I want you all to know that I understand some of the warrior culture that is rampant in the USA today. It is normal to want to fight back – to be on the winning side. It is also normal to want to hold on to the weapons allowed our forefathers to create this nation of ours. And, if I’m perfectly honest, there is part of me who wants to continue living this way. Only I met Someone who wouldn’t let me continue along that path…

The more I get to know Jesus, the more I realize that what I think is “normal” is really “abnormal.” Reading the four gospel accounts of the life of Jesus changed the way I viewed the world around me as well as how I read the rest of the Bible.

Then there are people like Rick Love, Micael Grenholm, and Brad Jersak who challenge me to think though the way of peace and non-violence. And, not to be forgotten, authors like Brian Zahnd, Greg Boyd, Desmond Tutu, and Alexander Venter provided me with additional puzzle pieces to hold and ponder.

Though I haven’t quite figured out how everything fits together; I do know is that I firmly believe that violence begets violence and revenge is something best left for the Creator. I don’t know what that means for public policy nor what I would do if personally attacked. I just know that I must continue my walk towards pacifism as it seems to be the direction Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is walking.

One day, the Creator promised, there will be no more war, no more death, and no more crying. Until that that day, I will cry with my brothers and sisters who suffer at the hands of mad men and women who think that violence is the way forward.


A Prayer

May the One Who Cries hold all those affect by Las Vegas close by,
May He shed tears of sorrow with them,
May He embrace their pain and give them peace,
May He bring comfort in the midst of unanswerable questions.
Amen.

Peace and Reconciliation: Looking Not To Our Own Interests…

Last week I attended the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit for the first time. Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, spoke on Thursday about fighting on behalf of those on the edge of society. Immaculée Ilibagiza, a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, spoke the following day about the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation.

That evening, Friday, August 11th, waves of hate flowed out of hades on to the streets of Charlottesville.

In the days that followed that initial onslaught, the hatred continued to build as the goo of evil slimed the United States of America. While some political leaders spoke out against the hatred of the neo-Nazi and white supremacy groups, our president remained largely silent. And when he did speak, he ultimately spoke up on behalf of those deep within the wave of hate.

Though I knew we as a nation were still working towards full racial reconciliation, I must admit that I didn’t realize how far behind we really were. Perhaps my status as a white male has clouded my vision…perhaps I wanted to believe that we were further along the path…perhaps…perhaps….

The one thing I know for sure is that the way of the Creator is one of peace and reconciliation.

Hatred, racism, ethnocentrism, and nationalism has no place in the kingdom of God. In pledging our allegiance to Jesus, we have renounce not only Satan and the forces of evil, but also our nationalist and racial claims. We are now members of a new Kingdom under a new King whose citizens span the globe and the course of history. We are, as John the Revelator said, part of a “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9, NIV).

Let us, therefore, lay down our ethnic and nationalistic pride and stand with the least of these – with the racial minorities – with those on the edge of society – with those who don’t have a voice. As the Apostle Paul said long ago to another group who was racially divided:

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:1-5, NIV)

Celebrating Christmas, the Invasion of History by the Creator God

advent candleToday we are celebrating Christmas, the invasion of human history by the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Over this last month we have celebrated the Advent – the time in which the church celebrated both the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent.  It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God.  That is a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate.

In this double focus on past and future, Advent symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a community of Jesus followers. We affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again. This acknowledgment provides a basis for Kingdom ethics, for holy living arising from a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people.

So, as the church celebrates God’s in-breaking into history in the Incarnation, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which “all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption,” it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” It is like Franciscan Father Richard Rohr once said:

“We [believe] that the Incarnation was already the Redemption, because in Jesus’ birth God was already saying that it was good to be human, and God was on our side.”

Candles

About two hundred years ago the church began the tradition of lighting candles each Sunday of the advent.  Each of the candle represent a part of our awaiting for Jesus:

  • Hope
  • Peace
  • Joy
  • Love
  • The white, and last candle, is the Christ candle

Hope

Hope-candleHope is a powerful concept. It is a desire for a certain thing to happen…waiting, patience….hoping….trusting in something you can’t see or yet experience.  Hope can keep you going even when things are tough.

There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of the world, first expressed by Israelite slaves in Egypt as they cried out from their bitter oppression.  It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance!

It is that hope, however faint at times, and that God, however distant He sometimes seems, which brings to the world the anticipation of a King who will rule with truth and justice and righteousness over His people and in His creation. It is also a hope that is built upon the historical truth that God is on the side of humanity because of He has already come once and has broken the chains of sin and evil that bind us.

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.  (Titus 2:11-14)

Lighting the Hope Candle

Reader: Every year we light candles as we prepare for the coming of Christ
More and more candles, more and more light
As we watch and wait for Jesus, the Light of the World

All: God of Promise, come into our darkness
Renew your hope in us,
For you alone bring life out of death.

Reader: Receive God’s promise of hope from Psalm 33:
The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him,
On those who hope is in His unfailing love,
To deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.

All: We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.
In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name.
May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord,
Even as we put our hope in You.

peace-candlePeace

Peace is normally defined as the absence of conflict or sound. We, however, looked at how this word is defined differently God’s story. Peace is a state of being, a sense that all is well, of tranquility and contentment in life… There is a sense that we can crawl into God’s lap and have that peace – a wholeness that comes with being with the One who Made Everything.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

Lighting the Peace Candle

Reader: Every year we light candles as we prepare for the coming of Christ
More and more candles, more and more light
As we watch and wait for Jesus, the Light of the World

All: God of Promise, come into our darkness
Renew your hope and peace in us,
For you alone bring life out of death.

Reader: Receive God’s promise of peace from Psalm 4:
Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
The Lord will hear when we call to him

All: Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord
We will lie down and sleep in peace,
For you alone, O Lord, make us dwell in safety

joy-candleJoy

Joy is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. Normally we think that joy only comes when things are right and everything is going smooth. Yet, in reading the Holy Scripture we find that we can have joy not based upon fleeing emotions.

Our joy is based God’s presence and the knowledge that He came down into human history and set loose the chains that bound us. We are free from sin, evil and death!! No longer do we have to live under the yoke of darkness, but can thrive under the light of God!!

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Lighting the Joy Candle

Reader: Every year we light candles as we prepare for the coming of Christ
More and more candles, more and more light
As we watch and wait for Jesus, the Light of the World

All: God of Promise, come into our darkness
Renew your hope and peace and joy in us,
For you alone bring life out of death.

Reader: Receive God’s promise of joy from Psalm 28:
Praise be to the Lord
For He has heard my cry for mercy
The Lord is my strength and my shield

All: My heart trust in Him, and I am helped
My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song

love candleLove

Love one of the most powerful things on the planet. It can be both an emotion and a decision. When things get tough and relationships are hard, we don’t stop loving just because we lost an emotional feeling. There is a decision that keeps us going through the pain and rough parts of life.

When God created the heavens and the earth, he did something very unique. He made man and women in his image and breathed life into them. He gave them the freedom to choose to follow Him or not to follow Him. It was a risking decision that could mean the destruction of everything God made. But he did it because he loved us!

And even after we turned out backs on Him, He loved us. So much so that He invaded our history to set us free from sin, evil, darkness, pain and death.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  -1 John 4:9-10

Lighting the Love Candle

Reader: Every year we light candles as we prepare for the coming of Christ
More and more candles, more and more light
As we watch and wait for Jesus, the Light of the World

All: God of Promise, come into our darkness
Renew your hope, your peace, your joy and your love in us,
For you alone bring life out of death.

Reader: Receive God’s promise of love from Psalm 36:
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
Your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains
Your judgments are like the great deep
You save humans and animals alike, O Lord.

All: How precious in your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
They feast on the abundance of Your house
And You give them drink from the river of Your delights.

adventchristcandleThe Christ Candle 

Just like the Father Rohr quote read at the beginning of this post, Christmas is the forerunner for Easter. In Christmas God was saying that it was good to be human and that He was on our side. We are free from the guilt, pain, sin, and evil that bounds us because of the birth of Jesus marks the beginning of the invasion of human history by God Himself!

We live between the times – between the first and second Advent of Jesus. We live with both victory and defeat, pain and healing. Yet throughout it all, we proclaim that Jesus is King!

All hail! Let there by joy!

Hail to the King, hail to the King.
Blessed is He, blessed is He.

The peace of earth to Him;

The joy of heaven to Him.

The homage of a King be His
King of all victory

The welcome of a Lamb be His,
Lamb of all glory;
The Son of glory down from on high
All hail, let there be joy.

Deep in the night
The voice of the waves on the shore
Announced to us: Christ is born!
Son of the King of kings
From the land of salvation,
The mountain glowed to Him,
The plains glowed to Him,
Then shone the sun on the mountains high to Him.
All hail, let there be joy.

God the Lord has opened a Door.
Christ of hope, Door of joy!
Son of Mary, hasten Thou to help me!

In me, Lord Christ, let there be joy.

Peace: It’s Who You Know

peace 2What do you think of when you think of peace? Miss USA saying they want world peace? Perhaps the absence of conflict?

Google defines “peace” as:

  • Freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.
  • Freedom from or the cessation of war or violence.

Both definitions are ‘from’ something. We want “peace and quiet”; we want calmness…. Yet if we look at the Greek word for peace – εἰρήνη (pronounced: ā-rā’-nā ) – we finds a different meaning:

  • a state of national tranquillity
  • peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord
  • security, safety, prosperity, felicity,

The Hebrew word for peace, שָׁלוֹם or shalom, carries with it the same focus as the Greek word:

  • completeness, soundness, welfare, peace
  • completeness (in number)
  • safety, soundness (in body)
  • welfare, health, prosperity
  • quiet, tranquillity, contentment
  • friendship

Peace, in other words, is not just the absence of conflict, but a state of being. There is tranquility and contentment in life; a sense that all is well.

Prince of Peace

Peace, as defined by the Bible, goes even deeper than just living. One of the names for God in the OT is “Yahweh Shalom” or God of Peace (Judges 6:24). This name was also given to Jesus:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  (Isaiah 9:6)

Peace, therefore, is less of an absence  of something (noise, problems, troubles, etc.) and more of ‘who you know’” You [God] will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal. (Isaiah 26:3-4)

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

Cuddling Up

One of the cool things about being a father is having my son come up and try to cuddle. He could have had a rough day full of disappointments (as only a 4-year old can have!). But the moment he craws into my lap or I pick him up and hold him, there is peace. All is right with the world, Dad is there.

That is the way it is with us and our Father in Heaven:

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

We can crawl into God’s lap and have that peace – the wholeness that comes with being with the One who Made Everything. We have security and safety in His arms. This is why St. Paul, a man who was beaten, whipped, shipwrecked and ran out of more towns then you and I – a man who in the process of being sentenced to death in Rome – could say:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

God’s peace is not depending on our situation; it is only depended on Him. This is why a young teenage girl named Mary could withstand the looks, words and problems that came with becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Everyone thought she had broken her vows to Joseph, her fiancé. Even Joseph thought she had slept with someone else. But Mary knew she was pregnant not by human will, but by the Spirit of God.

God Himself choose her as a friend and servant to give birth to Jesus the Messiah. And the only way Mary was able to keep going was become of the peace that comes through knowing the One True Lord. The same is true for us. The only way that we are going to be able to live this life is through knowing the One True Lord, the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Peace,  Yahweh Shalom

Salvation of Peace

As we remember the First Advent (or Arrival) of our Lord and Savior Jesus, we must remember that it was an invasion into this Present Evil Age. Jesus came that we might have life and salvation for our souls and life. He came that day long ago in Bethlehem to destroy the works of the evil one.

To have His peace, we must bow our knees in submission to Him, giving Him complete control over our lives. We have to repent of our evil ways and desires and ask for His forgiveness – saying that we are ready to stop trying to gain peace on our own. We must say that we are ready to start living with Him as His friends and children

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  (Colossians 3:1-17)

Advent Prayer

God of the watching ones, give us Your benediction.

God of the waiting ones, give us your good word for our souls

God of the watching ones the slow and the suffering ones, give us Your benediction,

Your good word for our souls that we might rest.

God of the watching ones, the waiting ones, the slow and the suffering ones, 

and the angels in heaven, and the child in the womb, give us your benediction,

your good word for our souls, that we might rest and rise in the kindness of your company.