We could all use a little peace right now.
There are battles all over the world, but the situation in Syria is especially dire. Many people live in oppression. People are protesting over lack of clean water, or fear of losing clean water. Acts of terror seem to pop up everywhere. There are threats of violence, and threats of retaliation.
Is peace without justice at best a cessation of hostilities and, at worst, the normalization of oppression?
Those of us lighting the Advent candle of Peace have Paul offering us
May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
but are also challenged to think of peace that follows one about whom Isaiah writes
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.
While in Matthew, John the Baptist calls out religious leaders with
You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Perhaps the resolution lies in the words of the Psalmist, who writes about justice:
Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.
I’m inclined toward the differentiation between imposing our idea of what is right (or winning) and reaching toward justice that seeks to hear, involve, and benefit all people. Okay, I’m more than just inclined: I’ve already written it into the confession for Sunday.
But I still struggle with language like “with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked,” “crush the oppressor,” and “every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire,” because we so often think we know who is wicked and who does not bear good fruit. Worse yet, we often want to help in the killing, crushing, and throwing into the fire.
How do we strive for God’s justice, when in our hearts we want to win, and punish the loser so we won’t be challenged again?
As usual, The Text This Week has some awesome resources.
The United Network for Justice & Peace in Palestine & Israel has some worship resources for Advent 2 (these are from 2013, but still year A).
Some insights on Advent 2 and peace are at Preaching Peace.
For those interested in mimetic theory, especially as it pertains to violence, there are some resources at the Girardian Lectionary.
- Where are you headed this week?
- Is this the Sunday of Peace for you? Or are you lighting the candle of Acceptance, Preparation, the Prophets, John the Baptist, or something else?
- How do the readings connect with your Advent liturgy – or does it?
- What challenges are you finding in connecting the texts with your liturgy?
- On what resources are you leaning?
Please share your answers and, even more, your questions.
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