Tag: Justice

Is Romans 13 another love chapter? Bridging the Romans 13:7-8 gap

 

Version 1

Romans 13:5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath of the authorities but also because of your conscience. For this reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants devoted to governing. Pay everyone what is owed: taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.

Exhortation to Love Neighbors

Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “Do not commit adulterydo not murderdo not stealdo not covet,” (and if there is any other commandment) are summed up in this, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.  (NET Bible)

Version 2

 Romans 13:5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath of the authorities but also because of your conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants.           7Remembering all this, give everyone what is due them.  If taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. 8 Even though you owe them nothing but mutual love, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law. (RSV plus Finger’s variations*)

(verses highlighted to clarify discussion below)

 Introduction

Romans 13 has been in the news recently.  In much of the attention, verses 1-7 are treated as a separate section from the rest of the chapter.  Most translations put a section break after verse seven.  I began writing this reflection late 2017, but it had its roots in the years before The Message came out.   I found the contemporary phrasing and language of The Message appealing.  I had been thinking about Romans 13, so decided to turn to The Message. But, I found it too, had a section separator between the verses seven and eight in the traditional way. I was disappointed.  I felt that verses 1-7 were treated as a separate unit from their context of chapter 12 and chapter 13, verses 8 to the end.  I had read that there is no punctuation in the Greek.  Especially important, the punctuation and section break that The Message and others insert in Romans 13 are not in the Greek. This information is available from several sources, but I found it in the Rita Haldeman Finger work cited below.

Questions

Where is the key to this passage? First, note that in the Greek the words translated “owe” and “due” in verses 7 & 8 are the same*.  “Nothing is due anyone except the debt of love.”—would be appropriate for the NET version.  The second translation smooths the transition to the focus of this section of Paul’s thought.  How does one justify translating the words differently in 7 and 8? How do verses 1-7 connect to verses 8-10?  How does one’s view of government influence punctuation and paragraph division?

Paul was writing to Christians in the capital city of an oppressive government.  Any writing clearly seen as encouraging allegiance another Lord/Caesar or to another kingdom would bring retribution.  Is “ordained of God” at odds with “nothing is due except the debt of love” . . .”  and Love does no harm to a neighbor? Dealing with the word “ordained” requires more attention than I want to give it.  Careful analysis of this term can be found in Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder, pages **.  Yoder says Paul is telling us that God has an order everywhere, whether a robber band or a supposedly democratic/republican form of government. Followers of God are to recognize that order.

However, “what is due” is tempered by what “does no harm to a neighbor”.  The academic dean at the college where I worked talked of his flights on a bomber crew in WWII.  He said did not feel hate towards the Germans as he was dropping bombs on them.  He was following the commands of his government to punish evil people.  The standard Paul took from Jesus did not come up on his radar.  (I didn’t then pursue the discussion partly because I was surprised by his statement and partly because he was the academic dean and I was a beginning librarian.)  But he clearly elevated “punish evil-doers” above “doing harm to a neighbor”.

If nothing is due “but the debt of love” what kind of response to government oppression of others is warranted by Christians? What should be our expectation of persons in government who claim to uphold Christian values? Is it possible that Paul was allowing for civil disobedience in the tradition of Shiphrah and Puah or following Daniel and his Hebrew brethren?  If “doing no harm to a neighbor” is primary, what is the response of those disadvantaged by our economic and political systems and the people who control and are controlled by those systems? If obeying the command to love one’s neighbor is the more important, then is Paul encouraging disobeying a government that commands its citizens to do “harm to one’s neighbor”?  In his time?  In ours?

Conclusion

My understanding is that the controlling thought of this part of Paul’s writing is verse 10: Love does no harm to a neighbor. The chapter builds to verse 10 (and, of course, to the thought of the soon return of the Lord). The broader context of the chapter connects it to 12:1-2 and Paul’s image of a “living sacrifice” (I prefer the expression “continuing gift”).  Paul, in Romans 13, while not on the same level as I Cor. 13, lifts up love as the key factor in our relationship to others. (Paul here sets love in the context of response to corrupt and violent authorities).  How does love control our response to authorities today?

 

 

*Based on the discussion in Reta Halteman Finger, Paul and the Roman House Churches.  Herald Press, 1993.  Page 140.

**Yoder, John Howard, Politics of Jesus.  Eerdmans, 1972.  Pp193ff.

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The Poor, The President, and the Bible

[I was impressed with this blog.  It pulls together a number of things I have been considering recently about being a Christian in America. —David Alleman]

living in GRACEland

I’m going to be honest with you – the past couple years have been really disheartening for me as a believer and follower of Jesus. Not because of Jesus – no, Jesus is more dear to me now than ever before. As I get older and spend year after year getting to know Jesus better, I am completely overwhelmed by His perfect marriage of justice and mercy, by His unconditional love, by His lavish mercy, by His invitation to everyone everywhere to follow Him and bask in His love. No, it’s not Jesus who has broken my heart and disappointed me at my very core in a way that is difficult to explain. I have been thinking a lot about Gandhi’s words about Jesus and those who bear His name – (at least these words have been attributed to Gandhi, though he may not have been the one to say…

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What do we do about “widows and orphans” today?  

 

“God not made with our hands” sermon follow-up Micah Hurst (1/28/18)

Encourage prisoners.

Many residents of correctional institutions are there due in part to poverty conditions. Some are not. In most cases we will not know why they are there. Many are lonely. The men to whom I have written have expressed their appreciation of receiving letters.  Knowing people care about them may keep them from returning to a life of crime when they gain their freedom.  For a list of prisoners to write to see:

http://harvyoder.blogspot.com/2015/12/urge-your-friends-to-send-christmas.html  Support Jason Wagner through Virginia Mennonite Missions.  Jason is the chaplain at the local jail.

Aid to homeless, underemployed, addiction challenged

Our Community Place has provided a place for people without jobs, homes or who are underemployed to find a sense of belonging and some opportunities for improvement in their situations.  Some of the services there include transportation to Community Service Board, job interviews (including training for the interviews and contacts for jobs), help in finding rehab for addictions and support for dealing with the above challenges.  The social activities of game night and movie night, as well as the common meals helps with this.  Work day contributes with developing a sense of contributing to the good of all.

The Friday Noon Restaurant trains people in food service skills preparing them for new jobs. Enjoy eating there knowing that you are helping to train the people involved.  To raise funds for OCP, Night Out monthly restaurant staffed by a local chef provides an excellent meal.  February 14, 2018 meal features Sri Lankan food.  Periodic projects for churches or other groups (grounds clean-up, painting, garden preparation) give OCP the labor for extra projects beyond what the regular clients can provide.  Donations of garden produce and other goods are appreciated.  Fund raisers such as OCP Walk in the Fall and the Plant Sale the beginning of May are opportunities to support OCP.   info@ourcommunityplace.org

Mercy House provides housing and related services to homeless.  See their website for more information or talk to Roy Early or Steve Yoder.  Mercy House currently (1/30/18) is in need of two people for after school activities for four (4) Fridays in the month of April or May from 4-5 p.m.  You can plan your own activities but start with a Bible story.  Children’s ages are 4 to 12.  Number of children will vary–1-10 (?).  To ask questions or volunteer, call Chaplain Nan at Mercy House 413-505-8285 or email nan@themercyhouse.org

http://www.themercyhouse.org/mission–faith.html

Mercy House Store supports the work of Mercy House.  See Deb Huffman for more information.

Open Doors:  An overnight shelter for people who are homeless sponsored by local congregations in and around Harrisonburg.  Mailing Address:  P.O. Box 1804, Harrisonburg, VA 22803Office Phone Number:  540-705-1908.  Weavers has been investigating whether we can participate in this program.

Bridges of Hope works with homeless women with children connecting them with a social worker and a group of people who will help the woman become self-supporting.

Salvation Army:  Provides meals and temporary housing.  They usually need people to ring bells for fund-raising in November and December.  Weavers’ participants include Clayton Shenk and Julia Alleman.  540.434.4854

Weavers has been participating in the School Backpack Program for several years. A list of foods for this project will be listed in the Weavers bulletin when it is our month to fill backpacks.  Talk to Therese Leigh or another Outreach Committee member.

 Patchwork Pantry:  Provides food and basic personal items to families/individuals meeting basic criteria.  Patchwork Pantry especially need help during the hours open (just before and after, too) 6-7pm Wednesdays.  Donations of garden produce and non-perishables welcomed.  Located at Community Mennonite Church, South High and Water Street.  See the following for more about this organization:

http://virginiaconference.org/2016/04/patchwork-pantry-a-ministry-of-multiple-congregations/    and  https://www.sites.google.com/site/wrtcpublicrhetoric/home

People helping People is a cooperative ministry of churches in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, Virginia which helps people in an emergency crisis with resources and guidance. Weavers people have staffed phones for this organization.  When individuals come to Shady Oak for help, assistance is coordinated through People helping People.

http://peoplehelpingpeople-harrisonburg.org/

Stopping sex trafficking

New Creation works to counteract sex trafficking through education, awareness, and raising money through selling items designed and made by former trafficked individuals.  See http://newcreationva.org/

Minister to new arrivals

New Bridges: Vision: “Through extensive training and experience in the particular dynamics that influence the lives of immigrants and refugees, the agency works diligently to engage immigrants, connect cultures, and build community with a vision for a thriving community that everyone can call home.”

Refugee Resettlement Program:  We worked with them when we helped Gakwandi and Angelique and family last year.

Work for famine and disaster relief

Gift & Thrift Store of Harrisonburg is part of Mennonite Central Committee.  MCC relates more to overseas people who have experienced disasters such as drought, storms, war and other disruptions to their lives making access to food, water and housing difficult.  In volunteering at the store one helps raise money for these projects.

Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale:  Raises money for development of resources to help people deal with their basic needs.  Money also goes to MCC to provide water food, clothing and temporary housing after war, floods and other disasters.

School kits are assembled to assist school children and distributed through Mennonite Central Committee.  The SAMS small group has been inviting others to participate in this project.

Other forms of service

Virginia Mennonite Missions:  In addition to showing the way to a new life, VMM workers provide meals, distribute Christmas boxes, staff schools and advocate for better treatment of marginalized persons (for instance, supporting prison ministry and seeking to bring an end to sex trafficking).

Harrisonburg Rockingham Free Clinic 

http://www.hrfreeclinic.org/volunteers/

  • HRFC has more than 200 volunteers who support all aspects of our organization.  Many have worked with us for more than 5 years. Our volunteers feel there’s no better reward than being part of a dedicated team providing essential medical care to neighbors in need. Volunteers range in age from 18-85 and are working professionals, homemakers, students and retired individuals.  Clinical positions include Virginia-licensed doctors, PAs, NPs, nurses, EMTs, phlebotomists, pharmacists, pharmacy techs and others.  Non-medical positions include receptionists, eligibility interviewers, interpreters (French, Kurdish, Arabic, Spanish) and administrative assistants.  (If you have received medical insurance assistance or Medicaid assistance, part of your gratitude for these might be a contribution to HRFC.)

 

Ava Care Free pregnancy testing and confirmation – so you know for sure.

http://avacareforyou.org/

No specific information for Roberta Webb for volunteers.

Name: Roberta Webb Child Care Center
Address: 400 Kelley Street, Harrisonburg VA 22802
Contact Phone: (540) 434-8699

 

Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s research shows that young people who attend a Club regularly tend to do better than their peers nationally:

  • 68% of Club 12th graders volunteer at least once per month, compared with 39% of 12th graders nationally
  • 90% of Club ninth graders report abstaining from drinking alcohol in the past 30 days, compared with 77% of ninth graders nationally
  • 31% of Club girls ages 12 to 15 are physically active every day, compared with 23% of girls in the same age range nationally
  • A comparison of NYOI and National Survey on Drug Use and Health data suggests that low-income, regularly attending Club members ages 12 to 17 outperform their peers nationally on school grades.

http://www.bgchr.org/get-involved/

 

 

Singing justice for the poor: Looking for Anabaptist-flavored worship music

 

I proclaim the power of God: 

You do marvels for your servants;

Though you scatter the proud hearted

And destroy the might of princes.

To the hungry you give food,

send the rich away ——empty.

In your mercy you are mindful

Of the people you have chosen.

Refrain:  And holy is your name through all generations. (verses 2 & 3 “My Soul is Filled With Joy”. #13 Sing the Journey.  See also, “I’ll praise my maker while I’ve breath” verses 2 and 3 Hymnal, a worship book – HWB #166)

Where can we find similar praise to God for caring for the poor and hungry in contemporary and traditional worship music?  The results of the search I’ve done show few examples of helping the marginal and bringing down the powerful in praise and worship music.   Early 2015 the Mountain States Mennonite Conference concluded an Anabaptist songwriting contest. They asked for “New songs with lyrics that espouse Anabaptist/Mennonite values:  (e.g. Non-violence, love for enemy, reconciliation, communal life, etc.), musically spanning from traditional forms to non-traditional genres, styles and cultural expressions.” Specific mention of the social justice theme is not made, but perhaps it is implied in “Anabaptist/Mennonite values”.  The link below identifies winners and includes their lyrics and music.  One of the six mentions attention to the poor. *  The 2015 Mennonite World Conference Songbook, Walking with God includes at least three of fifty-six selections that specifically praise God for his attention to the oppressed and poor.  January 4, 2016, MennoMedia announced Project 606, intended to produce a new hymnal by 2020.  Will this project include work on identifying elements of Anabaptist-flavored, Bible-based worship music?

 Biblical sources

What Biblical models warrant placing a strong emphasis on praising God for social justice, especially in praise music?  “Social justice” here is short hand for God’s act in delivering an immigrant/slave people from the super power of the day.  It is a social act because a group of people, the children of Israel, was rescued. A new people with a new plan for living (the Torah) were established. God’s rescue of an oppressed people was “just” because it showed God’s love and mercy, not because Jacob’s descendants deserved it.

The contest (see above) reminded me of my quest of some years to find references to discipleship in worship music, narrowed here to social justice. After some 40 years of hearing loss,  hearing aids no longer helped.  My cochlear implant is engineered to help with the hertz range of conversation level, but does not cover high and low notes of music.  So, I give my attention to the words of the song.  This has led me to ask questions about the theology behind the music used in worship. As a non-musician I make no claim to expertise in evaluating musical quality of any of the songs mentioned.  I need a welcome help in identifying the quality of lyrics and music featuring attention to God’s interest in the oppressed.

What I have learned

Worship music in the evangelical churches I am familiar with usually includes what can be categorized loosely as contemporary Christian music (CCM), traditional hymns, and gospel songs.  These types of music have some overlap.  I am not going to define each type.  Each has its focus.  Contemporary and traditional music praise God for many attributes and deeds, give many invitations for rededication to Christian living, and rejoice in the promise of future life with God, but seldom on concern for the poor and oppressed.  My focus on the marginalized in this essay is very narrow.

Christian contemporary music

Several writers have noted the lack of attention to social justice issues in CCM. Jay Howard writes: “There are few [contemporary Christian worship] songs concerned with social justice because there are few songwriters from the Anabaptist tradition.”  He analyzes 77 Contemporary Worship Songs –those most frequently requested of the licensing service CCL–and finds only one that gives direct attention to social justice issues.  John L. Bell, songwriter argues that CCM is mainly about the birth and death of Jesus and ignores his life.  Have I missed some CCM titles that give attention to Jesus’ life, especially to his attention to the poor, the widow, and the outsider?

Traditional ‘gospel songs’ and hymns

Praise and thanksgiving in traditional hymns and gospel songs (I will not define these here, but look at the section on “Gospel Songs” Mennonite Hymnal for examples) give little attention to social justice.  “Gospel songs” are strong in their emphasis on grace, God/Jesus’ companionship and love.  I have not found any of these that praise God for his love and care of the “widow and fatherless”.  There are a number of hymns in HWB, that include an interest in the poor and oppressed and justice for them.  One that honors God for this attention is “I’ll Praise My Maker”, verses three and four (HWB, #166).  Some encourage us to follow Jesus’ example in caring for the marginalized.  Did I miss hymns that specifically praise God/Jesus as Miriam and Mary did for God’s championing of the oppressed?

Models and sources:

The preliminary Biblical models I would propose for praise songs are Miriam’s song (Exodus 15) and Mary’s song in Luke 1. The book of Psalms was Israel’s “praise and worship” book.  That requires some attention to psalms that praise God for his attention to disadvantaged and those who prey on them.

 

Miriam’s Song

While God the warrior image usually makes Anabaptist uncomfortable, God is first called holy when he rescued the Israelites from the Egyptian cavalry and foot soldiers.

Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like you?—majestic in holiness, fearful in praises, working wonders?
 You stretched out your right hand,
the earth swallowed them. (Ex. 15:11-12 (New English Translation)

God is praised for delivering the immigrant/slaves God chose to become his covenant people.

The Psalms

In his work on the Psalms, Walter Brueggemann says that the things we praise God for shows the way we view the world and our place in it.  Many Psalms praise God (see also Miriam’s Song) for delivering a slave/immigrant people from the Egyptian superpower whose religion favored politically powerful and the rich. We are sometimes tempted to assign God’s action here to a special category, rather than see it as a model of what God does.  Psalmists praise God (and kings) for their concern for the poor and marginalized.  God is praised for being a just judge and for making wars cease.  See the following Psalms: 9, 10, 29, 35, 65, 66, 68, 69, 72, 74, 81, 82, 94, 96, 97, 98, 99, 102, 103, 105,106, 107, 109, 123, 124, 135, 136, 139, 140, 146.

 Phrases from Psalms 72 and 146 capture a king’s and God’s attitude and action and are characteristic of the other Psalms:

Ps. 72:  The King:

— takes pity on the weak and the needy
—  saves the needy from death.
rescues them from oppression and violence,
— for precious is their blood in his sight.

Ps. 146.  The Lord

–upholds the cause of the oppressed
–gives food to the hungry.
–sets prisoners free,
gives sight to the blind,
— lifts up those who are bowed down,
— loves the righteous.
watches over the foreigner
–sustains the fatherless and the widow,
–frustrates the ways of the wicked

Praise the Lord.

Repeatedly God gives attention to the oppressed and provides security and safety to victims of violence.  To what extent should words and phrases like these from the Psalms be present in our worship music?

 Prophets

Attention to the needs of the orphan/widow/poor is identified more with prophets than the Psalms and I was pleased to find significant attention to this topic in the Psalms.  Prophetic critiques of worship do not contain comments on purity of sacrifices, social justice content of Psalms or the quality or frequency of Psalm recitation.  The prophetic critiques point out that Sabbath worship by the people of the covenant should be reflected in covenant behavior during the week.

Mary, Jesus, Paul

These themes are continued in the New Testament.  Mary’s prophetic vision of her son’s work is captured in the song “My Soul is Filled With Joy”. (#13, Sing the Journey, verses 2 and 3 above).  Jesus inaugural sermon repeats these themes.

Miriam’s Song, many Psalms, the prophets’ reminders all tell us that connecting worship and living is crucial.   The New Testament contributions of Mary’s song, Jesus life and teaching, and Paul’s take on worship in Romans 12 all point to the worship-discipleship-concern for poor and marginalized as an essential element in our praise and life.  I have found very few songs in CCM and “gospel songs” with this focus and only a few in traditional hymns that praise God as a champion of the down and out.  (Perhaps additional research and help from knowledgeable persons will locate songs with a social justice focus.)  Eugene Peterson’s (The Message) take on Psalms 65:1 provides an appropriate conclusion:

Silence is praise to you,
Zion-dwelling God,
And also obedience.
You hear the prayer [praise] in it all.

(My emphasis.)

 

*Text and music of six winners can be found at:

http://www.anabaptistsongwritingchallenge.org/

 

Thanks to Julia H. Alleman and Ray E. Horst for sharing their music knowledge with me.

Revised from an essay previously posted on Compost & Grace

 

David Alleman

Nov. 27, 2016

                                                                                                                             

 

Tax yourself: July 2017 Post

Discover the Voluntary Tax Fund

Hey, there’s $1.95 gas at Pilot (or Sheetz, etc.)! your spouse or friend tells you. Or, do you use Gas Buddy to locate the best price? Frugality, of course is recommended and not the issue of interest here.

Recently, my nephew’s wife missed a family gathering to go to Venezuela to help her mother get medical help for a heart condition. Finding the medicine she needed was difficult due to rapid inflation. That was a result, in part from corruption, but also due to the dropping price of oil.

A friend has been in South Sudan doing trauma relief with refugees from the religious/ethnic war with (North) Sudan. Much of the funds for the relief funds for food and housing come from government revenue from oil income. Gas buyers in Europe pay$5.00 or more for gas. Money going to the military, in effect, subsidizes the artificially low cost of automobile gas.

What can we do? Tax ourselves! Use the funds for energy saving projects. My favorites were solar panels for Gift & Thrift and Bicycles for Refugees. Here’s additional information from the website:

Gas Tax Club – Home

www.voluntarygastax.org

Totally voluntary! Or a tax that you can decide to … The Voluntary Gas Tax is a campaign that was initiated in November of 2000 by a group of concerned citizens in Harrisonburg, VA.

“Here’s where our tax has gone so far:

  • $50 to buy bicycle lights for the guys in a local half-way house
  • $368 for an 8 foot bike trailer for a local university to use as a recycle vehicle
  • $450 for earthquake victims in Pakistan
  • $500 to Blacks Run Greenway Partnership, a local group planning and promoting a bike path/walking trail as a linear park along a stream through our town.”

For another example:

Voluntary Tax Dollars shade Goshen Streets

http://www.mennocreationcare.org/voluntary-gas-tax-dollars…

This project does not solve the basic problem. Participation in the voluntary gas tax action reminds us we must still deal with our use/overuse of irreplaceable resources.

 

Peter and Peace

John 13:36-14:4

Sometimes we see a scripture passage in a new way. That happened to me not long ago. (Remember, the gospel writer John did not put in chapter divisions.) Read these verses together.

John 13 36 Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?”  And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.”  37 “But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.”  38 Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.  14:1“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” [New Living Translation].

Connection Peter’s words & Jesus’

What connection does Jesus expect the disciples to see between Peter’s “die for you” announcement and Jesus’ assurance that they could trust God, trust Jesus and remember the welcome to be found in the Father’s House?  How do his activities in the Garden help us understand what he means here? (Jn. 18:11, Mt. 26:52) What kind of misunderstanding of Jesus way does Peter show earlier leading Jesus to call him “satan”? (Mt. 16:23)

What did Peter mean to do while “dying” for Jesus?  Didn’t Peter intend to do more than die? His likely heroes are the Maccabees* who liberated Judah from the Syrian Seleucid oppression some 150 years earlier. They used similar language to support their military activity, believing that they achieved some kind of redemption through death defending the land and people of God.   They did defeat the Syrians, freeing Jerusalem and re-establishing pure worship.

On the other hand, opposing the violence of the Maccabees, the editor/writer of the Daniel stories and visions focused on activities that upheld the covenant, encouraged repentance and continued faithful worship, but showed a willingness to defy oppressive rulers. Daniel and friends were willing face death (Dan. 3:17-18) as did the Maccabees, but did not turn to violence. As Daniel 12:3 puts it:

“Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.”

The “wisdom teacher” who wrote of Daniel and friends would have understood the connection between “trusting God” and “more than enough room in my Father’s home”. The way of peace could lead to death. Those “rooms” were especially for disciples who were willing to follow Jesus’s command. Reading first Peter confirms that Peter had moved away from the Maccabean idea that one could gain redemption through death against the enemies of God. He understood the words of Jesus:

You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. Mt. 5:43-47 (New Living Translation)

*The Maccabees became active around 163 BC. The Seleucids, an empire headquartered in Syria for some years tortured, killed, sold Jews into slavery and burned of copies of the Torah. In response, a family of five sons, later called the Maccabees, led a rebellion against them. After several years of war and with an alliance with the Roman Empire, the Maccabees (later known as the Hasmonians, their family name) overthrew the Syrians and set up a free Hebrew state. The last of the Hasmonians was a wife of Herod the Great of New Testament times.

June Notes

Peace prayer for June/July

Pray for the peaceful reunification of North & South Korea. Pray that the food aid the Mennonite Central Committee provides North Korea may show the love of Jesus for all people. — Washington Memo Vol. XLIX, No. 2

Showing compassion is one way to promote reunification.  The Mennonite Central Committee has sent food to North Korea for nearly 20 years.  MCC has provided medical supplies and supported orphanages, also.

The above was taken from the Washington Memo Vol. XLIX, No. 2.  For more information, check out:

washington.mcc.org  or read the blog at washingtonmemo.org

 

Waiting for God

The Psalmist counsels us “wait on the Lord”! What do you think of or imagine yourself doing in response to this counsel? In what situations have you recalled passages from the Bible that include this phrase? In the passages below, what is the context of the word “wait” or “waiting”? In the past I have thought of “waiting” as suggesting prayer and meditation. Is this made explicit in the text?

For the subjects of the Psalm, what would be the alternative to “waiting”? What more than prayer in suggested by “waiting”? How often does the “waiting” command come in the context of violence? What is the significance of this?

Psalm 33:  16-22

16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.

Psalm 37:(5-9) 14-15, 32-34

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

32 The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
33 The Lord will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

(See below for a list of similar passages*)

In Psalm 33 use of the word “wait” is preceded by description of violence against the people of God. (“Whether the king is to use his great army or not is not clarified.) Action by God’s people is not needed. Waiting leads to affirmation of God’s presence and control of the situation. Note the words “help”, “trust”, “hope” as helper words for “wait”.

In Psalm 37 the situation is bleak. Not just the people of God are the target of the forces of evil, but specifically “the poor and needy”. Violence is what evil people do. In the end “the wicked [will be] cut off”. The people of God “wait” and “keep his way”. Keeping God’s way (v. 34) refers to covenant/Torah behavior. In Isaiah 40, the setting is a bit different. While in these Psalms there is the implication that God will overpower the enemy or the evil Hebrews, that is not as clear in Isa.40:28-31. Is the vindication of the “suffering servant” what one is to wait for?  (See my blog on Isa. 40, “Exodus to Exile”)

Waiting and then what?

Are these “wait” passages behind Paul’s instructions in Romans 12:19 and following? “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19 with Deut. 32:35)? How is Paul’s reminder related to the need to wait? The normal response to violence is vengeance.  Note surrounding the “vengeance” command we are encouraged to “love”, “seek peace”, and “feed” [your] enemy”. Here we have some of the things from the life and teachings of Jesus that are to the focus the people of God while waiting for God to act.

The “First” Testament basis for the peace understanding of Anabaptists needs further exploration. While there is much violence found in the first testament, the new testament affirms the contrasting thread lifted out here that calls for us to wait on God. From God comes protection and vengeance/justice.

 

*Similar passages are:  Psalm 25:1-5, Psalm 27: 11-14, Psalm 62:1-7 (See also, Psalm 40:1-3—no suggestion of violence in this passage), Psalm 130:1-6, Proverbs 20:22, Lamentations 3:13-26, Isaiah 30:15-18 (the word “rest” is used in this passage), Micah 7:2-3, 7; Isaiah 40:28-31 (God has just “rescued” Israel from Babylon), Isa. 64:1-4, Zephaniah 3:8

Related concept:

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).

 

 

April Notes

Creation Sunday

Creation Sunday or Creation Care Sunday is celebrated today. It is generally observed the Sunday nearest Earth Day (April 22).

The Psalmist tell us: “The heavens declare the glory of God

The skies (firmament) show His handiwork”

Other passages tell us of the glory of mountains, trees and streams. We probably want to add Valleys to that list.

If we destroy mountain tops (and in the process eliminate peoples’ homes and fields), turn clear streams into rusty, stinking waterways polluted with runoff from mines . . . .

If we fill the skies with haze so that Harrisonburg can no longer be seen from Skyline Drive (Oldtimers assured me that you could 30 or more years ago) . . . .

Are we limiting creation’s praise of God? Have we treated creation in such a way the God is not praised by it as He intended?

Do we believe God created the non-human world of plants, water, rocks, soil and air as well as the human world to praise Him?

How can we work with the rest of God’s Creation to praise God?

Pray with me for better understanding of these questions and better care of God’s world.

Peace Prayer

Peace lamp prayer suggestion (April 23, 2017):

Father help us to be at peace with your creation.  Forgive us for obscuring creation’s praise of you by our pollution of your water, air and land.  Teach us to live so the creation may better praise you as “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above shows His handiwork.” Psalm 19:1.

 

  

Waiting On God

An exploration of the peace witness of the first (old) testament

 

The Psalmist counsels us “wait on the Lord”! What do you think or imagine yourself doing in response to this counsel? In what situations have you recalled passages from the Bible that include this phrase? In the passages below, what is the context of the word “wait” or “waiting”? In the past I have thought of “waiting” as suggesting prayer and meditation. Is this made explicit in the text? What is the alternative to “waiting”? What more than prayer in suggested by “waiting”? How often does the “waiting” command come in the context of violence? What is the significance of this?

16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you. Psalm 33: 16-22

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

32 The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
33 The Lord will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off. Psalm 37:(5-9) 14-15, 32-34

See below for a list of similar passages*

Psalm 33 use of the word “wait” is preceded by description of violence against the people of God. (“Whether the king is to use his great army or not is not clarified.) Action of God’s people is not needed. Waiting leads to affirmation of God’s presence and control of the situation. Note the words “help”, “trust”, “hope” as helper words for “wait”.

In Psalm 37 the situation is bleak. Not just the people of God are the target of the forces of evil, but specifically “the poor and needy”. Violence is what evil people do. The people of God “wait” and “keep his way”. Keeping God’s way refers to covenant/Torah behavior. In the end “the wicked [will be] cut off”.

Is this part of Paul’s source for “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19 with Deut. 32:35)? How is Paul’s reminder related to the need to wait? Note surrounding the “vengeance” command we are encouraged to “love”, “seek peace”, and “feed” [your] enemy”. Here we have some of the things from the life and teachings of Jesus that are to the focus the people of God while waiting for God to act.

The “First” Testament basis for the peace understanding of Anabaptists needs further exploration. There is much violence found in the First Testament.   The New Testament affirms the contrasting thread lifted out here that calls for us to wait on God. From God comes protection and vengeance/justice.

*Similar passages are:

Psalm 25:1-5, Psalm 27: 11-14, Psalm 62:1-7 (See also, Psalm 40:1-3—no suggestion of violence in this passage), Psalm 130:1-6, Proverbs 20:22, Lamentations 3:13-26, Isaiah 30:15-18 (the word “rest” is used in this passage), Micah 7:2-3, 7; Isaiah 40:28-31 (God has just “rescued” Israel from Babylon), Isa. 64:1-4, Zephaniah 3:8

Related concept:

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).