Vision of PeacePosted: December 4, 2016
Vision of Peace
SLIDE 5: NETZER
Our scripture this morning is perhaps the most beloved of all the prophetic passages the early church claimed to apply to Jesus. New growth shall come out from the stump of Jesse. A descendant of the line of King David will emerge in the future. The Hebrew in that passage refers to a netzer, which applies to the new shoots that come up from the root system of an olive tree. The olive trees in the garden of Gethsemane, for instance, are the great grandchildren of the trees that were there, when Jesus prayed, because they have replenished themselves from the root systems for over two-thousand years. The early church latched onto that word “netzer,” because the Jewish clan that settled Nazareth, when they returned from Babylon called themselves the “Netzer” clan. They had a self conscious belief in our scripture from Isaiah that from their family the descendant of David who would become God’s Messiah would spring up like the shoot of an olive from the root system. So Jesus of Nazareth was also Jesus the Netzorean, or “God with us” from the Clan of Netzer.
SLIDE 6: NON-VIOLENT JESUS VS POWER OF ROME
Isaiah’s vision was a leader who would bring peace to the world, and this paralleled the claims the early church wanted to make for Jesus over against Augustus Caesar, whom the Romans asserted had brought peace to the world, through the power of Roman armies, who crushed all opposition. Perhaps you remember from your study of World History the term the Pax Romana, or the Roman Peace, that prevailed, because of the armies of Rome. The problem with the Pax Romana was that it was maintained with the brutal suppression of the national aspirations of all minorities within the Empire. Three Jewish rebellions were crushed during that Pax Romana, until Jerusalem was utterly destroyed, and most Jews deported and scattered throughout the empire, and the land of Israel was even renamed Palestine. The early church wanted to declare that Jesus was a different kind of Prince of Peace, for he brought peace not with the sword but with love.
SLIDE 7: PEACE ON EARTH TO ALL PEOPLE WITH WHOM GOD IS PLEASED
And I guess today we are once again being asked to consider what kind of peace we will work toward as followers of Jesus. In the Christmas story the angels sing to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to all people with whom God is pleased.” The angels may have been singing a loaded message. Was God pleased with Caesar Augustus? Was the Pax Romana the kind of peace God had in mind? I think not, and as citizens of the most powerful military nation on earth, maybe that realization should make us stop and consider our faith.
SLIDE 8: PAX AMERICANA
During the Bush administration there was a group of advisors who talked about the Pax Americana. They advocated that the United States was the 800 pound gorilla on the world stage, and we should use that power to maintain a peace favorable to our national interest. Certainly the United States still possesses the most powerful military on earth, but what kind of peace has that bought us? The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now the longest wars in which the United States has ever engaged, and are we any closer to peace?
SLIDE 9: TWISTED INTO SOMETHING EVIL
Isis is certainly a deplorable enemy, and personally I see no alternative but to resist Isis militarily. I do not believe they represent Islam as a whole. Isis has taken the Islamic faith and twisted it into something evil, in much the same way the Klu Klux Klan has taken the Christian faith and twisted it into something evil. I don’t think with either Isis or the Klu Klux Klan it is possible to ask everyone to all join hands and sing Kum Ba Yah.
SLIDE 10: THOSE WHO SOW THE WIND WILL REAP THE WHIRL WIND
And yet, if I am truly honest in examining and unraveling the complicated history of the involvement of the United States in the Middle East, I have to admit in so many ways the actions of the CIA and our foreign policies driven by our need to protect our national interests in fossil fuels have laid the ground work for the violence in the Middle East. Those who sow the wind will reap the whirl wind. Will “bombing the hell out of Isis” prevent the spread of radical Islamic ideas to millions of dispossessed young people, who are ripe for radicalization? Former Prime Minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair, said in a report entitled, “Inside the Jihadi Mind,” for the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics: The “perversion of Islam is the source of many of the problems in the Middle East,” and more than force is needed to tackle extremism. “The reality is that in parts of the Muslim community a discourse has grown up which is profoundly hostile to peaceful coexistence. Countering this is an essential part of fighting extremism.”
SLIDE 11: HAS AN AGRESSIVE MILITARY POSTURE MADE US SAFER OR MORE VULNERABLE?
I understand the fear of radical Islam that motivates so many people to seek a leader who will promise them safety. But has an aggressive military posture made us safer or more vulnerable? The invasion of Iraq, for instance, contributed to the radicalization millions of people in the Middle East and created a vacuum that made possible the rise of Isis. Are we really safer for following a tough aggressive military policy? I think Jesus would tell us there must be another way, the way of peace: “But with righteousness the Messiah shall advocate for the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth. ” I know the old phrase from the musical Camelot: “It’s not the earth the meek inherit but the dirt.” But Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”
SLIDE 12: HOW LONG OH LORD?
So how long must we wait for the Day of the Lord, when he wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them? Is the way of Jesus a ridiculous fantasy, or is the way of peace simply waiting for a people of faith who are willing to live it?
SLIDE 13: BLACK ELK SPEAKS
Perhaps Chief Black Elk of the Oglala Lakota Sioux born in 1863 survivor of Wounded Knee and author of Black Elk Speaks in 1932 offers us some wisdom. It is particularly appropriate to listen to Black Elk the Sunday after our Sock and Glove Tree. “The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.” We begin the way of peace by embracing all people as part of ourselves — “loving or neighbors as ourselves.” The artificial walls of race, religion, class and tribe we erect to exclude, separate and create conflict, when we dismantle those walls that separate us one from another, then we are on the path of peace.
SLIDE 14: HOW LONG MUST WE WAIT?
But how long must we wait? I am reminded of a story from Jerusalem. A journalist assigned to the Jerusalem bureau took an apartment overlooking the Western Wall. Every day when she looked out, she saw an old Jewish man praying vigorously. So, after several months the journalist went down and introduced herself to the old man.
She asked, “You come every day to the wall. How long have you done that and what are you praying for?”
The old man replied, “I have come here to pray every day for 25 years. In the morning I pray for world peace and then for the brotherhood and sisterhood of all people. I go home have a cup of tea and I come back and pray for the eradication of illness and disease from the earth.”
The journalist was amazed. “How does it make you feel to come here every day for 25 years and pray for these things?” she asked.
The old man looks at her sadly and replied, “How do I feel? Like I’m talking to a wall.”
SLIDE 15: JESUS HAS GONE ON BEFORE US
So when will the Messiah come? When will our waiting be over? But the Messiah my friends is already here! Don’t you remember the words of the angels? “He is not here, he is risen from the dead, and he has gone on before you.” Jesus has gone on before us into the world. He is not in the manger, or in Capernaum, or on the Mount of Beatitudes or in the tomb. I know, I have visited all those places. Jesus is not there. He is not lurking behind the Christmas tree or hiding in the lights or the ornaments or in the sanctuaries of churches. The Messiah has gone on before us into the world, and if we would seek the Messiah we must look for him there. Wherever people are in need, we will find Jesus.
SLIDE 16: THE MESSIAH WAITS FOR US
During this season when we give gifts to one another — often gifts no one needs or wants — to people who have everything. Is there someone you know who has a genuine need you can supply? We have good spiritual friends among us who are trying to live on disability and limited incomes. We don’t really have to look very far to be able to touch genuine need. And it may not be a material gift that we give. Maybe there is someone who needs the gift of a listening ear, or the gentle touch of friendship. Become a peace maker. The Messiah waits for us!