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in Advent

ADVENT: DAY 24

Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church - Outreach - Blogs - TEEZing Out The Roots

"In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised up above the hills.
Peoples shall stream to it,
2 and many nations shall come and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lordfrom Jerusalem.
3 He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more;
4 but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,
and no one shall make them afraid;
for the mouth of the Lordof hosts has spoken.
5 For all the peoples walk,
each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God
forever and ever." --Micah 4:1-5

Yesterday I reflected upon fury as a righteous response to mass injustice. Jesus expressed righteous fury, as have many throughout history and today who have been subjected to systemic oppression. Individuals and entire movements have been called to this. This is indeed part of the peace process.

Today we see another prophet's vision of peace. This vision focuses on the two major sources of violence that kills: weapons and nationalism. The messianic figure being prophesied would inspire people to turn swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. The messianic figure would cause nations to stop using weapons against each other and to even stop "learning" war.

Micah is keenly aware of some significant truths. 1) Weapons are a problem and should cease to exist. 2) The resources used for weapons should instead be used for life-giving instruments. 3) National militaries are the major forces of destructive violence. 4) The enmity that causes war is learned.

Micah saw a Messiah who would stand against the destructive forces of weaponry and national militarism. This causes me to think of a Messiah who told his disciple to put away his knife even as he was arrested by the Empire. This causes me to think of a Messiah whose mission broke down nationalist boundaries. This causes me to think of a Messiah who cast out a Roman Legion as a demon.

This Messiah preached and lived the vision of Micah. This Messiah trusted us to continue that vision. Let's destroy the weapons that destroy lives and Creation. Let's take all of the resources from firearm production and sales and from the military industrial complex and use them to transform communities. Let's remove national flags (U.S. American AND Israeli) from our churches that claim to follow Jesus of Nazareth. Let's exorcise the demon of militarism and militarization from our city governments, our nations, and across this globe.

Enacting this vision would be the most authentic celebration of Advent I can imagine!

Posted December 22, 2015

 

in Advent

ADVENT: DAY 23

Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church - Outreach - Blogs - TEEZing Out The Roots

For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant.  I will lay waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbage; I will turn the rivers into islands, and dry up the pools.  I will lead the blind by a road they do not know, by paths they have not known I will guide them.  I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground.  These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them.  They shall be turned back and utterly put to shame—those who trust in carved images, who say to cast images, ‘You are our gods’.  Listen, you that are deaf; and you that are blind, look up and see!  Who is blind but my servant, or deaf like my messenger whom I send?  Who is blind like my dedicated one, or blind like the servant of the LORD?  He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear.  The LORD was pleased, for the sake of his righteousness, to magnify his teaching and make it glorious.”—Isaiah 42:14-21

 

 

This passage is part of a broader narrative describing the “servant” of the LORD—a covenant to the people, a light to the nations.  This is one of those messianic visions that we Christians believe Jesus of Nazareth to have fulfilled.  His role as Prince of Peace is explained to the extent that “he will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice” (42:2-3).  He is the paragon of the nonviolent actor.

 

And yet, in the very same chapter we have today’s passage.  “For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant.  I will lay waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbage; I will turn the rivers into islands, and dry up the pools.”  YHWH is lifting up a nonviolent Messiah but then talks about laying waste to the very earth itself.  How does this juxtaposition work?

 

It makes me think of the Prince of Peace taking up a whip and flipping the tables of the moneychangers and business people in a burst of violent fury. 

 

His methods up to the point and after that point are clearly documented as nonviolent.  His greatest challenges to the Empire were examples of strategic nonviolent action.  His healings, his exorcisms, his teachings, his choice of friends, his titles, his civil disobedience, and even his acquiescence to martyrdom were strategic nonviolent actions in defiance of the earthly powers.

 

When he saw the devotees of Mammon, the forces of capitalism, the agents of the Empire exploiting and perpetrating injustice upon the people at the temple, though, he cried out and began to lay waste to their booths.  He reached his breaking point when he finally understood the magnitude of injustice his people were facing.

 

History is full of powerful people preaching the nonviolence of Christ to those without structural power.  We have told slaves to obey their ‘masters’ and to live peacefully like Jesus.  We have told workers not to strike or picket because doing so enacts violence against the system.  We have told protestors that they can only be effective if they are peaceful.  We have preached this while waging wars that destroy human lives and the very fabric of creation.  We have preached this while maintaining systems of mass oppression.  

 

We must never forget, though, that our God is a God of righteous fury.  We must never forget that our Messiah exhibited this righteous fury.  When righteous fury bursts forth, it is not “rioting,” “insurgence,” or un-Christian.  When fury is truly righteous, it is one of the most Christian of expressions.  

 

BLACK LIVES MATTER!

 

I know that the savior I wait upon this season would be shouting this, marching in the streets, and laying waste to the system. 

 

Posted December 21, 2015

 

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Being planted in the rich soils of Zambia to inspire regrowth at home. “Other seed fell on good soil and bore fruit” -Matthew 13:8