Christ Brings Peace

by David R. Brock

A sister in Christ came to my office last week . . . longing for peace. Her mate of many years died a year ago. By the first anniversary of his death she anticipated some healing, a returning flicker of hope. But she felt empty. The only interruption in a long silence was an unbidden whisper of her own unanswered questions: “Why, God? What meaning or purpose now? Can I trust you? Are you there, God?”

Yesterday I was reading psalms of praise and found myself asking similar questions. I couldn’t help it: “Do you really make justice and praise spring up before all the nations, God? Are you really the One who keeps faith forever? Justice for the oppressed? Food for the hungry? The captives set free? Sight for the blind? Protection for strangers, fatherless, and widows? Thwarting the wicked and establishing peace? Really?”

“Look at your creation! Talons and piercing claw, fang and crushing jaw; life robbed by stealth on silent wings; deceiving beauty that lures to the snare; agonizing death rattle of the innocent slain . . . And we haven’t yet arrived at the ‘little lower than the angels’ creature called human! Such capacity for peacemaking and creativity; such a legacy of violence and destruction, your humans, Creator, among whom ‘hate is strong and mocks the song / of peace on earth . . . .’”

I drank coffee and read the psalter in the pre-dawn darkness yesterday. Then, with a fresh cup to warm my hands and throat, sat lakeside to watch first light paint a turquoise sky and tinge gray mist to crimson as it lifted from the water. An unplanned prayer of praise, “Wow!” escaped into the morning. I couldn’t help it!

“This morning I have had the God-experience for which I have yearned so long,” says W. Paul Jones in A Table in the Desert. “I know what it means to name the Name . . . . Is God present? Everywhere, enormous in breadth, expansive in depth, and beyond us all in imagination and memory. God is the emerging consciousness which darts in and out, through and for, behind and in front, to be encountered . . . . [251-252]

In the afternoon I watched Monarchs fluttering by under that same cloudless sky. Migrating, it seemed, on a fall-of-the-year pilgrimage toward home. I felt like I was home. I couldn’t help it! And I remembered the home about which G. K. Chesterton writes in “The House of Christmas”:

To an open house in the evening
Home shall [people] come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all [people] are at home.

Jones says that a common heresy among Christians is to think of Christmas as a once-and-for-all event. We try to limit God to entering human history for thirty-three years then returning to the realm “above.” We then struggle with how a miracle that happened two thousand years ago can transform our lives and world now. Christmas is not primarily about a remembrance of things past. We are not condemned to look backward, trying to give new life or add frills to an old story. The Christian God is the One who was and is and promises forever and always to be Emmanuel, God with us. The incarnation is what God does throughout time and space—in all dimensions of the cosmos and all moments of history. [Facets of Faith, pp. 26-27]

Today, carrying all my unanswered questions, along with those of a sister who cannot feel or hope in her season of grief, I stop at 1:00 p.m. to pray the prayer of peace with Community of Christ around the world. “Christ, bring peace,” I plead.

And today, at the prayer for peace, the Daystar shines into my darkness. I look up, see, know, and know I do not know. “Christ brings peace,” I proclaim:

It is you, Jesus, born of Mary, who grants us
to say “forgive me, please,” to our families.
You teach us to pronounce “healing”
in hospital rooms, to plead “reconcile”
in our places of work, to proclaim “justice”
when we call on government representatives.
And you, Christ, in the dark of our own
weary nights, whisper in us, “Shalom.”

God, Eternal Word made flesh,
speak the language of peace
stanza by stanza into all your creation
this Christmas, and always, we pray,
in Jesus’ name.

Spiritual Practice: Pause today to pray for peace as we anticipate the One who is already here and always coming.

Community of Christ Daily Prayer for Peace: http://www.cofchrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace

A Place of Confrontation

Lenten Practice: Silence
Daily Act: Turn off the radio, TV, phone, or computer, and simply work or rest in silence. As you hear the sounds of life around you, allow yourself to be filled with awe and gratitude at the presence of God’s Spirit in diverse ways.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“HOLY MYSTERY, I AM SPEECHLESS IN YOUR PRESENCE.”

Today’s post is a reflection on the practice of silence written by Dustin Davis, a member of the Community of Christ Spiritual Formation Team. May your Good Friday be holy confrontational and blessed!

A Place of Confrontation
by Dustin Davis

In my experience there are two levels of silence. The first level is a more superficial type of silence. It’s characterized by the relief that comes when a loud noise passes. Living in a city as big as Los Angeles I experience noise followed by this type of silence all the time when a circling helicopter finally flies into the distance, when screaming sirens continue down the street out of earshot or when a honking car alarm mercifully halts. Indeed, whenever I travel back to Missouri I’m struck by the silence, particularly at night. It’s restful, and it’s peaceful.

The other, and deeper, level of silence doesn’t happen spontaneously. In fact, I have to be rather intentional about it. I have to purposefully turn off the radio and tv, remove my cell phone to another room and attempt the often impossible task of quieting my own thoughts. I have to make space for this type of silence, and it’s in this place that I do my best to listen to the still small voice that is God. This kind of silence, although it may bring me peace, isn’t peaceful at all. It’s a place of confrontation.

During Lent this year I’ve been reading The Last Week by Marcus Borg. In it he examines each day, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, of Jesus’s life as narrated in the gospel of Mark. It’s been a fascinating journey, and one of the points that Borg makes abundantly clear is that the last week of Jesus’s life, what we experience this week as Holy Week, is a time of extreme confrontation with the unjust systems of the Roman empire and with those who collude and are complicit within those systems. Borg says, “As Mark tells the story, was Jesus guilty of nonviolent resistance to imperial Roman oppression and local Jewish collaboration? Oh, yes. Mark’s story of Jesus’s final week is a sequence of public demonstrations against and confrontations with the domination system. And, as all know, it killed him.”

Silence, real and deep silence, can be a scary thing. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be so difficult to achieve. We wouldn’t have the countless options for distraction that we do today. It’s only in this place where we can sense God truly calling us that we are confronted with our own unjust actions and complicity in the status quo. When we put away the phones and the music and the other noise that fills our lives, our fears and insecurities and vulnerabilities raise to the top, and we hear God’s loving voice nudging us to reconciliation, to love deeper, risk greater, to seek the kingdom. This requires within us to change and to die, and we don’t often do so willingly. However, as Jesus shows us time and time again, this is the path of the disciple that we must all take.

So often we confuse the peace we seek with the simple absence of unwanted or loud noises. It’s giving up chocolate for Lent and making it to the end without cheating only to binge the next day. It feels good, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. But we have to stop fooling ourselves and recognize that there is so much more.

The good news is that we know death is not the end. Even as Jerusalem was a place of confrontation and death for Jesus, it was also a place of resurrection. We cling to the Easter promise of new life beyond our imaginings, which is good and hopeful, but it’s only once we die and live again that it stops being just a promise or a story. Our suffering is transformed into new life, into the reality we call God’s Kingdom. Only then can we call ourselves an Easter people and say we believe in the resurrection!

BREAD OF LIFE

Lenten Practice: Silence
Daily Act: Incorporate times of silence into your daily routine. Before beginning work, eating a meal, or beginning any daily task, observe a minute of silence.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“HOLY MYSTERY, I AM SPEECHLESS IN YOUR PRESENCE.”

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

We began this Lenten journey with this material reminder of our humanness. Smudge of ash marked us with humility. With repentant hearts we started this walk to make up some distance in the great divide between who we are and who we are called, in love, to become.

I don’t think it is an accident that everything we have to teach us about life in God comes from the earth. Earth is our language. We can include the cosmos too- starry nights of wonder and phases of moon. It is what we can see, what we can touch, what we can taste that helps us make just enough sense of the One we cannot see, cannot touch, cannot taste.

Jesus is known for using the physical stuff of earth to help us to see- mud and spit, for example, in the blind man’s eyes.

This night he uses water in basin for washing road-weary feet. So it is in the kingdom of God.

He breaks bread as symbol of broken body. Disciples consume glimpsing what oneness might mean. Texture of bread saturating on tongue- lingering in the mystery of the moment.

Wine, symbol of blood, poured out. Life-giving substance pulsing in the veins of those who received it- of us right now. The bitter sweetness enters their bodies and they can taste what he is saying as he is saying it. A love lesson engrained in their hearts, alive within them.

I don’t know exactly what this means, only that it has meaning. I wonder if this is how the disciples felt too. Sometimes to simply recognize the presence of meaning is reverence enough.

Throughout the years we have interpreted this sacred meal as inclusion, invitation, hospitality. It has meant remembrance and reconciliation and recommitment. We have labored over its truth in theological debate.

In a faith that is so often mystery, the physical elements contain a holy immediacy. I hold it in my hands. I taste. I eat. What I long for is before me, in physical form and it becomes a part of me in some nourishing way. It is a reminder that what I long for is actually more accessible than I ever thought. This earth-cosmos-language is speaking continuously about God. “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” (Luke 19:40)

The table reminds me of the kingdom of God call to add another leaf, set up some more chairs, and invite the whole world to the feast. This is for hungry hearts, yes, but also hungry bodies that Jesus calls us to love and serve. Sometimes the good news is literally bread.

Every table can become the altar for a sacred meal, for reconciliation, for invitation.
This sacred meal is waiting for you in the world. The body of the One you follow- the blood of the One you love. Take. Eat. Live.

“Over every living thing which is to spring up, to grow, to flower, to ripen during this day say again the words: This is my Body. And over every death-force which waits in readiness to corrode, to wither, to cut down, speak again your commanding words which express the supreme mystery of faith: This is my Blood.” –Pierre Teilhard de Chardin