Saturday, March 22, 2014

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

If you missed the beginning of this blog series, go here.

It's Day 2 of the Beatitudes Journey.

Yesterday we talked about meekness, Dorothy Gale, Aslan, and what it means to be "meek, but not tame".

Today I'm going with peacemakers.

I don't have any method to this madness.

I just pray and then read over Matthew 5:3 - 10 again and go with the one that feels right.

Maybe that's divine inspiration.

Maybe it is that I had too much dairy with my pizza last night.

Either way, that's the way it plays out for me.

So, back to the Mount of Beatitudes, just yonder from the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus is talking to a giant crowd of people.  These people weren't there for a sermon.  They were there to get something.  Up to now, his teaching had been in the synagogue, though he had sometimes randomly announced that the Kingdom of heaven is near - the same message John the Baptist spread before him.  His main gig at this time was healing the sick:

"...whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon-possessed or epileptic or paralyzed - he healed them all." - Matthew 4:24b (NLT)

By this time he had people from all over the place following him, some to be healed, some just to see what this guy was going to do next.  He was pretty famous in the area.  He had a lot of groupies.  So he does something totally unexpected after he's garnished all this momentum:  "One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down, His disciples gathering around them, and he began to teach them."

He went ahead and presented the days lesson to his disciples in public. And sort of indirectly asked everyone following him to go ahead and cop a squat and listen in.

He's the coolest.  Seriously.

Anyway, the things he says are pretty radical, and one of those radical things is the thing we're talking about today, "God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God."

Seems really nice and heartwarming until you put yourselves into the situation of the people who are listening.  The audience is largely Jewish.  They are an occupied nation.

If you've never been to an occupied country, take it from someone who has.  When I went to Northern Ireland (yup, part of the Merry Old United Kingdom) there were soldiers walking the streets.  Posted on street corners.  Eating together in pubs with their machine guns on the table.  Drinking a pint and chatting it up with the clips in.  Pretty much doing whatever it was they wanted to do.  And in the places where trouble was most likely to happen - like say, around a person who was getting a little bit of a following - they were sort of violent.  Sort of aggressive.  Sort of in your face.  They went through your bags.  Checked your car.  That sort of thing.  And the people weren't exactly into it.

There were the Protestants (we in the U.S. will better understand the term "loyalists") who were usually left alone.  They had the better schools, the nicer neighborhoods, the higher paying jobs.  There wasn't much for them to complain about, really.  And there were the Catholics (read "patriots") who were volatile indeed.  And getting searched daily after work.  Pursued into pubs.  Neighborhoods of Catholics were often outfitted with cameras, high powered listening devices, and loudspeakers, so that soldiers could talk to them from wherever they pleased.  Sometimes, things got a little violent.

And so it was with occupied Israel.  Sometimes things got a little violent.

More often than things getting violent, violent things were planned behind the scenes.

These were God's people, and they felt they were occupied wrongly.  They were persecuted pretty much daily by the Roman government.  And though their own leaders encouraged compliance, they were looking for a new leader.  Someone who would not be compliant.  Someone a little wilder.  A little...  less tame.

Jesus was pretty wild.

He said crazy things.  He did crazy things.  Plus he was some kind of magical.

So people never expected him to talk about blessings for peacemakers.  It wasn't a message they wanted to hear.  But he was crazy.  He said crazy things - and yeah, this was one of those things.  And if you keep on reading this radical sermon?  There's a whole lot of follow up on the peacemaking thing.  Like Matthew 5:22 and Matthew 5:43 for starters (Jesus is just warming up!)

We don't see it that way (as radical), but let's think about it differently for a minute.

What if someone said that we, as a nation, should be peacemakers.  We should be working for peace.
 What if they said that meant not invading people with whom we disagree.

What if they said that meant not joining the armed forces.

What if they said that meant not sending drones into civilian areas.

What if they said that meant not spraying pepper spray in the faces of protestors.

What if it meant looking more like Ghandi and less like General Patton.

Yeah. I know.  I'm stepping on toes here.

We in this country hold our military up to something of a holy standard.

I say this as a person who loves a lot of soldiers out there and who prays for them daily by name.  For their safety, for their comfort, for their rest and ability to come home and see their loved ones again.

I don't blame the soldiers. I won't stand for protesting a military funeral.  It's repulsive.

But so is death.  And the spilling of blood over natural resources. And the killing of innocents, the invasion of privacy, the bombing of cities and hospitals and elementary schools... and God weeps for yes, even the killing of the enemies soldiers.

Shane Claiborne said, "When Jesus said love your enemies I'm pretty sure he didn't mean go out and kill them."

I know.

I know all the arguments because I've had them and I've been in them.

There's a reason this country despises hippies.

And no, it isn't because they're dirty, or believe in "free love" or smoke weed.

I believe it's because they stood up for something when it was extremely unpopular to stand up for it.

Not everything they did was right.  They had their own moments of violence and their moments of really horrible actions - sometimes members of the movement yelled things at soldiers.  Sometimes they blamed the messenger.  Sometimes they truly were not Godly.

Other times there were beautiful things:

I mention the hippies because, honestly, when I read that verse, that's the image that pops into my mind.  A hippie chick with flowers in her hair throwing up a peace sign and smiling.  And those above come tumbling out next.

I also know that a lot of people hate hippies.  See them as lazy, dirty, good for nothing dreamers.  What if they're blessed.

What if when I was a young person and I felt vehemently right about the wars our country was fighting...  What if when I saw the towers fall during 9-11 and I thought "YES." when Bush said, "When I take action, I'm not going to fire a two million dollar missile at a ten dollar empty tent and hit a camel in the butt.  It's going to be decisive."  I thought, I admit, "Kill them all.  Wipe the earth clean.  Our soldiers must act as agents of justice."


What if...

I was wrong?

What if...

That was the wordly answer and not the Godly one.

What if those hippies in the mud are more pleasing to God than me proudly saluting the American flag, folding it precisely - me singing taps in the evening at Girl Scout camp - me in my early twenties getting out of the car in the middle of thunderstorm with the wind whipping through my hair and the rain pounding in my face to bring down a flag that was tearing in the storm and carefully fix the clips and grommets before raising it again, with dignity.

What if...

"I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace." - George W. Bush

What if that's a load of malarchy.  An Orwellian tragedy that sends Jesus to his knees with sorrow.

I don't think that's what Jesus meant when he said people who work for peace will be blessed.

I think it's an illusion, when we say what we're doing dropping bombs and sending out drones and shooting people is working for peace.  You can't make peace without peace.  You need love to make more love.  Hate doesn't drive out hate.  Only love can do that.  Someone famous said that once.

I'm probably going to get a lot of flack about writing this.

It's a pretty unpopular message.

They crucified a guy over it once.

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