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Archive for April, 2018

Peace be with you
Easter 3
April 15, 2018
For Beloved Community Mennonite Church
©Vernon K. Rempel, 2018

Bible reading: Luke 24:36b-48
Reader 1: Jesus himself stood among the disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Reader 2: They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.

Reader 3: He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself.

Reader 2: Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

Reader 1: And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

Reader 2: While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”

Reader 3: They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

 

Reader 2: Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”

Reader 1: Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them,

Reader 2: “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Reader 3: You are witnesses of these things.

 

Additional reading:
The peace of Christ make fresh my heart;
how can I keep from singing?
from My life flows on, blue hymnal 580

 

The Dandelion reading
We have been digging dandelions
for the last week or two.
Constant vigilance!
One needs to go out in the yard
every day and look.

If you see one, there are ten.
Keep looking.
Do not try to dig the non-blooming ones too much.
The dandelions of today are trouble enough.
Leave tomorrow’s dandelions for tomorrow.
The dandelion paraphrase of Jesus’ parable.

We know they’re edible.
But we’re not eating them.
And if you let them go,
soon all you have everywhere is dandelions!
And we don’t want to use poison.
So we dig. It’s a form of meditation.

Dandelions really mess with another
parable of Jesus – the one about the seeds:
Sower went out to sow:
Some seeds fell on rocky ground, on the path,
only some fell on good soil, etc.

With dandelions, it’s rocky soil,
don’t mind if I do!
The path – great place to grow.
Tiny crack between pavers
never watered and fried by the sun?
Sure, send down a tap root!
Multiplied a hundred fold every time!

 

That’s the dandelion-allegorical method
of reading the Bible.
Reading the text from the perspective of dandelions.

 

Lectio Divina
In traditional monastic Bible study,
there are four ways or four levels
for reading a Bible text.
(Karen Armstrong talks about this in her book The Bible)

The four are:
Literal – the words on the face of it.
Plain text reading of what’s there.

Moral – meaning for how we live
(you’d think this was enough)

Allegorical – how’s it relate to the Christ story?
The classic way was to relate every text
to Jesus Christ – the Christian connection, if you will.
Allegory could be used to relate the text
to any another key text – thus the dandelion reading.

Mystical – the union with God reading
through meditation on the text.

 

Literal
The literal reading of this text
will take time to note some details.
Jesus says “Peace be with you” to his friends.

They’re at the sea.
They’re terrified, as with most of the
resurrection appearances of Jesus.

He eats fish, because he’s real.
and he tells them that death and resurrection
is the way of things, and to demonstrate
this everywhere for everyone.

That’s the literal summary. Now let’s keep reading the other levels.

 

Moral
“Beginning from Jerusalem”
Start close to home.
Think globally but act locally.

David Whyte has a great poem in this regard:
Start Close In
From his book River Flow: New and Selected Poems

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way to begin
the conversation.

Start with your own
question,
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something
simple.

To hear
another’s voice,
follow
your own voice,
wait until
that voice

becomes an
intimate
private ear
that can
really listen
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

 

“You are witnesses of these things.”
We are the people we have been waiting for.
If you want to see love somewhere,
put love there,
and you will find love.

Could say more, but that
gives us some moral direction.

 

 

Allegorical
Let’s call this reading “Flesh and terror.”
Eating some fish
terror again, as with the Marys in the garden
terror, or puzzlement, or non-recognition

It could be a literary ploy
to make the resurrection believable.
But it also sounds kind of right.
We’d all likely be shocked and terrified
if a loved one started walking around again.

I’m not going to make an argument for bodily resurrection,
except to say, we do well to keep an open mind,
especially for things that seem to want
to make for peace in a world
too acquainted with violence.

Speaking of terror,
Toni Morrison has her great book Beloved.
I’ve only seen the movie,
which was horrifying, disturbing
in a way that made your flesh crawl.

This summary from “grade saver” website:
The horrifying effects of slavery on the family unit are clear. Baby Suggs [grandmother] seems scarcely able to feel love for her relations, numb from a lifetime of loved ones being taken from her. The men, including Paul D, are wanderers, drifting from place to place. Now, Sethe is in the first generation of blacks that can bear children without those children being torn away from her. But Sethe’s family life is still haunted by [a] dead child and the memories of slavery.
http://www.gradesaver.com/beloved/study-guide/summary-part-one-chapters-1-4

Junot Díaz, in writing about his life-long trauma from being raped
when he was 8, quotes Morrison’s book Beloved. He writes:
“Toni Morrison wrote, ‘Anything dead coming back to life hurts.’ In Spanish we say that when a child is born it is given the light. And that’s what it feels like to say the words, X—. Like I’m being given a second chance at the light.”
The New Yorker, 4-16-18
http://nyer.cm/rrZari5

X — stands for saying what happened to him.
Speaking that truth fells like being given
a second chance at the light, says Díaz.

The resurrection story is surely,
if anything,
a story about a second chance
at the light.

Rape, murder of loved ones, attempted murder against us
all are the most terrible traumas
which can also make us present to
all levels of trauma among us and in our lives.
Sexual assault, violent words, ill intention, manipulations.

We all need so much healing.
And we can offer it to each other,
by the simple device of staying available
to each other day after day.

And offering love the best we can,
over and over and over.
“Love, love, love.
Laugh and weep and act for that
which you are discovering
that you love so much.”
One of the Touchstones we read on Thursday evenings
every week.

We do not get rid of trauma.
That’s a misnomer – it’s always with us,
becomes part of our story.
But we fold it into love.
We may fold it into love.
We may fold it into love.

 

Mystical
Finally there is the mystical reading.
For me, the mystical reading of this text
come to that one resonant phrase:
“Peace be with you”

Peace be with you – it’s the resurrection greeting.
It’s for everybody, not only as individuals,
but as economies, as nations.
“repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations”

It’s about human hearts
but about human hearts
connected by economies and by war.
Before his death and resurrection,
whatever that all was,
Jesus was approaching Jerusalem
and he was overcome.

Luke 19:41-44 NRSV
“As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”

Whatever is going on here,
it’s about peace,
powerful, all-transforming peace of Christ,
the God of peace.

We imagine we can’t get on
without forcing each other with lethal force.

Even our marriages are
at the point of a gun,
meaning they have legal force,
and anything with legal force,
can involve police with guns,
and forcible incarceration.

And legislative advocacy
we need good laws
we also need to think about
what it means that when I get a good law
I can force you to abide by it.

This is an seedbed for a lot
of violence, I think.

And we imagine that we must kill each other
for the sake of our nations.

All nations believe this, as far as I can tell.
Which asks a question about what a nation is, for one thing.
And it asks a question about what kind of power
do we need to live as human beings
in communal situations.

“Peace be with you.”
It echoes through the ages.

This is a mystical “peace” reading of the text.
Let’s try saying “peace be with you”
just as a final lectio divina.

And then I will offer sentences on what we might do,
and a closing blessing.

Pass mic to say “peace be with you”
in many voices and intonations.

 

What to do?
This last bit of reading could be called the “action” reading,
surely implicit in the other four, but here made plain, perhaps.

—U.S. could start funding & developing non-lethal weapons; like the LAPD, of all organizations, which has devoted significant time and money to developing non-lethal weapons.
(Annals of Technology, The New Yorker June 2, 2008 “Non-lethal Force: Looking for ways to stop violent criminals, without killing them. By Alec Wilkinson
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/06/02/non-lethal-force

—Take the punishment out of our prisons & vocabulary, including removing the death penalty which more and more clearly looks simply like state-sponsored revenge, and prison sentences designed to scare and harm, rather than reform & restore. We’re supposed to be operating correctional facilities, not punishment facilities.

—Read studies like Gene Sharp’s magisterial 3 volumes on non-violent response, which I have on the welcome table for you to look at.

—Study, extend, deepen the work of restorative justice, which seeks real, substantive, compassionate healing work wherever relationships are torn by violence, crime, trauma.

Just four ideas out of many others.

Peace be with you.
Peace can be with us.
Peace was, is and will be with us.
Amen.

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