Friday, May 30, 2008

The Audacity of Peace

The other day I received a forwarded email that had been sent out to a group of politically conservative members of my congregation. The email featured a video (see below) of Senator Barack Obama stating his views on the war in Iraq, military defense spending, and goals toward global nuclear missile disarmament. I actually don't know who was responsible for sending the original email, but there were several remarks about Obama's plans as being "scary" and "incredibly naive."

After watching the video I must admit I was a little confused. I didn't find anything at all "scary" about the senator's position. In fact, I really liked it. I understood him to be holding out a peaceful vision for the future. Now before you say to yourself: "Oh, here we go again—just another young, white, educated guy caught up in the rock star status of Obama," bear with me for a moment. I happen to like Obama, but this isn't about Obama's candidacy as much as it is about a Christian perspective on peace and what it means to be people who witness to the Kingdom of God.

Although the Old Testament is not shy about strife between nations and the Israelites often times being right in the middle of all the war and bloodshed, we can’t overstate the vision that one day peace would eventually fill the lands. The prophets testified to this future hope of a peaceful world. Perhaps the most enduring image the Prophet Isaiah lifted up was that found in Isaiah 2:4-5:

“He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; 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. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!

The prophet’s vision for a peaceful world would be reinforced in the person of Jesus, Israel’s long awaited Messiah. On the night he was betrayed, Jesus refused to fight and refused to have any of his followers engage in acts of violence. I hear it often quoted, but let's not forget that Jesus was the first to choin the phrase, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.”

When I consider the thrust (thank you Dr. Spina) of the biblical narrative, I have to say a vision of peace is one the most central features. The prophets talked about it. Jesus talked about it. Even the book of Revelation talks about it. And as those who follow in the Way of Jesus, giving witness to the Kingdom of God, it would seem that we too should work towards peace. So why are Christians, out all people, so reluctant to believe that a day would ever come where we could be making political strides with other countries to jointly dismantle nuclear arsenals? Why is peace such an audacious endeavor?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Making

It’s Sunday morning, the second Sunday after Pentecost, right in the middle of Memorial Day weekend. My responsibilities this morning are relatively light. However, I do have the task of delivering an award winning children’s sermon. I’m going to try and engage the kids over this idea of making memorials.

One of my favorite passages out of the Old Testament comes from the book of Joshua. The Israelites have just been instructed to cross the Jordan River while at flood stage. The passage to the other side of the river is seemingly unattainable, yet when the people come to the water’s edge the river stops flowing and all the people walk across on dry ground. After everyone had crossed the river, Joshua gives instruction to have twelve stones removed from the river and has them set up as a memorial so when the descendants ask about the stones their parents can recall the time when God held back the Jordan.

Memorials work in two ways: 1) Memorials help us to remember important people and events of the past, and 2) memorials give us guidance for the future. For the Israelites, the stones that came out of the Jordan were not just about reminding the people of a past event; the stones were about shaping the future identity of the people. If you’ve ever gone hiking you’ll know that many trials are marked by stones piled high. These piles of stones demonstrate that others have been here before, but they also mark the correct path to follow.

As I write this I’m thinking about my friends around the globe that are nearing times of transition; the year abroad is almost over and it’s time to come home or move on to something different. To these friends I pray that many stones would be piled high.

I hope the kids get it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Making the Pilgrimage

I can't claim to be a big Red Sox fan, however, going to Fenway Park to watch my first Red Sox game today was kind of like entering baseball's holy of holies. It's a pilgrimage every fan of baseball ought to make. Major League Baseball's oldest ballpark has a very distinct feel, especially when compared to some of the newer parks like Safeco. The game was action packed, seeing not one, but two grand slams from J.D. Drew and Mike Lowell! The folks in the lower grand stands also got a pretty sweet wave going. Besides the "Monster Dog" I immediately regretted eating, it was a very good day.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Old Friends

The first half of the week I was host to old family friends that I traveled to South Africa with back in 1998. Since that trip I think I have seen David and Lynn (just newly weds at the time of the trip) only a handful of times. The last time I had seen them their daughter was only 2 years old. Margret is now 8 and since then Madeline has been added to the line-up. It's crazy how time flies and how you can go 6 years without seeing the same people you used to see on a daily basis. I guess this is a part of growing up? Going years and years without seeing people only to get a random phone call: "Hey, I'm in the area!" Anyway, it was great reconnecting with them and becoming and instant "uncle" and being able to play host, even if their family of 4 didn't really fit in my apartment.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Sailing Trinity

Recently a women from the church suggested that I try and get on the crew of a sailboat. I've had some experience sailing with my dad and have enjoyed it, so I figured it would be worth looking into. Tonight I attended the 2008 Summer of Sailing Kick Off Party at the Captain Simeon's restaurant in Kittery, Maine. I knew I couldn't stay long, but I was still nervous about walking into a crowded room alone, wondering how I was going to finagle my way onto a boat. Luckily, the woman who had suggested the whole crewing a boat idea had supplied me with the name of a skipper belonging to the Portsmouth Yacht Club who was to be in attendance. All I knew was that I needed to talk to Doug. But here's the weird part: People wanting to crew a boat were to wear a bright yellow rist band while skippers wore matching baseball caps. The social standings of the sailing community were clearly drawn, and I was unmistakably at the bottom of the caste. Eventually I found Doug. Doug entered my number into his phone's contact list. I think I'll be crewing a 47 ft. Sailboat this summer named Trinity.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I Have To Do What!?

Way back when, when I first learned that I would officiate a wedding within the first year of my internship I was pretty much scared to death. Why you ask? For starters, I have never been married and I’m nowhere close to being married. Furthermore, I’ve never been involved in a relationship that ended well—they’ve all been rather disastrous. “Disastrous” may be too strong of a word, but I’m feeling eccentric. I've always wondered, "What do I have to offer these people?" Anyway, despite all my anxiety surrounding the inevitable duty of officiating a wedding, I am extraordinarily pleased to say that my experience with the couple whose wedding I will be officiating July 19th has been far better than I could have ever imagined. They have been extremely laid-back throughout the whole process and the dialogue that has emerged out of the pre-marital counseling has been very constructive, if not exciting. During our third meeting yesterday it was fun to talk about how we will always have a special connection. Forever I will be the young minister that officiated their wedding, and I will always remember them as being the first couple I ever had the privilege of declaring husband and wife.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Eucharist Community

In less than a week’s time I have had two distinct glimpses—scratch that—more like high definition images of what I think the church is called to be in this world. The first experience involved moving two sisters out of a condemned mobile home that I wrote about in an earlier post. The second experience happened after the worship service last Sunday. Pastor John had just given a message about prayer and healing and invited the congregation to receive prayer in the chapel. I was one of several people in the chapel that had received “training” to pray for healing and to anoint with oil the sign of the cross upon the foreheads of those seeking prayer. After praying with several near strangers, my favorite member of the Rye Over 55 Club walked into the room with eyes full of tears. Being one of those men with a rare but serious overactive tear glad disorder (ok, I just cry a lot for a dude), the downcast look on my elderly friend’s face brought instant tears to my eyes. She wanted prayer for her deteriorating joints, emotional stability, and for her friend dying from cancer. She was overwhelmed to say the least. Then I was overwhelmed. I started to pray but tears flowed more freely than words. So I stopped talking, and there we sat, huddled in the corner of the chapel, filling the trash can with used tissues. In this very tender moment our humanity lay raw. But in the midst of all this I was conscious of what was transpiring. This was an expression of the Eucharist Community alive and well. Here we were, two people three generations apart, being broken and poured out for our hurts and the wounds of the world.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Going Organic

In recent months I've taken an interest in sustainable growing. Through many conversations with vegetable enthusiasts, a professional tomato grower, a compost maniac, and a book called In Defense of Food, I have officially caught the organic bug. I've also had the opportunity to create a garden with the help of several others from the church. Yesterday we built 4 raised beds and filled them with 12 yards of "superloam" (fancy compost/dirt mix). I think we'll plant some peas next week with many other veggies to follow. I'm really excited to see what this little garden can produce. I'll post more updates and pictures in the future as the garden grows.