Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Peace and Palm Sunday

Here is an excerpt from my Palm Sunday sermon. I hope it makes sense on its own.

Our world essentially offers one model of peace, it is the peace achieved either through victory or ironically through victimhood. In either scenario the peace we seek is simply the ability to be insulated and protected from any unwanted contact. As the victor we try to overwhelm the source of conflict and impose order on it as the United States continues to attempt in Iraq. In relationships we use our status or authority or manipulation to impose our way in times of conflict. And strangely enough we also often use the role of victimhood to attempt to overcome conflict. To be classified as a victim can absolve us of facing any criticism. In relationships if we can convince the other person that they are evil then we may debilitate their influence on us.

Now I want to be clear that this has nothing to do with someone who is the victim of abuse. In these instances the victim should be protected from the abuser. What I am referring to is how we use the role of victim to keep ourselves from meaningful, constructive relationships. Ultimately we all need to open up to someone in a meaningful way.

In both positions change or growth becomes difficult because differing voices are no longer heard, they have been effectively silenced. Chris Heubner writes that “the culture of victimhood simply reproduces the same logic of power as that of victory, namely a competition for security and control. Put differently, the hero and victim are both expressions of a desire to escape difficulty.” In both of these scenarios peace cannot be established because peace requires right relationships and these positions choke out the possibility of meaningful relationships.

When we receive Christ like the crowds did on Palm Sunday we often assume both positions. Out of a position of being victimized we, like the people, call on Jesus to enter as our victor and overcome our enemies dramatically and decisively.
Then we often become offended when Jesus does not put people in their place. And then we are even more offended when Jesus implies that perhaps we may have some things to work on.

The reality of Christ’s peace enters when we discard our attempts to preserve our lives, our attempts to impose order through the position of either victor or victim. The peace of Christ assumes that it is in fact our very lives that become the medium for peace. We do not create peace we receive, become, and then offer peace.

The extreme example we are given is this that of the martyr. I am not using the term martyr as it is commonly used today when we say that someone is making themselves a martyr. That is the definition of victim that I used earlier. Indeed Huebner writes that “one cannot designate oneself a martyr.” Also I am not assuming that a martyr is necessarily someone who dies for their faith. Rather, and I think this important, the martyr is someone who give their life for their faith.
The martyr does not enter into conflict in order to play by its rules. A martyr can do this because her identity is not defined by or dependent on the instability of the conflicting beliefs, practices or relationships that surround her. A martyr does not use the practices or materials of conflict to overcome conflict.
This is the call to be in the world but not of the world.

Being of the world means allowing Christ to remain as an icon to grace our wall. Christ the icon remains still and static passively accepting the role that we give to him allowing us to use our own means to accomplish our tasks.
Being in the world but not of it means being on the watch for a Jesus who comes on his donkey receives our welcome and continues to move on. It is in his passing through that we are confronted with the question of understanding what will bring us peace.

Here we are reminded of a parable that Jesus tried to prepare us with. This is the story of the king who gave his servants some money and then went away. When the king came back he only scolded the servant who did nothing with his money except try to protect it. The money given to the servants represents their lives. We cannot keep our lives and so we only have the choice of either trying to protect our lives or of investing, of giving our lives. Ironically enough this is the parable that Luke leads into Jesus’s entry on a donkey.
We know what it is to give our lives to our work or our family but to give our lives for Christ is to participate in something earlier, something deeper than the violence of world. It is to return, at least in part, to peace of creation. But first we must follow Jesus this Easter. Follow him and his donkey as he moves through us this Palm Sunday.
Follow him to the Last Supper where gives us the image and command of service to one another.
Follow him into the Garden of Gethsemane where he too wrestles with his own human understanding and his divine calling.
Follow, perhaps only at distance, to the hill of skulls on Good Friday where Jesus confronts the ultimate violence of death.
Watch for him on Easter Saturday as he prepares his return.
Celebrate him Easter Sunday and invite the peace of God in our midst.

Lord have mercy,

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