Lectio Divina Paci – September 22, 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014

for Sunday, September 28, 2014

16th Sunday after Pentecost

READ: Philippians 2.1-13 “consolation” and “selfish ambition”

REFLECT: The first thing that came to mind when I read the word “consolation” was a consolation prize for the loser on a reality television show. I’m usually in the minority when I tell people that I’m unable to watch reality television. Lies and deception, mistrust and back-stabbing. It’s not fun for me, it’s painful. All I can see is selfish ambition.

As I continued to read, I thought about another use of the word “consolation” as found in the Examen of Ignatius of Loyola. The Examen is a form of prayer in which one reviews the day, paying close attention to the “consolations” and “desolations”. These are inner stirrings of the heart that lead either to an increase or decrease in faith, hope and love, respectively.

Again my thoughts turned to reality television, and I remembered that there was in fact a show that I appreciated, precisely because its premise was contrary to so many other shows in the wilderness/survival genre. Bear Grylls, host of “Get Out Alive,” rewards those who look to the good of the whole group. On this show, participants are penalized and reprimanded for selfish ambition at the expense of others. Humility and love are not consolation prizes for the weak. They are key attributes of the winners.

RESPOND: God, help us to remember that humility and love for others is the way to exercise and put into practice your saving grace in our own lives. Help us to trust that as we care for one another, we can let down our guards and experience deeper and more meaningful relationships and stronger communities.

Think about your home, neighborhood or workplace. Is there a culture of mutual love and respect, or competition and undercutting? Choose one person from one of these contexts with whom you are at odds. What might happen if you adopted an attitude of humility rooted in love?

LECTIONARY TEXTS FOR THE UPCOMING SUNDAY (and for you to try on your own):

Exodus 17.1-17

Psalm 25.1-9

Matthew 21.23-32

 

Lectio Divina Paci is a weekly devotional guide for peacemakers in the lectio divina form. Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scripture reading, prayer, meditation, and reflection that treats scripture as the Living Word. Lectio Divina Paci is an opportunity for peacemakers to become more in tune with the voice of the Prince of Peace.

Lectio Divina Paci – September 15, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

for Sunday, September 21, 2014

15th Sunday after Pentecost

READ: Philippians 1.21-30 “fruitful labor”

REFLECT: I imagine we’d all like to think that our time and efforts are not spent in vain. Indeed, two people can engage in the same action — but with different motives and intentions — and one’s labor can be fruitful while another’s can be in vain.

As I prayed through this passage, two scenes emerged. Both scenes took place in a rock quarry. In the first scene, a group of chained prisoners were set to the task of breaking down boulders into gravel. Different motives fueled them. In one it was the desire to dominate the group and assert power. In another, it was the people-pleasing desire to look good to others. In a third it was the desire to achieve personal security through hard work. But no matter how hard they worked, nothing would ever be done with the gravel they produced, and there were always more boulders to break down. These various motives, unchecked and with no healthy outlet, turned inward and ate them alive.

In the second scene, a free person was also engaged in breaking down boulders. As a free person, there was meaning and purpose, agency and human freedom. These rocks were destined to build something, something greater and beyond the self.

RESPOND: God, you alone know my motives. Sometimes I can even deceive myself. Search my heart, God. Where am I acting in freedom, and where am I reacting and merely propping up my ego? Help me to look with compassion and to let go of false security, people-pleasing, and the need for control.

Think for a moment about a time when you felt frustrated in your efforts or work. Try to identify the underlying motivation. Was it the need for affection and esteem, belonging and security, or power and control? How did you feel in your body? Let that physical sensation be a signal to you that you are not acting in freedom, and to let go in surrender to God.

LECTIONARY TEXTS FOR THE UPCOMING SUNDAY (and for you to try on your own):

Exodus 16.2-15

Psalm 145.1-8

Matthew 20.1-16

 

Lectio Divina Paci is a weekly devotional guide for peacemakers in the lectio divina form. Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scripture reading, prayer, meditation, and reflection that treats scripture as the Living Word. Lectio Divina Paci is an opportunity for peacemakers to become more in tune with the voice of the Prince of Peace.

Balancing Acts – Peace and Justice 101-Revisited

tom b

Editor’s Note: Tom Beutel, a regular contributor to PeaceSigns, is Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Balancing Acts is a monthly feature of PeaceSigns and appears the second week of each month.

by Tom Beutel

I wrote the following article seven years ago for Peace Signs. It seems appropriate to re-visit it again as we reflect this month on MCC Peace Sunday.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

John 14:27 (NRSV)

I recently received an e-mail from a friend that included several questions related to peace that had been posed to her. As I considered responding, I was again reminded of the fact that often we who talk about peace assume that everyone means the same thing by the word “peace,” yet this is not necessarily the case.

First and foremost, peace is much broader and richer than simply the absence of war or violence (or for that matter than the absence of anything). The word that is normally translated peace in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word shalom. One way to think of shalom is that it denotes healthy, right relationships including those between people and God, people with and within themselves, people with other people (including nation with nation), and people with the rest of creation (the land, “nature”, the Earth).

Perry Yoder, in his book Shalom: The Bible’s Word for Salvation, Justice, & Peace, describes the use of the word shalom to indicate not only right relationships, but also material prosperity and moral integrity. Peace, in terms of shalom, is not present if one or more of these three conditions is absent. For example, there is not peace (shalom) when some have prosperity at the expense of others. It does not matter whether the inequity is intentional or not. Because all do not have prosperity – and by implication, a healthy, right relationship with each other – the state of affairs is not one of shalom.

Yoder also defines shalom less formally as “things being as they ought to be.” Whether “things are as they ought to be” is determined by whether all (not just some) are doing better than just getting by, whether relationships (including those with God, self, and the rest of creation, as well as with others) are healthy, and whether there is moral “rightness.”

This informal definition of shalom can be helpful in understanding whether there is peace in a given situation. If North Americans have abundant, inexpensive goods while those in developing countries endure sweatshop workplace conditions to make these goods, there is not shalom – things are not as they ought to be. If a friend, relative or neighbor does not know the person of Jesus Christ, does not understand the rich, satisfying life available in right relationship with God, there is not shalom – things are not as they ought to be. If people are hungry, or without clothing or a home or health care or work, there is not shalom – things are not as they ought to be.

Shalom is only possible when there is justice. Where injustice exists, at least one of the three components of shalom will not be present. Typically, we tend to think of justice as “fairness.” However, the Biblical idea of justice is richer than this. An excerpt of the commentary to Article 22 of The Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective [1995] reads:

According to Greek and Roman ideas of justice, people should get what they deserve.

According to the Bible, justice involves healing and restoring relationships. That is a

reason for the special concern for the poor and the oppressed evident in the Bible

(Deut. 24:10-22; Matt. 20:1-16; James 2:5).

This is a key concept. Biblical justice is not based on merit (deserving) – either positive or negative – but rather on need. Biblical justice is not about punishing those who have “done wrong,” nor is it about rewarding those who have “done right.” God’s justice provides what is needed to restore shalom – material prosperity, right relationship, and moral integrity. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:45, “your Father in heaven … makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” This is “just” because, it is what is needed. Whether “good” or “evil,” “righteous” or “unrighteous” all need the sun and the rain so that they may have the basic provisions of life.

A perfect example of justice as what is needed rather than what is deserved is Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16. In this parable the owner of a vineyard, goes to the marketplace throughout the day hiring laborers to work in his vineyard. The first ones hired, early in the morning, are promised a day’s wages. Those hired later in the day are promised that they will be paid “whatever is right.” When the end of the day comes, those hired last, near the end of the day, are given a full day’s wage as are all of the others, including those who were hired first. According to the way we typically see justice, we would say that this is not fair since those hired last did not work the full day and therefore do not deserve a full day’s wage. However, if we look at justice as providing what is needed rather than what is deserved, we see that this is “fair.” Each man hired needed a day’s wage to buy food and take care of his family. Thus, each received a day’s wage.

There are many books related to Biblical peace and justice. Some that I have found helpful include:

  • Choosing Against War by John D. Roth, 2002, Good Books
  • Letters to American Christians by John Stoner and Lois Barrett, 1989, Herald Press
  • What Would You Do? by John Howard Yoder, 1983, Herald Press
  • The Politics of Jesus (2nd edition) by John Howard Yoder, 1994, William B. Eerdmans
  • Shalom: The Bible’s Word for Salvation, Justice, & Peace by Perry Yoder, 1987, Evangel Publishing House
  • Kingdom Ethics by Glenn Stassen & David Gushee, 2003, Intervarsity Press

The following links provide general information and resources related to peace and justice and opportunities to take action to promote peace and justice in practical ways:

As we try individually to live lives of peace and justice and work and advocate for peace and justice in our communities, the nation, and the world, it is important to keep in mind that God’s peace, shalom, is characterized by material prosperity, right relationships, and moral integrity. There is peace when things are as they ought to be.

POEM – 912 : I Come to Work in Borrowed Clothes

I come to work in borrowed clothes
With face unshaven
Body washed, but not perfumed
Unadorned and entombed
In this angry earth and her grinding groans.

What is real becomes the stuff of dreams
Nightmare voices resurrected
Ears behind the three day stubble
Strain the silence from the rubble
Of a hundred hearts bursting at the seams.

Babel towers have crumbled down to dust
We are not gods
Just mere mortals armed with precious pride
Where love is lost is truth denied
My God, My God, why hast thou now forsaken us?

Were I to wrend these stranger clothes
Like some temple curtain
Grief would fit so unfamiliar
On feeble frames of we peculiar
Creatures, broken bodies lying naked and exposed.

We sit safe at table, you and I
Hear the smack
We arise from bread and wine and go to the window
To find a frozen finch robed in yellow
And see those fiery crosses crashing forever in our minds.

Crucify. Crucify. Crucify.
Lord, is it I?
Is it I?

Excerpted from peacegrooves.wordpress.com. Written on September 12, 2001

Lectio Divina Paci – September 8, 2014

Monday, September 8, 2014

for Sunday, September 14, 2014

14th Sunday after Pentecost

READ: Romans 14.1-12 “stand”

REFLECT: This is the challenge of life, it seems: to stand in faith, in courage, in love, in hope. Most of the time, I feel more like I’m wobbling on one leg, trying to balance, about to fall over at any moment. But as I read through this passage several times, an option besides falling emerged — “be upheld.” As I prayed about this, an image of a well emerged. The well was deep, narrow and hard to access. It was in a cave that could only be entered by crawling. A desperate act. This is where I go to shelter after I’ve fallen. And I prayed for an alternative way to live, another way to access that living water.

The scene changed and I was standing on the coast of California, before the entire expanse of the Pacific Ocean. It was sunny and cool and I could stretch out and breathe deeply. It was a place where I could stand, upheld. As I sat with this image, I asked God how I could stand in that place more regularly, not just on retreat, not just to get back on my feet. It is the place of union with God.

RESPOND: God, sometimes I forget that you are always present. In times of swelling love and freedom and in times of wrenching despair, help me to remember that like Rumi says, you are nearer than my own breath. Prompt me, Holy Spirit, to glance inward throughout the day, to align myself with your love and hope, and to rest — even for a moment — in union with you.

How can you make checking in with God a part of your daily rhythm of life? Think about something ordinary that you do every day — like climbing a set of stairs, turning a door knob, or switching on a light. Let this act serve as a prompt to glance inward, affirm and be filled with God’s presence, and continue on with your day upheld in faith, hope, and love.

LECTIONARY TEXTS FOR THE UPCOMING SUNDAY (and for you to try on your own):

Exodus 14.19-31

Psalm 103.(1-7), 8-13

Matthew 18.21-35

 

Lectio Divina Paci is a weekly devotional guide for peacemakers in the lectio divina form. Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scripture reading, prayer, meditation, and reflection that treats scripture as the Living Word. Lectio Divina Paci is an opportunity for peacemakers to become more in tune with the voice of the Prince of Peace.

Lectio Divina Paci – September 1, 2014

Monday, September 1, 2014

for Sunday, September 7, 2014

13th Sunday after Pentecost

READ: Romans 13.8-14 “as yourself”

REFLECT: I suspect that for many of us, to love our neighbors as ourselves would not be a good thing. When I read through this passage the first time, I imagined a spectrum of treatments — from neglect to abuse, from ignoring physical needs, signs of distress and cries for help, to active emotional, physical and mental mistreatment. You may be thinking, “Of course I would never abuse my neighbor! Of course I would notice and offer to help if I saw signs of trouble or heard cries for help!” But the challenge I hear rising up from reading this passage today is this: can I recognize signs of trouble in my own body, mind and heart?

May of us have bought into the notion that loving ourselves and taking time to care for ourselves is selfish. We think that the time we spend on ourselves is time that could have been spent on someone else in need. Self-care has become something rare and indulgent like getting a massage or a manicure. Real, effective self-care needs to be practiced on a regular, daily basis. It is a necessity, not a luxury. As we say in my office at work, you’ve got to put your own oxygen mask on before attempting to help others.

RESPOND: God, we’re so good at twisting words — yours, others’, even our own. Help us to recognize areas of false humility in our lives, places where we pride ourselves and deceive ourselves about how we sacrifice for others. Give us the courage to acknowledge these places and to let them go in favor of true love.

Take a few moments to be quiet. What deep need for care rises up from within you? Ask God to sit with you as you sift through places in yourself that you’ve been ignoring. What would it take to carve out some space to pay attention to one of these areas? What small change or shift can you make even today?

LECTIONARY TEXTS FOR THE UPCOMING SUNDAY (and for you to try on your own):

Exodus 12.1-14

Psalm 119.33-40

Matthew 18.15-20

 

Lectio Divina Paci is a weekly devotional guide for peacemakers in the lectio divina form. Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scripture reading, prayer, meditation, and reflection that treats scripture as the Living Word. Lectio Divina Paci is an opportunity for peacemakers to become more in tune with the voice of the Prince of Peace.

Ambassadors for Christ

by J. Ron Byler Ron Byler

God . . . through Christ, has given us the ministry of reconciliation. (II Corinthians 5:20)

“You can’t invite people into the family of God and refuse to be their brothers and sisters,” MCC country representative Paul Mosley told the 90 Intervarsity Fellowship student leaders gathered for a retreat at a Catholic seminary in central Burundi.  Paul told us later that these students are all of Tutsi and Hutu ethnic origin and it is very likely that every single one of them has lost a family member to the civil wars and genocide in the region in the last 20 years.

“We are ambassadors for Christ and God’s message of reconciliation,” Paul told the students.  These students are here for three days of intensive Bible study and it is also likely that these few days could change these students’ lives.

A decade ago, 15 other university students in Burundi attended a similar IVF gathering to study the Bible. As a group, they decided that they wanted to respond together to what they were studying in God’s word.

Today, these 15 students are the governing body for Help Channel, a Christian ministry in Burundi reaching out to people in need through large-scale relief and development projects. Their efforts are desperately needed because ninety percent of Burundians are small, rural farmers living in poverty with little formal education.

A few of the former students are involved in the administration of Help Channel’s projects, but most have professional careers elsewhere and simply support Help Channel’s ministries with their volunteer time and financial contributions.

In addition to food security and water management projects, Help Channel addresses a wide range of other issues primary school education, HIV/AIDs education and family planning, as well as humanitarian aid and agricultural projects.

“We want to share the gifts the Lord gave us with the most vulnerable people among us,” director Cassien Ndikuriyo told me.

Help Channel initially began in response to a drought. The students worked to develop a network of churches to respond to the crisis. This network of churches continues to be an important part of how Help Channel responds to the needs of the communities they serve. Churches even help identify the beneficiaries of their various ministries.

“We see ourselves as the deacons of the church, helping the widows and orphans among us,” Cassien told me. Ambassadors for Christ, as Paul reminded a new group of students just a couple of days ago at the retreat center.

It is hard to figure out how these Bible study groups fit into a formal strategic plan, Paul told me later, but given the fruit the Bible studies are producing, he knows it is something he needs to keep doing. In addition to the leaders of the Help Channel, that original Bible study 15 years ago has also produced the leaders of four more of the partner organizations MCC works with in the region.

Paul and these former students are ambassadors for Christ and ministers of reconciliation.

Ron Byler is executive director of MCC U.S. He returned from a trip in eastern Congo, Burundi and Kenya in early May.