TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
Prayer of the Day: O God, our eternal redeemer, by the presence of your Spirit you renew and direct our hearts. Keep always in our mind the end of all things and the day of judgment. Inspire us for a holy life here, and bring us to the joy of the resurrection, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
ALL SAINTS DAY
Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, you have knit your people together in one communion in the mystical body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Whichever text preachers decide to preach this Sunday, I hope they all lift up All Saints Day. In these days when we find Orthodox Christians in Europe putting aside their unity in Christ in order to promote the military ambitions of their respective nation states and refugees (many of them Christians) fleeing for their lives are turned away by Christian vigilanties shouting “America First,” we need to be reminded who and whose we are. We need to hear above the din of patriotic rhetoric the prayer of Jesus that his church be perfectly one. Now more than ever the church needs to be reminded that its sole ultimate loyalty is to the one who spoke these words to his disciples, their spiritual ancestors:
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:27-31.
The church of Jesus Christ has always understood itself as a global community transcending the borders of ethnicity and nationaI affiliation. In spite of our sorry fragmentation, we have always maintained that we are one, holy, catholic and apostolic. Historically, however, nationalistic loyalty has trumped catholicity pitting Christian against Christian in military bloodletting. Now I worry that, if the church fails to disentangle itself from the false gods of nation, blood, soil and the myths and rituals of systemic injustice holding them in place, we will destroy whatever meaning and credibility the name of Jesus still carries. By disentangling the church, this is what I mean:
- No weapons of any kind in our sanctuaries, in our offices, schools, church camps or any other church property. That should not even have to be said. But the sad truth is there are congregations taking the view that the only way to protect their members from violence is by arming them or hiring armed security. Apparently, Jesus was not allowed to participate in the deliberation process and his approach to aggression was set aside in favor of the NRA mantra, “Only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” The way of Jesus, it seems, is fine for neighbors who have nothing between them but white picket fences. But when it comes enemies, sorry Jesus, go play with the Sunday School kids. We need a manly man.
- No weapons of any kind belong in a Christian home-unless in the possession of a legal law enforcement official. I am no fan of the so-called “just war” theory. But it is what my own church and most orthodox Christian churches espouse. That doctrine holds that the default posture of Christians is absolute pacifism-the kind Jesus teaches. There is but one narrow exception to this rule and that is for agents of the government entrusted with keeping the peace. Consequently, no disciple of Jesus should be carrying arms for any purpose outside of that single narrow exception. That is not some radical leftist idea dreamed up in a 1960s commune. It is what Christians from Augustine to Luther have taught. No biship or pastor should have any hesitency in teaching it as well. In a sick and twisted culture of violence that gleefully sacrifices its children on the altar of the Second Amendment, the teaching, practice and discipline of peace needs to be at the core of the church’s life.
- A strong condemnation of America’s and NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine. Let me start by saying unequivocally that there is no moral equivalency between Russia’s blatant war of aggression and Ukraine’s defense of its homeland. I condemn and I think anyone with a reasonable sense of morality would also condemn the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Still, if the conflicts in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us anything, it is the futility of trying to resolving differences by military means. If the present conflict in eastern Europe does not escalate into a wider conflict, if it does not trigger a nuclear exchange, if it does not manage to starve millions of Africans by blocking the transfer of much needed grain, then it will surely continue as long as NATO and Russia have weapons to pour into it. Thus, the best case scenario for this war is its indefinite continuation until someone on one side or the other decides it just isn’t worth prolonging. That could be a very long time. In the meantime, we have seen in living color the horrendous cost in human life. It will only get worse. One tenant of the just war theory states that arms may not be used in a futile cause or in a case where disproportionate measures are required to achieve success. I believe that, by any reasonable measure, the destructive violence unleashed by both sides of the conflict in Ukraine is disproportionate to anything like success and that success is by any measure a pipe dream. You might remember how in March of this year the people of Lviv, Ukraine placed in front of their city hall one hundred and ninety-nine strollers in neat rows – one for each child killed since the start of the war in Ukraine. Is any nation, flag or ideology worth that terrible sacrifice? To be clear, I believe there are things worth dying for. I believe there are things for which sacrificing life and limb is a worthy and faithful act. Blood, soil, national identity are not among them. I don’t think it is the place of the church to instruct the nations of the world in diplomacy. But we who believe that all humanity is one, that all people of every nation, tribe and people bear the image of their Maker, that on all sides of every national conflict is the Body of Christ, we need to say clearly, unequivocally and without hesitation to the leaders of the nations in which we reside that this war has to stop.
I have said before and I will say again that peacemaking is not one of the church’s many tasks. It is the task. As Saint Paul instructs us, we are ambassadors of reconciliation. It is our calling to preach peace far and near. II Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 2:17. More than that, we are to be witnesses for peace, confronting hatred with kindness, curses with prayer, violence with non-violence, abuse with forgiveness and generosity. And yes, the consequence of becoming vulnerable and approaching our enemies with the open hand of friendship might be getting a nail punched through that hand. Jesus is not speaking metaphorically when he calls upon his disciples to take up the cross. Nevertheless, as the great Reformation hymn reminds us, “Were they to take our house, goods, honor, child or spouse, though life be wretched away, they cannot win the day. The kingdom’s ours forever!” “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (c. 2006 by Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, pub. by Augsburg Fortress) Hymn # 504.
I fear that the world will pay little attention to the church’s witness for peace until Christians are prepared to sacrifice as much for the gentle and peaceful reign of God as the worshipers of nation, blood and soil are sacrificing daily to their idols. Until Jesus’ prayer is answered and the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church becomes a visible reality transcending humanly drawn borders, those borders will continue to divide and more blood will be spilled in their defense.
Here is a poem by Eloise Robinson illustrating the wounds inflicted upon Christ in our military conflicts. If we would follow Jesus, we must be prepared to take on these very wounds.
LAUGH to see them pray
And think God still is in the sky.
The little Christ whose name they say
They burned his house and killed his priest,
Just as the Bible saith.
We had no milk for little Christ
There was a Virgin Mary made
To sit in church, all whitely sweet,
And hear our prayers. She smiled and played
All day with baby Jesus’ feet.
Each day, our faces clean like snow,
Amid the candle-shine and myrrh
We children, standing in a row,
With folded hands would sing to her.
“O Mary, let thy gentle son
I wish that we had prayed to her
She did not know about the war.
The sun-waves floated past the sill
And buzzy, bumping flies.
My Mother lay all pale and still,
I promised her I would be brave
And all the things she asked I gave,
But at the end all I could do
And hide my face. I never knew
The Christ would come that way.
My Mother held me close to her;
How sweet she was, alone and dear,
Her face was just like Mary’s face,
I took the Christ Child from that place
There were long, dust-gray roads to run,
And sticks that hurt my feet,
And dead fields lying in the sun,
The Baby Jesus never cried,
But with soft little lips and weak
Wee hands kept nuzzling at my side
We slept beneath a bending tree,
And woke up in the light to see
The sun lift up the sky.
And all the birds that ever were
Sang to the Christ Child then,—
Sweet thrush and lark and woodpecker,
There were no bells for mass
White faces lying in the grass
They made a little, lonely bed
Where it was cold and dim.
The baby Christ was dead, quite dead.
There was no milk for him.
Source: Poetry, May 1917 I have been unable to learn anything about this poet, including her dates of birth and death. I would welcome any information anyone would be able to provide me!
2 thoughts on “One Holy Catholic And Apostolic Church”
Good words Peter. Many thanks. Hope you and Sesle are well and enjoying what I hear is a beautiful fall in Wellfleet. It’s been gorgeous and really warm here. Take care. Love,
Tracey Lind 216-409-6129 email@example.com http://www.traceylind.com
Thanks Tracey. Sesle and I are well. We had a bout with Covid in late September. Sesle spent a night in the hospiatal and I had a couple of days of coughing, congestion and achiness, but we were both back on our feet again in a few days. Sesle now has her recumbant bike and we are doing a lot of biking. We biked the cannal this afternoon and enjoyed a lovely Indian summer day. Hope all is well with you. Greet Emily for us. God’s peace.