Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Update and Overview

O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Summer Update:

For those who have been asking, here is the run-down on my summer plans:
1) 2 Weeks at Eastern Mennonite University( I will be participating in the Summer Peacebuilding Institute and will be taking classes in peacemaking and reconciliation. This will be an incredible opportunity to gain some real skills in Christian peacemaking that will be invaluable for future work in the Middle East.

2) 2 Weeks in the Middle East?? I am still praying and waiting to hear about an invitation to go to this summer's Global Anglican Future conference in Jerusalem and Jordan.

3) 1 Month at Mepkin Abbey. This is a trappist monastery that is an offshoot from Gethsemane where Thomas Merton was in KY. I will fully participate in the monastic life here, including rising for 3:30AM prayers! I am hoping that this will be a "desert" experience of seeking God and his calling and direction on my life. I am hoping to really grow in prayer and in silence. As I consider establishing a monastic-esque community in the Middle East, this will a chance to learn from the Great Tradition of monasticism.

4) Several weeks in NC with my family. This is also very important! Rest and time with the fam. will be great.

Prayer Requests:

-A Mennonite mentor. I am hoping to meet someone at EMU with whom I can maintain a long relationship. Currently I have no peace mentors, someone who can really guide me in the tradition of peacemaking. My path is often misunderstood by those within Anglican denominational home and so I need a mentor in this area who does understand.
-Invitation to GAFCON. I am still praying that I will be able to go back to the ME this summer.
-That this summer would be a time of growing in prayer, the Holy Spirit and the Lord. That he would guide my steps, day by day.

Thanks for reading and for praying! I desperately need it always!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Personal Update

Alternating between "soap-boxing" and personal updates, it's now time for a personal update.

God has been good! Some quick answers to prayer have been:

1) Moving back to Wheaton after 4 months, or so, of praying. Now it is a five minute bike ride to class rather than an hour and a half drive. Wheew!
2) I received a scholarship from Wheaton that will pay for the rest of my grad school! Praise the Lord! It also commits me to working overseas for four years, sealing a bit further the path that I am on toward the middle east.
3) I have received some specific guidance and direction regarding both this summer and the near future.

In other news, I am still hoping and praying to be able to return to the Middle East this summer in order to connect with Anglican leaders with whom I will probably work in the future as well as to participate in the historic Global Anglican Future Conference. Please pray with me for an invitation to go to this conference and for my church here to provide the funds to go (I have applied to the missions committee for this).

God has been teaching me so much these days, it's really hard to put down in writing or summarize in a blog. I would love to share with each of you face to face what I have been learning.

The Peace of the Lord be with you.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Politics of the Eucharist

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth; deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Two summers ago I spent five weeks in Lebanon. Three days after I had left the airport from which I flew out of was bombed. War had broken out between Lebanon and Israel. In the coming weeks over 1,000 Lebanese, mostly civilians, had been killed. My friends were in danger, places I had visited were bombed to smithereens. The summer after that I was in the West Bank, in Israel/Palestine. There I heard story after story of death, violence and injustice; I saw posters and spoke with the families of suicide bombers, of so called martyrs, who took their own lives and others with them. I heard stories such as that of an 18 year old girl whose life had been taken by an Israeli sniper.

These images and stories will haunt me for the rest of my life. They have left their mark on me. I have seen the true face of violence and war: it is a face marked by the very fire and suffering of hell. Here in the U.S. we are SO removed from these realities. When it does come to our shores, as it did in 9/11, we are shocked beyond belief. We are not shocked, however, by our response to it, and have no idea of what it means to live in a country where between 30,000 and 300,000 people have died (where we don’t even bother to count the “enemies” causalties) and where roughly 6 million people have had to flee their homes. These are the realities of a world marked by war and violence.

God, however, is not removed from these realities. He is not a stranger to violence, war and suffering.

When Christ came to earth, he entered a nation under siege, an Israel under a brutal Roman occupation. This Roman force would eventually give him the punishment of an insurrectionist: crucifixion. This Roman force would free Barabbas (a true, violent insurrectionist) and would, in his place, crucify our Lord.

Christ in his life and death, modeled for us the path of nonviolence, of non-retaliatory love of the enemy. When we celebrate the Eucharist, the breaking of his body and the spilling of his blood, we remember the one who took our violence upon himself and freed us from its dominion.

In the gospels we see Christ, proclaim his message in word and deed. The message he preaches in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not resist an evil person” he lives out in Gethsemane by not resisting arrest violently and by condemning Peter’s use of the sword. He heals the bloody ear of one who was to soon to turn him over to the bloodshed of the cross. Some theologians (such as John Howard Yoder) read Christ’s greatest temptation in Gethsemane, when he prayed for the cup to be taken from him, of that of bringing the kingdom through violence, rather than through death. As Christ says: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of Angels?” No, this is not how the kingdom comes. It comes not by force and the taking of other’s lives, but through giving of our own life, through death.

The disciple Matthew, as he enfolds the drama of the passion, continues to present Christ as a model of non-violence. We see this further, with the contrast between Barabbas and Christ. Barabbas, a known insurrectionist and murderer, was released instead of Christ. The people clamor for the release of a murderer and the murder of Christ. The one who deserved the cross, is replaced by the innocent, non-violent Christ.

This is what we celebrate in the Eucharist, this is part of what we proclaim: Christ’s death, and our freedom from the way of violence, the breaking of his body, so that we are freed to no longer break the body of others. We are freed to take the path where giving is receiving. Christ’s sacrifice is the once and for all sacrifice. No more blood is needed.

The relationship between violence and the Eucharist is illustrated well by Schlabach. It is worth quoting at length:

What most regularly and quite literally prompts Christians to pause and to keep rethinking the question of war, however, is the proclamation of the gospel and its celebration in the Eucharist. The Eucharist and the Jesus whose “real presence” it invites into the gathering of believers are not just one reason among many for staying unsettled about Christian participation in warfare. It is the core reason, and the one that simply refuses to go away. The Eucharist is an offer of life, a promise of hospitality to strangers, a sharing of peace, a taste of God’s generosity, a breaking that opens space for healing. It commemorates God’s victory over every cosmic and historical force of evil by a lion-no, of all things! – by a lamb who was slain and by the blood of the martyrs who follow this lamb (Revelation 5 and 12:11; cf. Weaver, 2001:20-33). As Christians now celebrate the Eucharist around the globe, it makes more real than even what was already clear when the God of Israel offered new life to Gentile nations through Jesus Christ: this is a gospel that bursts the confines of even the most sacred nationalism…[at the table] Christians learn and re-learn the practice of generosity toward others… [we should find ourselves] quietly disquieted when [we] fail to show others anything less than the generous non-violent love that God as shown [us]. In other words, if tension is evident at the very table that is the pre-eminent sign of human community and ultimate communion with God, the Eucharist is doing its work. Christians who participate regularly, mindfully, and bodily in the Eucharist testify that the ritual is powerful in part because it works on them ay many levels. At each, there is a proper tension. (367-368, Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics, Hauerwas and Wells).