Friday, December 11, 2009

Peace on earth. . . Yes, Virginia!

The R.H. Macy Co. is milking the "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" for all it is worth. They've been pushing the "believe" theme for several weeks now, one newspaper ad even showing an old-fashioned clockwork driven "believe meter." Hey, these days it would be digital and made in China, right?

They don't say what to believe in. But they do encourage people to "demonstrate that you believe in what the season's all about." Macy's encourages people to do good deeds in the community this time of year, and their Street Teams who go out and actually observe someone doing those good deeds are empowered to hand them $25 Macy's gift cards.

Hard to fault that. Macy's taking up the mantle of street ministry, demonstrating belief through action. Amen, amen, amen. And they're willing to put up to $1 million into the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They will contribute one dollar for every letter to Santa received in the "mailboxes" in their stores. Amen to that also. I guess.

I wonder if they receive any letters to Jesus? I wonder what they do with those?

"When you come to the fork in the road, take it." Perhaps that's the advice we should take when trying to figure out Luke 2:14. Greek manuscripts of the text, every one of which is a copy of a copy of a copy, contain a spelling discrepancy of one letter. This is not a spelling mistake. Both spellings are grammatically correct, but they say different things. This accounts for some of our different translations:

...and on earth, peace, good will toward men. (KJV)
...and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased. (RSV)
...and on earth peace among those whom he favors. (NRSV)
...and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. (NIV)
...and on earth peace to those with whom he is pleased. (ESV)

And then there is the clarifying footnote in most annotated Bibles, "Other ancient authorities (meaning mansucripts, not scholars) read 'peace, goodwill among people.'"

"Men" vs. "people"? "People" is correct since all the Greek manuscripts use anthropos, the inclusive term equivalent to "humankind", not andros, which would mean only males.

Is God peaceably inclined to all people, or only those who please him, those good enough to be deserving? I won't answer that question for you on the basis of text criticism. The answer you and I and anyone will accept will have everything to do with whom we believe Jesus to be: the Messiah, and what we think Messiah to be. Is Messiah the Suffering Servant, the one who ended all atoning sacrifice through self-sacrifice? Is Messiah primarily a harsh judge or primarily the apocalyptic horseman riding roughshod over a world awash in blood up to the bridle of the snorting steed?

Yesterday President Obama received his Nobel Prize for Peace and delivered a speech making the case for just war. It's deeply ironic because war is deeply ironic. And always will be, no matter the cause or the combatants.

Is there peace on earth? Will there be peace on earth?

Perhaps better to ask if there is even a shred of peace on our streets. Yes! In the spirit of gold, frankincense and myrrh, here are three current examples:

And there's J. who has been off the streets and in housing for several months. And there is D. who went back home to reconcile with family after finally kicking drugs. A donor who wishes to remain anonymous bought him the ticket and put him on the plane so he wouldn't get lost on a week-long bus trip.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall inherit the earth."

I'm glad that statement didn't come from a campaign speech or someone's five-year plan. It gives me a lot of peace.

Peace on earth to all, no distinctions made!



vegaia said...

Peace on Earth???

Aren’t humans amazing Animals? They kill wildlife - birds, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the million in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed.

Then they kill domestic animals by the billion and eat them. This in turn kills people by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - - health conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer.

So then humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions of more animals to look for cures for these diseases.

Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals.

Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans, who kill so easily and violently, and once a year send out cards praying for "Peace on Earth."

~Revised Preface to Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm by C. David Coates~

Pastor Roger: said...


Thanks! Quite a paradox, aren't we? Here are some thoughts from the late theologian Joseph Sittler's essay Moral Discourse in a Nuclear Age:

In the very considerable literature on peace and politics, the term peace is commonly used as if it referred to a disengaged and highly desirable virtue, achievement, or gift hanging in splendid and beguiling isolation. Such an assumption oversimplifies. It suggests the notion of an exclusively interior and private serenity, a well-insulated tranquility achieved by detachment. By peace the devout often mean the bovine contentment sustained only by a virtual ignorance of all that maddens, saddens and gladdens the generality of humankind.

Among Christians, peace dare not be used in this antiseptic way. The peace of God is more profound. In the Scriptures, peace has meanings so many and various that they cannot be condensed into a single statement; all such meanings operate within a context, and that context always involves discipline, choices, denials, sacrifices.

These choices can be illustrated by scrutiniziong our motives and those of our fellows as we inquire why we want peace. When, not long ago, I saw a group of women from a wealthy suburb of my city (Chicago) marching in a peace rally and observed the elegance of their expensive attire, their Gucci shoes, and the waiting chaffeur-driven cars at the edge of the square, I could not but recall the statement of a wise man: "Everybody wants peace. But we also want what we cannot have without war." . . . We want our peace. But the peace that God wills cannot be given when we understand peace only in egocentric terms. (end quote)

Elsewhere in the essay, Sittler shocks us into awareness with this stunning statement: "Evil is never more quietly powerful than in the assumption that it resides elsewhere." Quite a mind!

Jesus, the man of peace and compassion, in the face of human need often experienced (to translate the Greek literally) a "wrenching in the guts."

These days, a little more of the same might well be in order for us all.