My friend Alan Storey gave an address (a sermon) at the 2012 Peace Conference in Lake Junalaska.
I was fortunate to get a transcript of his sermon. It challenged and moved me deeply. I was reminded that at Christmas I celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, and that His birth and my faith in Him has radical consequences for my life.
The way of Jesus is a bold, loving and gracious way. It subverts the culture of power and dominance that occupies the popular mind of our time. It reminds me that Jesus came for peace, yet so much of the resources of this world, both financial and human, are spent on war. The best of our minds, the majority of our budgets, are not applied towards peaceable aims - they are applied in the interests of vengence and violence. This is an affront to the Prince of Peace who came to live among us, living our life and dying our death in order to overcome both sin and death by His love.
So, this Christmas I was challenged to remember that the Prince of Peace came as a man to die on a cross. The sacrifice of his life was for the salvation and transformation of the world. At Christmas I am challenged to remember that the Jesus of the manger is also the Jesus of the Cross.
So, this Christmas can I please encourage you to read Alan’s powerful message? It may not be all that easy! But it will be deeply challenging.
I had to face myself and my own denial honestly as I read it. Some of what you read may not be easy to hear - it was not easy for me. But, I would rather face my lies, and the lies of our world with honesty and courage, than be party to deception and simply tell myself that all is well.
The text below comes from ‘The War Crimes Times' newsletter (Winter 2013, pp. 5-7 and are republished with Alan's permission).
I wonder what you have just heard during the reading of those Hebrew scriptures. I wonder what you heard. What did you hear?
Did you hear Sunday school children singing, singing about animals going in two by two? Or did you hear children screaming panic-stricken, terrified, gasping for breath; people fleeing to higher ground, pleading, praying to be let into that ark – and if not me, then take my child. Knocking, banging, banging on the ark, let me in! Yet the doors of the ark remained sadistically closed.
What did you feel when those words were read? Did you feel the desperation, the despair, the drowning, the death?
And then after the 40 days, what did you see? The sunshine? Green lush, beautiful blossoming? Birds and bees? Or decomposing bodies, swelling, smelling – disease, decay gathered in every single nook and cranny?
The cruel results, the inevitable cruel results of divid- ing up a world with the simplistic notion that there are some who are wicked and others who are righteous, that there are two types of people in the world: good and bad. And if we can just get rid of the bad people, then we will have peace. There is an axis of evil in the world and if we can just destroy the axis of evil, then all will be safe and secure.
The persons who act on this notion of dividing the world into wicked people and righteous people should be brought before the International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity and all of creation – even if that person is God.
This deathly division between good people and bad people continues today especially in my faith tradition – especially in my faith tradition. The Christian faith, more than any other faith, has participated in this deathly division – dividing the world into good and bad, saved and unsaved, those who will be ushered into heaven and those who will be cast into hell. That thought process is nothing less than hate speech.
We go back to the text. These Hebrew narrators were incredibly courageous, risky in the extreme. You see, what these Hebrew narrators are trying to do is not endorse this primitive, partisan God or world view, but rather to cleverly, and with great risk, subvert it. They knew that the common world understanding of God was that God was some almighty superhero that would punish the wicked and bless the righteous. They knew that was the dominant religious world view and understanding of their time. So they risked casting God in that light in their narrative. They don’t believe it, they know that’s not so. But they cleverly start where the audience is.
There were righteous ones, just a few. God saved them and the wicked were punished and the audience applaud. Because that was their world view. Justice has been done, the wicked got what they deserved, and the righteous what was promised. And then the narrator moves to Act II. And we read that once the flood had subsided, wickedness remained.
Please follow this link to read the entire transcript