The Lesson in the Garden
The nightmare of violence, the wicked storm of hate that broke loose at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, staggers every one of us who values life and love. While some took the opportunity to increase the rhetoric of fear and hate, I found myself looking back at an exchange Jesus had with his friends and enemies in a garden outside Jerusalem.
Will our response to violence and hate be shaped by the loudest voices in society or by the Carpenter and his way?
In the Garden
Jesus had been praying in the garden with his friends while another friend has already arranged to betray Jesus. Even as the Galilean speaks with his disciples, Judas approaches with a large crowd behind him. Matthew 26:47 tells us the crowd had swords and clubs.
Judas identifies Jesus, in order that the teacher can be arrested, by saying “Hello, Rabbi” and then kissing him. The people with Judas then grab Jesus and arrest him.
One of the men – John 18:10 says it was Simon Peter – reached for his own sword, started swinging it around and proceeded to cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest.
Then, Jesus said something to Peter that I can’t forget – even as I hear all the calls for better arms, higher walls, and shutting out those who do not worship the way we worship.
“Put the sword back in its place”
“Put the sword back in its place,” Jesus says. “All those who use the sword will die by the sword.”
Even when his own life is at stake, even when he is faced with a mob loaded with weapons, Jesus chooses the way of non-violence. He has taught love. He has lived love. And he will keep loving.
Loving, not taking life, is the way of God.
“All those who use the sword will die by the sword.”
A highly respected commentator on Sunday morning’s Meet the Press said there is too much hate and anger loose in the world. We see it – or participate in it – in social media. We experience it in traffic, at athletic events, and in some political rallies.
Our voices have gotten loud. We choose to listen to those voices that sing a fearful song and nothing but a fearful song. When we choose violence, anger and fear as our way of solving problems, as a model for what strength looks like, then the whole world heats up and melts down. I was reading an article this week by Will Willimon in which he talks about studies that show how fear has a way of eroding our way of thinking clearly and our ability to make good decisions.
The way to life and security isn’t by overheating the world with anger and violence, but it is by choosing love…love for all people. Love, kindness and grace take heat out of the conflagration which threatens to consume us all.
When Jesus says those who take up the sword will die by the sword, the Galilean is warning us that violence often leads to more violence. It’s like a bonfire that gets out of control.
“It Ain’t Easy”
Choosing to love when others insist that taking up the sword is the only reasonable choice is not easy. Tom Paxton, once wrote a song he titled “It Ain’t Easy.” In that song Paxton wrote:
“Though it ain’t easy, it ain’t easy –
The living and the loving are no easy things to do.
I know you lost something that you loved with all your heart.
I know how the grieving feels like tearing you apart.
Just remember something that might ease you through the pain,
That there are those who’ll carry you until you’re whole again.”
Loving isn’t easy. Loving takes boldness and courage. Loving takes faith. Loving is what we will do if we let the lesson in the garden control us rather than the voices of anger, fear, and hatred loose in the land.
The Pulse of Life
As our hearts break and our prayers go out to all those – in every land and place – whose lives have been wrecked by fear, by hatred of those who are different, and by violence, let us resolve to:
- Be guided by Jesus rather than the way of the mob.
- Love rather than hate.
- Build bridges rather than walls.
- Work for a society where there is both justice and peace.
- Support laws (especially in terms of automatic weapons) that lead to peaceful communities while protecting the rights of hunters and marksmen.
- Refuse to let any group – gay or straight, rich or poor, young or old, left or right, white or black or brown or red – be bullied or threatened. Jesus came into the world because God loves all people. (And that means all people…)
The lesson in the garden tells me to keep choosing love even when love ain’t easy. I am praying you will make that same choice as well.
Soul Songs – Sermon Series Continues
When life hands you questions or presents you with puzzles, what do you do or say? Where do you find your answers?
This Sunday we continue our Summer Series on the Psalms as we explore Psalm 19. Join us for the second message in our SOUL SONGS series.
Here are some things you can do to get the most out of the weeks ahead:
First, begin to look at the psalms. Each day read a psalm in the morning and one in the evening. Don’t race through them. Slow down and let the song get inside you.
Second, pick up a resource on the Psalms that can deepen your understanding of these songs. Tim Keller has a small devotional out on the Psalms. Eugene Peterson has written a wonderful book on the Psalms.
Third, let us know if you have a favorite psalm and why. You can write a note on the back of your Connection Card in the Sanctuary or on your Flap at the Open Door. Or you can send an email to Ms. Cath Foreman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join us for “Soul Songs.” I’m convinced these songs can change your life, and offer life lessons you’ll never forget. I’m confident your relationship with God will never be the same if you let the songs get inside you!
Don’t miss it! – this Sunday the children from Vacation Bible School will be in the 9:30 service to share their joy and sing three songs. A VBS video will be shared with the congregation in The Open Door at 11:15.
Remember our Summer Worship Schedule is in effect: the Sanctuary service is at 9:30 a.m. and The Open Door community of First Methodist Church gathers at 11:15 a.m.
Grace and peace,
Holy Land Trip – February of 2017.
Contact the church office or pick up a brochure at the Sanctuary entrances for the Holy Land Trip in February of 2017. Led by Pastor Mark Fenstermacher, the trip is with experienced tour operator EO (Educational Opportunities Inc.). At this point it appears we may have approximately 25-30 persons making this life-changing journey. The cost is under $3,000 per person (including airfare, hotel accommodations, tour guide, motor coach transportation in Israel, morning and evening meals, etc.). Contact Ms. Cath Foreman if you have questions.
Join us this Sunday, in a Jesus community where all are loved and welcomed, as we continue our series Soul Songs: A Journey Through the Psalms. Invite a friend to join you.