Lent and Radical Peace-Making

Third Sunday in Lent

Message for Trinity Fillmore

3/15/09

Exodus 20:1-17

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

John 2:13-22



Good Morning. Thank you again for hosting me, and allowing me the opportunity to share with you the life and work of our Abundant Table campus ministry. As with any organization that experiences frequent turn over and rhythmic changes, we have been constantly growing and developing in our constitution, and the opportunity to witness to these changes is very important to our group.

It was about this time last year, that I had the opportunity to first share with you. And here I am again, during the season of Lent reflecting on the correlations between campus ministry and the 40 days of wilderness and preparation. Yes, I could say…campus ministry is be a wilderness experience for many…and yes it is also a continual time of preparation for both students and chaplain, however, this year my participation with the Abundant Table has offered me a very different perspective of Lent and the wilderness journey towards Easter.

In today’s readings, we come across:

1. The Ten Commandments in the Old Testament,

2. A caution against the wisdom of “the world” in the epistle, and

3. Christ’s cleansing of the temple in the gospel.

In Exodus, the Israelites have just been liberated from the oppressive slavery of the Egyptian Empire. After generations of impoverished living, hard labor and institutionalized fear, God’s chosen people and beloved community find themselves free of their shackles and journeying through the wilderness to their promise land. During this journey, which we come to learn turns into a long wandering; God gives the Israelites a rule of life…more commonly known as the Ten Commandments. God reminds them of their past experience as slaves, and through the commandments calls this people group into a life of freedom and peace. A life of freedom and peace signaled by a particular way of living, by a rule of life and discipline that is embodied restoration of balance and the re-ordering of love. The Rev. Dean Buckley writes in his book The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times, “The Bible…and traditional spiritual theology all target “disordered inclinations” as key obstacles to freedom. The Bible stresses the objects of these inclinations, which it calls idols. Israel was to embrace the God of life and reject the idols of death.”

For so long, the Israelites had lived under captivity. In some ways they were dependant upon this captivity for their survival. What a shock it must have been to leave all you have known, the comfort of shelter and food, and be led into the wilderness for an unknown Promise Land. It is not surprising that many if not all of God’s chosen, felt more like God’s forgotten and began to seek comfort and stability by resorting to practices and pathologies of the culture and empire from which they were liberated. This passage from Exodus is calling the Israelites back into their covenant relationship with God, while at the same time invoking a way of life that restores balance and peace rather than imbalance and oppression.

Throughout the Old Testament we see this similar pattern of forgetfulness and re-membering. Much of the Prophetic texts of the Old Testament are devoted to naming the ways in which the Israelites have been captivated by the dominant culture, and then God sending a voice in the wilderness reminding them the way of the Lord. This narrative and relationship of God and God’s people lead us right into the Lenten story and directly into today’s gospel passage. Although not enslaved in the literal sense, the Jewish people were still under a foreign empire, Rome, during the time of Jesus. On one hand, the ruling Jewish authorities were trying to find ways to preserve their religious heritage (i.e. animal sacrifice, reciting of scriptures, tithing.), however in John we see that practices and principles of the ruling society had seeped into the everyday life of the Jewish community. While shared culture and practices are not inherently bad, the activities which are spoken of specifically in the gospel text do not reflect the rule of life which God has set before God’s people in the Torah and through the prophets. Jesus specifically condemns the economy surrounding the temple…the market place that was constructed in a location that was usher people into the holiness of God.

In what appears to be a violent outburst, Jesus is in fact restoring the holiness of this space. He is identifying the oppressive behavior of an idolization of power and wealth, and is calling his brothers and sisters in the faith into a different way of living. A way of living that we see demonstrated throughout the life of Christ. One that is not based upon the wisdom of this world, but upon God’s covenant to God’s people and a healing that comes not by seeking power and surplus, but through the care and love of one another. And when the Jews ask for a sign to prove his authority to make such claims, Jesus cryptically points towards his pending death and resurrection.

It is this death and resurrection, also known as the message of the Cross in First Corinthians, which appears as foolishness to the world…but speaks to a great wisdom which runs through the veins of healed creation. It is the wisdom of God. It is the power of weakness seeking peace for the world. It is the proclamation of salvation.

So you may be asking…what does any of this have to do with the Abundant Table and campus ministry. As I mentioned when I first began sharing, the Abundant Table has offered me a very different perspective on Lent this year. After reflecting on today’s texts, one significant theme stood out to me. While not explicitly mentioned, these passages all point to a radical notion of peace-making, one that is deeply interwoven into the covenant God has with the Israelites, now extended to the whole world. A form of peace-making that reflects the deepest core of God’s creation. In order for there to be healing and wholeness in our world, there must be peace. The Ten Commandments are given to the Israelites, because they exist to create a space for peace to enter. Jesus’ cleansing of the temple was necessary to remove the barriers for peace to occur both in the physical space, but also in the space of people’s lives. This narrative of peace-making found throughout the Bible may seem like foolishness to a world and society caught up in the accumulation of power and wealth, but as we see in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection…there is healing and salvation in this story.

Our role as a campus ministry, as Christians, is to also create the space for this peace to occur. In their Living Gently in a Violent World, The Prophetic Witness of Weakness, theologian Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier speak on the creation of peace in spaces of community. Jean Vanier founded the L’Arche Community, which is a beautiful example of God’s peace, where fully able bodies and minds live in community and relationship with those who have physical and mental limitations. Jean Vanier speaks of the day to day activities of eating, dressing, working, and celebrating, and how patience, gentleness, and a new understanding of time and space have become essential for the assistants who have chosen to commit their lives to living with those who experience disabilities. It is not a way of life that seeks power, wealth, time efficiency, productivity, or perfection. Rather it is a way of life that seeks to be one of peace-making.



Hauerwas writes, “Peace takes time. Put even more strongly, peace creates time by its steadfast refusal to force the other to submit in the name of order. Peace is not a static state but an activity which requires constant attention and care. An activity by its very nature takes place over time.” What I think he is saying is that it is not just an end goal, rather it is a rule of life. One that we see presented over an over again in our scripture. It is a particular way of living that for us as Christians is in relationship to the cross and to the journey towards Easter. We see God’s covenant inviting people into wholeness and healing.

This past year at the Abundant Table, we have had several moments of, which I would identify as “Peace moments”…a place in time, in which a way for peace-making was opened. Our group of students, alumni, staff, and community members are deeply committed to engaging this way of peace. This Lent we are following a study called, “Journey with Jesus Towards the Cross.” It is an opportunity for us as a community to identify ways in which we perpetuate death in our own lives and the world around us, and how as we commit to living in the path Christ lived our opportunities to be peace-makers arise. In order to journey on the path of Peace-making, space must be created and time given for healing to occur. Our hope at the Abundant Table is to be a vessel which opens up its ministry in such a way that we create the space and time for peace to grow.

Recognizing the blessing of resources housed within our ministry and its partners, the Abundant Table Campus Ministry is hoping to begin this process of peace by creating a faith-based rural internship program for college students and young adults. We have the opportunity to link our campus ministry to a large farm house sitting on at least five acres of land, with the hopes of expanding to 15 acres. The goal of this internship is to bring together college students and young adults who are interested in living in a Christian community of worship, while at the same time gaining life skills related to small scale organic farming and/or interning with a local community organization working on justice issues in the area. The Abundant Table would become a worship centered community with a land based ministry.

We thank all of you for your continuing support and for also being a vessel of peace-making in your support of the Abundant Table. We hope that you will continue to guide and ground our work in this time of transition, and look forward sharing with you the ever developing nature of The Abundant Table.

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