15 November 2015

How are we to respond when we face the violent upheaval of our world, or when others use mockery to dominate us in personal power plays? What does it mean to trust in God’s grace and protection, to live out the peace and justice of God’s Reign in a world of war and injustice? The call to peace is always a difficult one to answer, both personally and collectively, but it is a call we must face in worship this week.

May our worship lead us into a deeper commitment to Jesus’ way of peace.

READINGS:
1 Samuel 1:4-20: Hannah grieves her inability to conceive, and the mockery of Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, so when the family goes to the temple she prays for a child. After Eli accuses her of being drunk, she explains that she is grieving and he blesses her. Following this, she falls pregnant and gives birth to Samuel.
OR Daniel 12:1-3: In a time of great trouble, the people whose names are written in God’s scroll will be rescued, some being resurrected to life and others to disgrace. But, those who are wise and lead others to righteousness will shine like stars.

1 Samuel 2:1-10: Hannah sings a song of praise for God’s grace and justice in response to Samuel’s birth and dedication to the Lord. She celebrates God’s strength and holiness, and proclaims that God shatters the bows of the powerful, while filling the hungry with bread, that God gives life and raises the poor, while also bringing the wealthy low. Note the strong resonances here with Mary’s Magnificat.
OR Psalm 16: A Psalm in praise of God’s protection and blessing, God’s instruction and guidance, God’s presence and God’s ways of life.

Hebrews 10:11-14, (15-18), 19-25: Jesus offered the perfect once-for-all sacrifice and then sat down at God’s right hand. He perfected God’s people, and now we can enter God’s presence with confidence because of our faith, the cleansing of God, and our high priest in God’s house. In response we are to hold on to our hope, and motivate each other to acts of love and goodness.

Mark 13:1-8: As they leave the temple, Jesus’ disciples are awed by the size and beauty of the building, but Jesus predicts that it will be destroyed. When the disciples ask for a sign, Jesus warns them about false messiahs who will come, reports of war, earthquakes, and famines. But, these, he explains, are just the beginnings of the end.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
Violence, destruction, war and ridicule are common troubles that we all face in the world – perhaps even more so as we seek to follow Christ. The temptation is to respond in kind, offering violence for violence and using force to overcome force. However, the way of Christ, revealed through the Scriptures, is the way of peace, forgiveness, and faith in God’s ultimate justice. This way is demonstrated by Hannah’s prayers in the face of Peninnah’s taunts (and in her song when she presents Samuel at the temple), in Daniel’s prophecy of the shining resurrected ones, in the Psalmist’s celebration of God’s protection and guidance, and ultimately in Jesus’ self-giving on the cross. It is interesting that, in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ warnings are associated with the disciples’ awe at the temple building, which represented wealth and power (both of a spiritual and political nature, although Jesus revealed in his life and death that the latter seemed to have become more prominent). It is when we get absorbed in the trappings of power and wealth that we become violent and oppressive. In a time when children were wealth, Peninnah’s mockery of Hannah was as much about power as it was about womanhood. Daniel’s prophecy, likewise, reflects on the conflicts of power against power. The way of “powerless peace” that Jesus demonstrated, which brings us into right relationship with God, and enables us to support and encourage one another presents a stark contrast to these violent power plays.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
Global Application:
In a world in which war and violence are a constant reality, humanity desperately needs to learn two things. First, we need to relinquish our addiction to wealth and power, which inevitably creates both competition and oppression – winners and losers. Second, we need to embrace the Jesus way of “powerless peace”, in which we trust in God’s justice and love, even when the world seems to be descending into chaos and anarchy. The way of peace is not a “quick-fix” alternative to injustice. Nor is it an apathetic, inactive resignation which accepts reality without trying to change it. It is a painful, sacrificial journey that takes a long view of human history. When peacemaking rises up against violence and injustice, things often get worse, and oppressors and tyrants use greater violence and threats to try and silence the peace and justice making. But, when we remain steadfast in our faith that God is at work in our world, and that God’s purposes of justice and peace will continue to overcome violence and oppression, we can absorb the pain, refuse to respond in kind, carry the cross, and ultimately wait until, as inevitably must happen, God’s Commonwealth prevails.

Local Application:
Power plays and violence do not only happen on national and global scales through wars and revolutions. Every human community and family has its share of power plays and conflicts – some of which may turn violent. Often the most simple form of peace making is refusing to retaliate, refusing to hold a grudge, and embracing the sacrificial way of forgiveness. Every person, and every community, has been hurt by someone else, or some other group. Our natural human inclination is to try and hurt them back, to even the score. But, the way of cross is the way of absorbing the violence and pain, and responding in love, forgiveness and acceptance. As hard as this is, it is the Kingdom view to which we are all called. Who needs us to choose this response today?

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
God Of Peace
Small, Random Acts of Peacemaking
Shalom
Give Us Your Grace

Hymn Suggestions:
O Day Of God Draw Nigh
My Hope Is Built (On Christ The Solid Rock)
Come Ye Disconsolate
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
There’s A Wideness In God’s Mercy
Love Can Change The World (Link to YouTube Video)
My Deliverer (Link to YouTube video)
Let There Be Peace On Earth (Link to YouTube video)
Lord, Make Us Instruments Of Your Peace (Link to YouTube video)

Liturgy:
A Liturgy for the Agape
A Liturgy for the Celebration of Sacrifice

Video Suggestions:
Rumours of War
Peacemaking and Nonviolence (This is quite a long video, but, even if you choose not to use it, it’s worth watching the preview for any ideas it may offer for preaching and liturgy)

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