Monday, April 25, 2016

Rewriting Your Story: Finding Peace

The images below are peace signs. The first one is the internationally recognized symbol for peace. It is also known as the nuclear disarmament symbol, because it was designed for the British nuclear disarmament movement by Gerald Holtom in 1958.

The symbol is a combination of the semaphore ( the telegraphy system conveying information at a distance by means of visual signals) signals for the letters "N" and "D", standing for "nuclear disarmament." The letter "N" is formed by a person holding two flags in an inverted "V", and the letter "D" is formed by holding one flag pointed straight up and the other pointed straight down. Superimposing these two signs forms the shape of the center of the peace symbol. 

Holtom has written that one of his inspirations for the symbol was the despair he faced at the constant threat of nuclear war. A correspondent of Holtom's says that he came to regret the symbolism of despair, as he felt that peace was something to be celebrated and wanted the symbol to be inverted; he wanted it reversed to represent the change in him from the despair of the possibility of war to joy because of the possibility of peace. 

This is an image of the first peace badge, made in ceramic for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament by Eric Austen from Gerald Holtom's original design.

The next one is one you may have seen people use in a gesture. It has been used to represent victory during the World War II, and also became popular during the 60s when activists against the Vietnam War and in subsequent anti-war protests adopted the gesture as a sign of peace. Both uses represent a desire for war to have ended.

Image result for peace sign

So both of these symbols came out of a desire for peace and indication of peace in the context of war. They have come to mean so much to us, even if the original context of how they came about seems long ago. Personally, I see more of the 1958 peace symbol as an icon, but I am sure many of you remember when the gesture of the peace sign became popular in the 60s. 

This makes me think about our current symbols for peace. I'd like to say that the cross has been one, but for so many it, too, has been a sign not of peace, love, and reconciliation, but of hatred, judgment, and, yes despair. Many around the world suffer to follow Jesus. We have the need for peace in our world and in our hearts. For me, the cross has been a sign of peace, and so much more. It came to mean that to me for the first time in the 90s when I was facing my own spiritual warfare, asking myself "who am I?" "why am I even here?" "why did God ever create me?" and many others that seemed to attack the very core of who I thought I was. The cross has given me a sense of identity, purpose, and community...a sign of peace.

                                                            Image result for cross

John 14:27--

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid."

It is with this hope for peace that I offer you this prayer*:

"O day of peace that dimly shines
through all our hopes and prayers and dreams,
guide us to justice, truth, and love,
delivered from our selfish schemes.
May the swords of hate fall from our hands,
our hearts from envy find release,
till by God's grace our warring world
shall see Christ's promised reign of peace.

Then shall the wolf dwell with the lamb,
nor shall the fierce devour the small;
as beasts and cattle calmly graze,
a little child shall lead them all.
Then enemies shall learn to love,
all creatures find their true accord;
the hope of peace shall be fulfilled,
for all the earth shall know the Lord."


*"O Day of Peace That Dimly Shines," Carl P. Daw, Jr., United Methodist Hymnal, 729.

In Christ, 


Monday, April 18, 2016

Rewriting Your Story: A New Commandment

Thousands of years ago, Moses gave the Ten Commandments to his community, the Hebrews. These commandments became a part of their culture and their way of life. Even when they struggled and sought their own ways, God would remind them, some how, that God wanted them to live by these commandments. God seemed determined that this community, the people of God, knew and understood these commandments, and that they lived by them. It's no wonder, because they still speak loudly today. If we were to live by them, imagine how the world could be different.

--I am the Lord, your God, you shall have no other gods before me.
--Thou shall bring no false idols before me.
--Do not take the name of the Lord in vain.
--Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
--Honor thy father and thy mother.
--Thou shall not kill/murder
--Thou shall not commit adultery.
--Thou shall not steal
--Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
--Thou shall not covet your neighbor's wife (or anything that belongs to your neighbor).

God doesn't seem like the type of God that would waste time; it is safe to say that God gave these commandments because the people needed them. The people were (and we are) living according to "other commandments," and these gave them (give us) an alternative way to live, according to the ways of God. These ways always lead to new life and freedom. Oddly enough, God's commandments set us free into a life of joyful obedience and relationship with God and neighbor.

Jesus knew this. He was not only the Messiah, the savior of the world, but a rabbi, a bonafide teacher of the Torah (our Old Testament). Jesus, the son of God, also sought to give his followers an alternative way to live. His ways also free us up to live for God and neighbor. 

The whole of Jesus' teaching, in my opinion, can be summed up here in these 2 passages: 

Matthew 22: 37-40

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

John 13: 34-35

"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Basically, it's love. Of course this is not as simple as it sounds. Love is a complicated thing, but it does serve as an alternative way to live.

Think of the commandments or ways of life, spoken or unspoken, implicit or explicit, that you live by. I can think of a few that are a part of my life:

--Smile even when you don't feel like it
--Give until it hurts
--Honesty is not always the best policy
--Treat others the way they deserve 
--Always be producing something
--Take care of yourself last
--Your needs don't matter
--Forgiveness depends on the other party
--Hatred is the easiest way to go
--Please people first and foremost
--Failure isn't an option
--"I don't know" is not an acceptable answer

These are just a few, and I am sure you have some, too. I invite you to think and pray about some of the "commandments" you live by, and how Jesus' alternative way of love sets you free from them, or puts them in a new frame of heart and mind for you. For example, "take care of myself last" does not necessarily mean I am loving my neighbor. It may result in resentment or a lack of self care (which does not help me love neighbor). 

Ultimately, I think one of the greatest gifts that God gives us is the freedom to love. It is not a set of rules that God wishes us to live by, but the standard of love. 


Come, my Light, and illumine my darkness.
Come, my Life, and revive me from death.
Come, my Physician, and heal my wounds.
Come, Flame of divine love, and burn up the thorns of my sins, 
     kindling my heart with the flame of thy love
Come, my King, sit upon the throne of my heart and reign there.
For thou alone art my King and my Lord. Amen.

In Christ, 


Monday, April 4, 2016

Rewriting Your Story: Honoring your Past

The gospel lesson for this week comes from John 21: 1-19. These are some of the last words of the gospel of John. As a matter of fact, it is considered an epilogue. 

Although Jesus is alive again, this chapter sort of works like a eulogy, since these are the last words of the gospel. If you look ahead to the very last verses, the gospel says something amazing: "This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."

A eulogy is a regular part of a memorial or funeral service for someone who has passed away, but it doesn't have to be. A eulogy is defined as a "commendatory oration or piece of writing" or "high praise." You can give someone a eulogy at any time! 

Like any good eulogy, this passage of Scripture honors the past. It recalls where Jesus has been with the people he has loved and lived life with. 

--The meal he shares with the disciples recalls the memory of John 6: 1-14, when Jesus blessed 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread and fed a very large crowd. Christ continues to bless and feed us.

--Hearing that the disciples cast their nets on the right side of the boat as the risen Christ instructs them, we may remember that the disciples never catch any fish in any of the gospels without Christ's help. Christ continues to guide us.

--None of the disciples recognize Christ, initially. This recalls Mary's encounter with the risen Christ at the tomb, where she mistook him as the gardener. Sometimes we are slow to recognize Christ's presence with us, but when we do, our lives, our stories, are completely changed.

--Jesus invites the disciples to breakfast and feeds them. This recalls the scene of being at the table with him when he washes their feet and gives them a new commandment to love. The risen Christ continues to share in the table fellowship of the Church, and continues to provide, strengthen, and nurture us as we work for and follow Christ.

--Christ asks Peter 3 times if Peter loves him. This recalls Christ's prediction that Peter would deny him 3 times and the sad scenes in which the prediction is fulfilled. This piece of Scripture rewrites Peter's story: the final words about him in this gospel is not how he denied Christ, but of how he loved Christ. Far more important than Peter's denials is the grace of Christ, who is willing to engage and trust the ministry to his followers. 

--This epilogue also recalls the beginning of the gospel (1:5): "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." Memories of darkness (our hunger, our failure to recognize Christ, of failure to succeed without Christ...) are awakened by this epilogue, but it also reminds that none of this darkness can overcome the light of Christ. The risen Christ still calls, feeds, and empowers us.


Almighty God, 
you give us the joy of celebrating our Lord's resurrection.
Give us also the joys of life in your service,
and bring us at last to the full joy of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

*United Methodist Hymnal, 321

In Christ,