Friday, March 18, 2005

Palms and Politics

Palm Sunday – at least the original Palm Sunday – was quite clearly a political action. So celebrate it this weekend by speaking out against an unjust war. (Click here to find a peace vigil near you.)

On that first Palm Sunday, Jesus was leading a rally, a march, on the capitol and the seat of power of his world. Jesus, who was always attuned to the importance of symbol and story, rodes in on a donkey to remind the people of the messianic prophecy: “look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey.”

The crowds responded in kind: “Hosanna! Hosanna!” Or, “save us, liberate us, set us free from the tyranny of our time!”

This is radical, even revolutionary stuff, and it is inherently political. But at the same time it is spiritually transformative as well. The turning of the world implicit in this entry to Jerusalem is at once deeply personal and thoroughly social and political, and the action itself – the marching, the crowds, the shouting and singing – is a spiritual practice.

Every spiritual practice aims to draw us closer to God, to help us experience God’s presence and to be shaped by that experience for lives of discipleship. So get close to God this Palm Sunday weekend by taking it to the streets.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

This War is Still Wrong

I was going through some old files this week and I came across these notes from a speech I gave in Cleveland's Public Square two years ago this Saturday. I am saddened at how much of this has come true in the past two years. This war was wrongly conceived, wrongly executed and wrongly continues today.

Later on this evening at Forest Hill Presbyterian, we will gather for a worship service. We’ll confess our sins and pray for forgiveness. We’ll pray for the men and women fighting in Iraq today. We’ll pray for President Bush. We’ll pray for Saddam Hussein. All of this will be good and right and appropriate.

But, first things first. Let’s get one thing straight: this war is wrong!

I’m a preacher, not a policy maker, but it doesn’t take a policy expert to see that this war is wrong strategically. The risks of attacking and occupying a country at the heart of the Arab world far outweigh the risks of isolating and containing that country. This war is wrong strategically!

I’m a preacher, not a politician, but it doesn’t take a pollster to see that this war is wrong politically. It’s not just that American public opinion is divided, or even that today’s attacks threaten to divide America more deeply than it has been divided in more than a generation. No. It’s not that; it’s this: more than 90 percent of the world’s population opposes this war. That matters. This war is wrong politically!

I’m a preacher, not a diplomat, but it doesn’t take a U.N. ambassador to see that this war is wrong diplomatically. President Bush is mistaken: this war is not rendering the United Nations irrelevant. The world’s desire for peace can never be irrelevant to the community of nations. No: what is irrelevant to the community of nations is the American empire’s desire for dominance. This war is wrong diplomatically!

You know what? I’m a preacher … but I am also a parent. Last Sunday evening we held a candle light vigil at Forest Hill, and my three-year-old daughter walked with a crowd of 175 singing, praying, peaceful people of faith holding a flickering flame of hope against the darkness of these days. And when we ended, she looked up at her mother and said, “Mommy, what else do we need to do to stop the war?”

Why can’t our leaders grasp the wisdom of a three-year-old girl? She doesn’t know much about war, but when she asks we just tell her “war means that lots of children get hurt.”

Lots of innocent women, men and children will die in Iraq. Hannah Caitlin, you know this well: this war is wrong morally!

This war is wrong: strategically, politically, diplomatically, morally. This war is just plain wrong!

I’m not a policy maker. I’m not a politician. I’m not a diplomat. I’m a preacher and a disciple of the Prince of Peace.

And so this much I know: “Blessed are the peacemakers!”

I want you to look at the people standing around you. Go ahead.

You are blessed! We are all blessed. It might not feel that way today, but we are blessed because we are peacemakers.

We’ve got some difficult days ahead of us. That much is clear. But now is not the time to despair, for though our generation is tasting the curse of war, we know that the peacemakers shall be called the children of God. Now is not the time to despair, because there’s too much work to be done. Now is not the time to despair, because no matter how dark this midnight feels, joy cometh with the morning that breaks forth with peace. Now is not the time to despair, for though mighty and awful weapons have been unleashed today, we know that day is coming when we shall beat swords into plowshares and study war no more.

We don’t need to study anymore to know this: This war is wrong! This war is wrong and we want peace now!

Peacemakers: what do we want? When do we want it?