Friday, December 11, 2020

Peace in the Puzzle

The theme for this post is peace, which is related to a couple of pieces (yes, pun intended) I'm working ona sermon for Brambleton Presbyterian Church and the Science for the Church newsletter.

Three insights I discovered along the way... 

A key word from the Beatitudes lost in translation

When I first learned Greek at Cal, one day we were reading Matthew 5:1-12. My professor instructed us that we could translate Jesus’s word in the Sermon on the Mount this way: “Blessed are the peaceful” instead of “peacemakers

He was a great professor, and he opened the New Testament to me in many ways, but here his own leanings toward the interiority of spiritual life—he also lived in an ashram—frankly biased his interpretation of this word. 

And so I arrive a truly profound Greek word study: the word for "peacemaker" eirenopoioi combines two words, “peace” and “make.”

This means that the Beatitudes are not simply the "Beautiful Attitudes." When Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) came to earth, he called us to make peace. And that's significant.

I do realize that what I've said here may lead some to ask, Does this mean we earn our salvation? No, it means we work out what God has worked in (Philippians 2:12-13). Actually better than "work out" in the Jewish context is "walk out" because the key image for devotion to God in Jewish thought is halakha, or "the way of walking."

Peace now and then
Just yesterday, I read that even as former South Carolina Governor David Beasley accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the United Nation's World Food Program, while Rush Limbaugh declared there can be no peace between liberals and conservatives and that “we’re trending toward secession."

Yikes! It's hard not to despairand then I remembered Jesus's time was no less contested, which I discovered this article on the New Testament Greek word for "peace."
The New Testament was written in a time during which the Romans overran countless peoples and frequently resorted to mass torture and genocide in dealing with resistance, and the quest for peace was not a romantic one but came with widely felt urgency. Jesus' famous statement "knock, and the door will open" (Matthew 7:7, Revelation 3:8) is not about heavenly doors because in the Biblical model heaven has no doors, but rather about the great War Doors of the temple of Janus Quirinus in Rome. In times of peace these doors were closed amidst great imperial fanfare, and the greatest door-closing festivals were held during the reigns of Nero and Vespasian, just prior and right after the Great Jewish Revolt and subsequent destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. [By the way, the name of the city means "in awe of peace, teaching peace"]

Peace and reconciliation through "fractal communities"
Just a few days ago, I had a breath-taking conversation about race and science and faith with Elaine Howard Ecklund and Cleve Tinsley IV. Among many insights, Cleve said that relationships help us move past the endemic racism in our country. He referred to Adrienne Marie Brown’s concept of “fractal community,” which, of course, borrows an image from mathematics and is a kind of science and faith connection, which I love. At any rate, Cleve reminded us: this is the way of Jesus. Where these relationships are, that’s where we see the reign of God. And as he summarized, “I think we really do change the world then.”

And maybe we can. Maybe we make peace.

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