Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The International Day of Prayer for Peace
…history belongs to the intercessors, who believe the future into being. This is not simply a religious statement. It is as true of communists or capitalists or anarchists as it is of Christians. The future belongs to whoever can envision in the manifold of its potentials a new and desirable possibility, which faith then fixes upon as inevitable.
Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers
EasyYolk is pleased to participate today in the World Council of Churches' International Day of Prayer for Peace. Since 1981, the United Nations has designated 9/21 as a day to focus on overcoming violence across the globe. This year's edition focuses on Africa, a continent ripped apart by civil wars as she struggles to shake herself from a vicious post-colonial hangover. We believe that (1) prayer and (2) the pursuit of peace are both vital Christian practices that warrant our time, effort and critical thinking. This is not self-evident in the American Body of Christ today. There are plenty of those on the left who think prayer is a superstitious waste of time and there are plenty of those on the right who believe that advocating for peace veers the believer off-course from The Real Gospel.
For theolgian Walter Wink, intercessory prayer to God is more like haggling with a merchant at an Oriental bazaar (or in the Masai market in Nairobi where, in 2001, I talked the man down from $100 to $32 for my 6-foot giraffe), just like it was for Abraham (Genesis 18), Moses (Exodus 32), Jonah (Jonah 4), Jeremiah (18:7f) and Jesus (Luke 18:1-8) long before us. Wink calls Christians to organically pray as we participate with God, our divine conversation partner, in the redemption of the world:
For intercession, to be Christian, must be prayer for God’s reign to come on earth. It must be prayer for the victory of God over disease, greed, oppression, and death in the concrete circumstances of people’s lives, now. In our intercessions we fix our wills on the divine possibility latent in the present moment, and then find ourselves caught up in the whirlwind of God’s struggle to actualize it.
And why should we spend our time praying for something so unlikely as world peace? One's answer to this question is wrapped up and sold in the theological market called "eschatology": the study of what comes last (or what lasts!). Many conservatives are scripted into an end of the story which comes about at either the individual's death or the rapture of Jesus. In either case, the conservative gospel message is told (in diverse ways depending on denomination, etc) with the focus on personal salvation from eternal punishment in hell.
EasyYolk, on the other hand, subscribes to an "inagurated eschatology," more at home in the New Testament, which proclaims that the End was initiated in Jesus' life, teaching, ministry, death and resurrection. Christians are those who pledge allegiance to God's Reign as a foretaste of what will come when the End is fully consummated. The point of the gospel of Jesus Christ(according to the New Testament writings) was to invite disciples into a movement signified by God's grace and acceptance (everyone was welcome!) and fleshed out by an active lifestyle of loving, serving, sharing and peace-making. In other words, the Christian movement was for those who repented (turned away) from other movements, stories and agendas in order to participate with God in the redemption of the world. Praying for peace is simply one aspect of that Adventure. Join us tomorrow as we "believe the future into being."
Let us pray that we will be agents of peace in our interpersonal relationships as we pray for the healing of the strife and violence throughout Africa...as St. Francis prayed:
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
*NOTE: Peace Mennonite Church of Lawrence, Kansas has a helpful site to guide your prayers tonight.