I feel great about being a “peace church” connected to a tradition of peacemaking. When we got to host the Anabaptist network of Philadelphia—the Kingdom Builders—for our monthly gathering the other day, I felt grateful to be part of a diverse body of Jesus followers devoted to peacemaking. While the major Presidential candidates talk tough about things like immigration or
foreign war policy, a growing number of us want to live in ways that are alternative to the USA’s military and economic domination.
For this gathering I was asked to share about the MCC Learning Tour I took part of last Spring. If you haven’t, you should check out Rod’s posts about what we did. Related to the trip—I also wrote about my spiritual discipline of wonder, the great music I encountered (and recorded), and state violence speaking on our behalf.
We began with the Bible, like always. This time we read three translations of Luke 14:1-6, when Jesus was invited over to the home of a spiritual leader in his Jewish community. Another guest suffered from dropsy, a disorder marked by unusual swelling with water and ironically, unquenchable thirst. Like many of Jesus’ healing miracles, this one has multiple levels of meaning worth considering. For a longer rendition, take a look at what Ched Myers recently wrote about what this miracle can say to us.
First, Jesus heals the man. Take it at face value—the man had a condition one moment and did not the next. This healing transgressed the Sabbath, which offended the pious Pharisees. Jesus uses this moment to teach about the Sabbath and assert a spiritual life that goes beyond mere rule following.
Secondly, like Luke does so often, this story reflects the audience back to classic stories in the formation of the Jewish people. God often provides in a way that doesn’t just meet a particular need. God also shows a way out of conditions we may not have considered addressing. Dropsy could be symbolic of avarice (extreme greed of materials), which God taught the people on Exodus another kind of reliance—one on manna from heaven.
Thirdly, how tempting it is even for us to grow accustomed to the avarice at our own dinner tables, presiding over a spiritual matter while tacitly accepting oppressive behaviors. By healing the man and sending him away, Jesus also shows that His liberation is also for those carrying the spiritual burden of privilege, wealth, and does not leave economics the way they were.
To live out our call to peace, we not only have the inspiration of Jesus, but we have traditions of the Church and the power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t need to pretend that the wealth disparity in our present context is normative. We don’t have to live into the scarcity mindset of the Western Church—concerned more with its own buildings, expensive salaries for exotic leaders, or turning Christ’s body into corporations. We can feel the connection of the worldwide Body of Christ, starting with the connections we already have.
The 97-year-old Mennonite Central Committee connects us not just to peace, relief, and development work in Zimbabwe and Zambia but helps us transgress state allegiance and the unhealthy myth that “we have money” and others don’t. All of our money can belong to God, and we can discern ways to share that help us all live in freedom and harmony. I’m encouraged by the time I got to spend with these leaders, this time from about 12 different Anabaptist churches and agencies. Let’s keep making more possibilities for spiritual vitality that leads to healthier communities globally, starting with our own proverbial dinner tables.