Monday, September 25, 2017

Peacemaking is essential to our faith

 Matthew 5:21–26

Submitted by Rev. Dr. Daniel J. Ott

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister
has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled
to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

Reflection: Worship without reconciliation is false. Here Jesus says that if you remember a wrong you’ve done to someone during worship, stop. Leave. Reconcile. Then return to worship. This is reminiscent of the prophet Amos saying for God, “I hate, I despise your festivals. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps,” until justice rolls down like waters “and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5)

Reconciliation, justice, and peacemaking are so essential to our faith that our worship is empty without them. We might even say that worship is peacemaking and peacemaking is worship. One of the primary tasks of worship is to make peace with God and neighbor, to repent and forgive. This is why Reformed worship begins with rites of confession and reconciliation. We pray, “forgive what we have been, help us amend what we are, and direct what we shall be.” And we remind each other, “Since God has forgiven us in Christ, let us forgive one another,” as we bid each other, “Peace be with you!”

Likewise, when people stand for peace, this is true worship. Recently, when church folks have taken to the streets to stand with victims of police violence or march with those advocating for immigrant rights or to speak against xenophobia, they’ve begun to use a variation of the chant “This is what democracy looks like!” They shout, “This is what theology looks like!” This is what faith looks like! This is what worship looks like!

Action: Review the Service for the Lord’s Day liturgy and notice how much of worship involves reconciliation, community building, and making peace with God and neighbor.

Prayer: May my worship be peacemaking and my peacemaking be worship. May my offering be repentance and my song reconciliation. “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

Daniel J. Ott is an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Monmouth College, Monmouth Illinois.  His research interests include liberal theology in the twentieth century and Christian approaches to peace and nonviolence.  His articles and review articles have appeared in Political Theology and the American Journal for Theology and Philosophy among others.  He is co-author with Hannah Schell of Christian Thought in America: A Brief History (Fortress Press).

This year’s Path of Peace reflections are based on the Five Affirmations to Guide the Peacemaking Witness of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Writers were recruited to help us explore the following affirmations as each week of A Season of Peace unfolds:

  1. Peacemaking is essential to our faith.
  2. We have sinned by participating in acts of violence.
  3. We reclaim the power of nonviolent love.
  4. We commit to the study and practice of nonviolence.
  5. We will practice boldly the things that make for peace.

Each author writes Monday–Friday, beginning with the first affirmation and ending with the fifth. The authors represent a variety of vocations and experiences in peacemaking efforts, and each week presents a new ‘voice’ to walk you through the affirmations. The weekend devotions, written by the editor, also reflect the five affirmations. Individuals and households are invited to make use of these daily reflections beginning on Sunday, September 3, and concluding on World Communion Sunday, October 1.

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