Peace as a realized eschatology

PAM Conference lecturer believes this kind of peace is emerging in the here and now

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

Adam Tice, a Mennonite composer of hymns and songs, is delivering the series of Routley Lectures during the conference of the Presbyterian Association of Musicians being held this week at Montreat Conference Center. (Photo by Paul Seebeck)

MONTREAT, N.C. — As part of the first week of the 2019 Presbyterian Association of Musicians Conference being held at Montreat Conference Center, Adam Tice was about to deliver his first Routley Lecture.

Just before he began, he was telling a conference participant how he was going to speak about music and peace — and congregational singing and peacemaking.

“That person said, ‘Well, first you’re going to have to define what you mean by peace,’” Tice said.

Tice, a Mennonite who’s a widely-published hymn- and song-writer, took on the challenge and rewrote the first half of his first lecture for week two of the PAM conference Monday.

“I want to present to you peace as a realized eschatology,” he said, “as an understanding that God is bringing about God’s reign here and now.”

Tice went on describe peace — this realized eschatology — as a quality that is emerging among us in the world today, in which we as Christians are seeking to participate here and now.

As Tice led participants in singing, it became more evident the kind of peace he was describing.

In “We are People of God’s Peace,” a section of theological work by Meno Simons was paraphrased into music.  The hymn’s opening line is, “We are people of God’s peace, as a new creation.” Singing it through, the people are described as not only choosing this kind of peace, but faithfully serving it with their heart’s devotion.

Tice is on the Mennonite hymnal committee for the forthcoming “Voices Together.” After the committee had sung the hymn through a few times, one of its members said, “But you know what we’re not? We talk a good game, but we’re really bad at keeping peace with each other.”

“We are known for being so nice to everyone else, but not to each other,” Tice said.

“We’re splitting and fighting with each other, and we don’t know how to talk about it. So, we’re working on how we might acknowledge that we’re not very good at it.”

Tice also sang with those attending his lecture the Mennonite hymn, “I will Sing with You.” On the topic of reconciliation, the lyrics move from wanting peace with family to wanting it for neighbor and then even for rivals. One of the lines in the text speaks about differences as the place where God is on holy ground.

“Originally the language was about peace for brother and sister,” Tice said. “But we found that language was no longer all-encompassing — this revised language describes all people without having to rely on gender.”

Tice also drew attention to the lyrics  he wrote for a hymn that is included in “Glory to God,” “The Earth Belongs to God Alone” (Hymn 715). Fascinated at Levitical laws that address the well-being of the land, especially at the call for a fallow period or “land sabbath,” Tice said he began to think of land as a biblical character.

“One of the interpretations of the Babylon exile,” Tice said, “that the land spit out Israel for abusing the land, which teaches us how to care for not only for each other, but creation.”

He noted that 2 Chronicles 36:21  , on which he based the hymn’s lyrics, speaks about waiting “until the land had made up for its sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept sabbath, to fulfill 70 years.”

During each of the daily Routley lectures, Tice plans to address ways of singing as peacemakers.  He’s also planning “a fun, little congregational song-writing exercise.” Later in the week, he’ll be joined by Sally Ann Morris, the musician-in-residence at Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity. Morris has collaborated with Tice on hymns, songs, anthems and a CD, “Walk in Peace.”

The PAM conference runs through Friday and has as its theme “Not as the World Gives.” The theme is based on a verse from Jesus’ Farewell Discourse, John 14:27 , where Jesus says to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”


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