Swords to plowshares?

How shall we build God’s beloved community?  What shall God’s church look like?  This?

Ken Pagano, the pastor of the New Bethel Church here, is passionate about gun rights. He shoots regularly at the local firing range, and his sermon two weeks ago was on “God, Guns, Gospel, and Geometry.” And on Saturday night, he is inviting his congregation of 150 and others to wear or carry their firearms into the sanctuary to “celebrate our rights as Americans!” as a promotional flier for the “open carry celebration” puts it.

God and guns were part of the foundation of this country,” Mr. Pagano, 49, said Wednesday as he sat in the small brick Assembly of God house of worship, where a large wooden cross hung over the altar and two American flags jutted from the side walls. “I don’t see any contradiction in this. Not every Christian denomination is pacifist.”

The bring-your-gun-to-church day, which will include a $1-raffle of a handgun, firearms safety lessons and a picnic, is another sign that the gun culture in the United States is thriving despite, or perhaps because of, President Obama’s election in November…

NYT

Or this?

He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

– Isaiah 2:4

How shall we build God’s beloved community?

…the fear remains that Mr. Obama, and his attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., will crack down on guns sooner or later. That — along with the faltering economy, which gun sellers say has spurred purchases for self-defense — has fueled a record surge in gun sales…

NYT, cont.

While some preach the Gospel of More Swords, Another preached otherwise:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.”

Matthew 5:38-42

And he didn’t only preach it:

…[T]hen they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword…”

Matthew 26:50-52

…When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him…

Luke 22:49-51

While some preach the Gospel of More Swords, a 9 year old girl was gunned down in Chicago’s backyard:

…[Chastity Turner] was shot in the neck and taken in extremely critical condition to the U. of C. Medical Center, said Larry Langford, a spokesman for the Fire Department. Her father and a 17-year-old boy were taken in critical condition to Stroger Hospital, he said…

– Chicago Tribune

How shall we build God’s beloved community?  How long must God’s people be cut down by the instruments of death and devastation?

Come, O Jesus, our healer.  Show us how to follow in Your way.  Help us to put our trust in You, as we lay down our swords and shields.

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[1000 words]

Good things in small packages

I know I was touched by God Incarnate this morning.  It was awesome.

Today we had a special healing service after the two usual ones at church.  There was laying on of hands, anointing with oil and some good praying and music.  I played and sang a couple chants on piano.  It was free-flowing and simple, leisurely yet concise.  It was rather unlike our usual weekly white Protestant fare, in which church is a more individual endeavor (though not nearly as personal).

Since I was playing piano, I did not go forward to be anointed with oil during the healing service, but I wanted to be anointed afterward.  Those who had helped officiate (a pastor and a few ‘Ministers of Care’) were scattered about the room,  so I turned to the closest other person, a short, cute kid certainly no more than 4 years old.  I called him over and said, “I didn’t get any oil for my head during the service.  Would you help me?”  He nodded.

I picked up one of the bowls of oil and handed it to him, kneeling down to his level.  He dipped his left index finger into the oil and slowly, deliberately traced it down my forehead – then across, in order to complete the cross.

His mom then came over and helped him say a prayer for me.  She told me he really likes church.  I told her, maybe he’ll end up getting stuck here too.  I hope someday, particularly if he does end up going into ministry, I can find him and tell him this story.

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.”  I’ve been exploring the idea that Jesus is, among other things, an ongoing, at-any-moment manifestation of God Incarnate, one who shows up in others (and maybe even me? Whoa…) from time to time.  Today, I’m convinced that Jesus showed up personally to me and blessed me at the hands of this awesome little kid.  Thanks, Ethan!