Monday, 26 September 2016

Prayers about war

(journaled March 2016)

Today I was reading some prayers from the Anglican Common Prayer book (1950s Canadian version) which are related to war. I have become more and more ambivalent about war, and really find myself getting quite deep into the pacifist camp. At the same time, I am realizing that war is pretty much "human nature" and also beloved by the ruling elites because of the power it offers (and who rarely send their own sons and daughters to fight). I just am having a really hard time wrapping my head around Christians who seem to love and support wars (well, they love and support the war-loving political parties, too...)

One of the prayers reads: "...strengthen and protect ... shelter ... keep them safe from all evil ... and grant that in all things they may serve as seeing Thee who are invisible, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."  But should we not pray for those caught up in the fighting on both sides, those "conscripted" or convinced by their respective sides that their side is right? Not to mention the civilians caught up in the middle of it.

On the other hand, I sure don't feel like praying for those who create and support the wars, due to their desire for power and wealth.

I kind of understand about praying for those who stand up against tyranny and evil ... if only wars were that simple. But this prayer invokes Jesus' name, he who taught "turning the other cheek."

And oh my goodness: what would happen if all militaries actually "served as seeing Thee who art invisible"? If they looked up from the battle and all saw You looking down on them, what would they do? Keep killing each other, thinking You're approving them (and that You're opposing the "other side"?)(as Constantine apparently did, and the Crusaders, and, yes, lots of military leaders today). Or fall with their faces to the ground and throw away their weapons in shame? or?

I think a lot of the "just war theory" appeals to the Old Testament militaristic record. (And what's with all that Old Testament war and mayhem anyway? And how, oh how, does it line up with the New Testament record ... and then back to the final battles of Armageddon and so on?)

I think that under the power of evil, war is inevitable ... and if no one fought, would the evil power just get stronger? Could "turning the other cheek" really stop it, in a world under so much of the rule of the enemy (yet which, thankfully, is still itself under the rule of God ... how that must gall the evil powers).

But even if war is inevitable in this world, does that mean believers should agree to take up arms?

What about all those gun-lovers, including so many civilian ones? They LOVE their guns! What is with that? (And so many of them claim to love Jesus, too...)

Well, the next prayer has some good points ... but I wonder: if God judged the "other side" to be more in the right, what then? If God is asked to judge--rescue--in OUR wars--would He even be willing? And if so, would we accept that judgment, really?

I suppose, as long as the enemy chooses to war against righteousness, war is inevitable ... even for the "Lord of Hosts" -- and His angels --- and His people?  I don't know. I wonder how God sees war? I'm sure for Him it's about righteousness vs evil--but what does that really mean?

"Lord of hosts, that rulest and commandest all things: Thou sittest in the throne judging right, and therefore we [ask] ... that thou wouldst take the cause into thine own hand, and judge between us and our enemies .... O let not our sins not cry against us for vengeance, but ... be a defence unto us against the face of the enemy. Make it appear that thou art our ... mighty Deliverer."

What if God judges against our side?

I think this prayer means that we want to win--and when we do, we want people to be able to say, "See? It's obvious--God gave the victory to us. He really is on our side! We are God's favoured people!" (Kind of like when football players kneel on the field after a victory to give thanks--or throw down their helmets and yell in anger when they lose).

What if it is our own sins that have brought us to this point of war? Of course, it always is to some degree. And what if both sides are crying out to God for mercy (so they can win, presumably--though I doubt there is any true victory in man's wars ...). What is the righteous Judge to do?

"God ... to whom it belongeth justly to punish sinners, and to be merciful to them that truly repent: Save us and deliver us ... from the hands of our enemies...." BUT: Do we truly repent and turn to God when war arrives on our doorstep? Do we? And if we did, would not our response to it be different? Would we still march proudly, patriotically, enthusiastically, "righteously" into battle?

"....abate their pride, assuage their malice, and confound their devices...." But what about our own pride, malice and devices?

" glorify thee, who art the only giver of all victory ..." Do You really want to be glorified for stepping into our wars? Unless we are truly your people--but in that case, would we be warring in the first place? Spending huge amounts on our military capabilities, etc.?

If "conscientious objectors" offered to "pray for God's will" during battles (instead of fighting in those battles)--I wonder if the military leaders would even want them to do that? I suspect God's will is not man's will--and the military would be wise to fear His will.

Do You honour those who really are pacifists on account of following and believing in You? I think so. But I am also pretty sure they will face dishonor from the world, just as Jesus did. Even torture and death. But oh, to be in relationship with You through it all, forever. That makes it all worthwhile, right?

Monday, 19 September 2016

What is Your Truth?

(journaled Feb 24, 2016)

Lord God--what is your Truth? Many writers/preachers/etc. nowadays seem to have their own "take" on Truth, and seem sure that they are right and others are wrong. There seems to be a pride in "being right" . . . and not much love, care, concern toward others . . . except being concerned to show, in minutest detail, how others are wrong. We can see others' shortcomings--or outright wrongs--but not our own, it seems.

And yet, lately, I have become concerned that I have been wandering off the path, becoming too "liberal" (or neo-liberal?) in my ways of thinking, wandering from the basic teachings of scripture. So I find myself retreating to  a "back to the faith of our fathers" ... and I find I am linked to the "Protestant" tradition. Is it because of the way I was brought up?  I am also becoming more wary of the kind of Christianity that is strongly mixed up with metaphysical approaches.

I don't want to get caught up again in a fundamentalism that is cold and "doctrine/law" based, and pushes relationship with You--love of You--away. But I also don't want wishy-washy-ness. I feel scared right now, because I don't know where to turn--other than to You. I feel like I don't trust anyone other than You.

And then I worry very much that my perception of You may be just that--my perception--and I might be all wrong. O dear God, please guide me to Yourself--to You, the Way, the Truth, the Life.  I don't expect to find "pat answers" exactly, because You're far more than the "pat answers" of human understanding. I believe that. But I also believe (because You said it, Jesus) that there is a simple faith, a child-like faith, that is available to us--and that we are to use and follow as we follow You.

I really, really would like to find that core of faith in You that is clear, and straight, the narrow path that provides a clear road to You, so I'm not so easily led down other paths--or intrigued by them. I absolutely need to keep my eyes fixed on You, Jesus ... and not distracted by the approval of others (so that I listen to and absorb their ideas that are not centered on You, the Truth).

I find myself in an awkward position where I've said so many angry--and arrogant--things against "traditional church" and people who are "shallow" or "easily led" ("sheeple") and so on ... and I've prided myself on getting out, getting free ... and now I find myself wanting to pull back, to find that which is  good and true and stable in "traditional church." And fear that my whining and my questioning and my arrogance may well be responsible for leading others astray.

Oh dear God, please guide me to see where I've been wrong (but also where I'm okay), and encourage others to follow You faithfully.  Not to get so caught up in "side topics" that they lose sight of You the way I have done.

Monday, 12 September 2016

clergy and lay people

(journaled Feb 16, 2006)

I am thinking more and more that our "problem" with "leadership/clergy" is actually more a problem with "lay persons"--who have little or no role other than to turn up and agree with the leaders.

Okay, of course it is more complicated that that, but really, creating a large class of "non-ministry" church members is a big problem, because by putting the "focus" in the hands of a few, it tends to take the focus off Jesus as Lord; it discourages the "lay people" from really being involved as part of the church body, growing in faith and grace and relationship with God, from doing their part--using their gifts--for the health and edification of the church, from spreading the gospel, from loving God and others, from being valued equally as Jesus values all equally.

There is a place for "leadership" (though, oh, I have disliked the "L word") but it must be a place of humility and serving, as in "the greatest must be the least," as Jesus Himself has shown. There is no place for "human" honor and trappings, though certainly there is a place for respect and love, and yes, even obedience when the leader is walking close with Jesus (and if he/she isn't, they are no longer actually worthy of leadership).

There is also no place for those who would say, "My church," or attach their personal name to a "ministry," as that path can so easily lead to a man/woman "being in charge" rather than Jesus. It does seem there are occasional people who are very humble, and yet have their name attached to their ministry (like Billy Graham, perhaps), but there are far too many cases, especially in North American ministries with the leader's name attached, which have become far too "leader-centered" (man or woman).

Such a fine line, but I am inclining to give more value to clergy/leaders than I did a few years ago when I became so discouraged at what I saw happening in churches focusing on a human leader. At the same time, I am still wanting all members of the body of Christ to be valued, and recognized and encouraged for the roles God has called them to.

Something to think more about...

Monday, 5 September 2016

Connection to Creation

(journaled Jan 6, 2016)

"The stars sang for joy" at creation, didn't they? Why have we--at least the evangelicals I've known--focused so much on people praising the Lord, but basically ignored, or even been afraid of, thinking about how all the other aspects of creation are called upon also in scripture, to praise the Lord.

It certainly is a reminder to us that we are only a part of creation and that we are to be united with the rest of creation in the basic purpose of our creation: praising, magnifying, blessing, worshipping our Creator. Maybe it's partly our smugness, even pride, about being "a special creation," or "the pinnacle of creation," or the "only thinking/reasoning creatures" or whatever. Maybe we don't want to admit that God enjoys and is praised by the rest of creation too, each in its own way.

Scripture is actually pretty anthropomorphic about the ways it does that! Like mountains skipping and stars singing, and so on. Maybe we don't want to be humble enough to realize our position in creation isn't as exalted as we'd like to think. We are IN creation, rather than ABOVE creation, for the most part, aren't we?

Yes, our "special relationship" with God is special. But we are still created beings and we also have a very practical and real "relationship" in so many ways with the rest of creation, to which we are intimately connected, and which we literally depend upon for our very breath and life. We are "animals" in that sense--and too often, in our behavior and attitudes and such, we have to admit that we act like "lower beasts" despite our potential "special relationship" with our Creator.

I guess maybe people are also nervous about getting "off the straight and narrow" and getting caught up in "New Age" or "metaphysics" or "paganism/ druidism/ animistic" beliefs held by those who try to be more closely connected to "Mother Earth." Maybe recognizing that all of creation praises God is seen as being on the edge of a slippery slope. But nonetheless, it is scriptural. And God clearly sees all His creation is "very good" and appreciates His connection to it and its connection to, and praise of Him, its Creator.