XXI Pentecost, Year A
“Preach peace to my faithful people!”
Preaching peace has become a dangerous occupation in today’s world. In the absence of an overwhelming threat of nuclear annihilation the impetus to reject violence completely as a means to human ends has largely evaporated.
Overcoming a long history of violence
In fact, violence has once again become so widely accepted that to preach non-violence as the an indispensable part of being “perfect” as our Heavenly Father is perfect falls on deaf ears at best, and hostile ears all too often. Still, Michael and I feel compelled to call our preaching sisters and brothers to this task, and to help where we can. “Violence is no attribute of God.” We read this in the mid-second century document known as the “Epistle to Diognetus.” Many will respond to that assertion by pointing to the innumerable instances of violence that are attributed to God in the Bible. Though we find no such evidence of divine violence in the portion called the New Testament, Christian theology over the centuries has also added a violent overlay to the sacred texts that needs to be peeled away.
In the Hebrew Bible, the task becomes somewhat more complicated, as human violence is often attributed to God and the preacher’s task must be to distinguish between the non-violent God of Israel who seeks to emerge in the texts from the archaic patterns of thought from which the people of Israel emerged.
A new, non-violent perspective
The most illuminating thinker in the last century in both these pursuits has been Rene Girard, and it is to his work (“mimetic theory”) that Michael and I turn as a means to both these ends. It is time to let the Gospel speak clearly about God’s rejection of violence and the murder of the scapegoat, and it is equally time to speak clearly about the presence of violence in some of our biblical texts and their human (not divine) origins. Girard has put forward a clear and compelling way of understanding the historic relationship between violence and religion and the way that the story of God’s relationship to Israel and the Gospel in particular expose and dismantle that relationship.
How we hope to assist in the preaching of Peace
This web project will be a set of reflections on the texts of the Revised Common Lectionary informed by our study of Rene’s work and our own exegesis. We will look at the texts from a variety of directions, always keeping the task of preaching peace foremost in our minds. In addition, there will be some introductory articles on the gospel that is central to the lectionary (Mark this year, Year B) and a glossary and index to help you use this resource if you are unfamiliar with some of the terms used in mimetic theory or if you want to locate a particular text because you are not from a church whose calendar is constrained by the RCL.
This preaching resource is free, and will remain free. Michael and I believe so strongly that this work is needed in our world that we offer it free of charge. We are also more than willing to share in this enterprise, so if you would like to be a contributor, please write me at preachingpeace.org. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
God Bless you and your ministry!
Jeff Krantz and Michael Hardin