War is Over

Posted on: January 4th, 2013 by Eleanor Johnston No Comments

By Eleanor Johnston and Wayne Fraser

The authorities of church and state in Jesus’ time fixated on establishing and maintaining power over the people, using rules and violence. The people surely felt no love for or trust in the Pharisees or the Romans. When Jesus spoke to the people of his society, they were drawn instinctively to him because he could teach and heal them. He loved them and this freed them from the top-down structures that impoverished them. His love was stronger than the rules of the Jewish religion or the laws of the Roman state.
Imagine that Jesus grew up in an Anglican family and worshipped regularly in an Anglican church somewhere in Niagara. He was a well-adjusted, gentle but strong child who dropped out of high school and took off to the poorest country in the world where he worked for an NGO. He kept in touch with his parents who worried about him but respected that he had to do what God called him to do.
One day, as the winter lessened its hold on the frozen land, he returned, walked into the office of the priest and introduced himself. The priest had heard of this young man and welcomed him. They sat down to tea and the first thing Jesus said was, “The cookies haven’t changed.”
They laughed and Jesus asked, “What are you and your people doing for God’s kingdom?”
After the priest had described the outreach program, Jesus asked, “How do you reach out to your parishioners?”
The priest started to feel uneasy. “I visit those who are sick or troubled in any way.” Jesus kept silent, and she continued, “Do you mean the care of their souls? You know, I try but they are so busy that they don’t have time for reading the Bible, studying it, praying together.” Her voice trailed off.
“What do they care about most?”
“Whether the server hands me the holy hardware in the right order.”
“What do you care about most?”
“The kids whose parents are abusive to fellow churchgoers, the street person who lives in the alley beside our church, the man who got rich illegally.”
“What’s the point of your Sunday service?”
“To worship God, to lift people’s hearts and minds and souls out of their everyday concerns, to inspire them to do God’s will through the coming week.”
“Does it work?”
The priest was overwhelmed. She put her head down on her desk, trying not to cry, wondering how this young man could so quickly get to the essence of her failure. “Only sometimes. Sometimes it feels like gang warfare.”
“What do you do about it?”
“They bully me. I’m afraid they’ll fire me.”
“Why don’t you want to be fired?”
The priest sat up and laughed. She started to feel a kind of peace she remembered from long ago.
Jesus said, “Let me tell you a story. A teacher walks into a classroom of screaming children and shouts, “Stop shouting!” The students ignore the teacher who says to herself, “These are badly behaved little brats. I’ll teach them who’s boss.” Using the school’s disciplinary system, she subdues the children and tries to teach the curriculum. The children spend the year irritating her without breaking any rules. They learn only that their hatred is stronger than the school’s rules.
A second teacher walks into a classroom of screaming children and starts speaking to them in a normal voice. She works for eye contact and smiles. Within minutes, there is silence and she keeps asking and answering questions, not repeating what they missed when they were noisy. She trusts that most of the children want to learn and to be liked. She models interest in the curriculum and respect in her treatment of every student. The children spend the year learning the curriculum, helping her and each other. They learn that love is stronger than rules.
“Now tell me, which teacher is of God?”
“The one who loved her students.”
“Now look at your church. Where is Emmanuel?”
“In you.” This was easy for the priest to say, but Jesus waited. Finally the priest had the courage to continue. “And in me.”
“And in everyone in the parish.”
“Even in those who are chronically angry over customs?”
“Yes. And even ….” She paused.
Jesus nodded. “Yes. Even those whose belief in God is based on threats and power.”
“Okay, that’s a hard one for me.”
“And in everyone in the world. And in every other species, and every other living thing.” The priest was exhilarated by hope.
Then the reality of her problems swamped her. “What can I do? I’m not a great teacher or a great healer. I can’t save the world or even ….”
“Remember me when you are about our Father’s business.”
“I know, the still small voice of calm. I know.”
“War is over.”


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