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Peace in the valley

by davesandel on May 4th, 2021

Tuesday, May 4, 2021            (today’s lectionary)

Peace in the valley

Enemies arrived and won over the crowds. The crowds stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city. They thought he was dead. But he was not.

The streets are dusty, the air is hot. Around the corner a heckler pursues Paul’s last point. “Who is this Jesus anyway? Just a rabble rouser, why are we even talking about him?” The crowd had been listening to Paul, but the heckler is loud and braying as he ridicules Paul. The listeners look back and forth. They begin to grumble, mumble, stirred up toward violence.

What is it about a crowd that can make it a mob in just a moment? I know that inside me a consistently repressed stream of frustration and anger, if it is pelted with a sudden downpour of curses and condemnation, can turn in a few moments from a mostly unnoticed trickle of emotion into a flood of violence. And not just me, not when we’re in a crowd. The people around me were just moments ago calm, patient, interested in each other. But as we hear shouts of accusation coming from God knows where, the crowd’s calm disappears. My eyes harden in anticipation.

In Unspoken, Bathsheba’s mother grieves what seems to be a problem without remedy. “Men love war,” she said. David seemed to love it too, but he grew weary, and the author wrote of David’s thoughts, “Joab and Abishai were like wild donkeys, kicking and fighting the restraints of peace. And many of his mighty men were as bent upon violence as they. They stood restless, discontented with peaceful pursuits, eager to go out into battle where they could unleash their passions. They sought any excuse.”

We can choose to follow Abel or follow Cain. I can walk a gentle path and love my neighbor as myself, I can carry the weight. He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother. But too often just a nudge of resistance turns my love sour, and as my stomach turns so does the world, upside down, and I am caught in sudden righteous vindictive anger, picking up a stone myself. Stop! Bend over instead and write something in the sand.

Paul and Barnabas strengthened the spirits of the disciples, saying “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” Just as Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead, and so enter into his glory.

Jesus inspired Gandhi in India and Martin Luther King in America, and he inspires lots of us. He inspires me, if I just take the time to be with him. Jesus turned the other cheek. Jesus walked an extra mile. Jesus did the right thing, and was not swayed by angry foolish hecklers. He didn’t join the killing crowds. And he invites every one of us, regardless of what we’ve done, to follow him into the kingdom of his glorious splendor.

After they reported what God had done, they spent no little time with the disciples, and they made known the glorious splendor of God’s kingdom, whose dominion endures through all generations.

I want to be with the disciples in the Upper Room. I want to have eaten my fill of the Passover feast and be leaning back with my friends as Jesus talks of our past and our future. I want to know straight from him how much he loves us.

Jesus looked with great love at his disciples. “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you, but not as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled.

(Acts 14, Psalm 145, Luke 24, John 14)

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