Brueggemann, Peace: pp. 50-51—Jesus presented to people the possibility of living free lives—not driven or frantic, but living responsibly where they found themselves. But the end of coercion in their lives also required the end of fragmentation. And he announced that the end of fragmentation was possible as he called people away from idolatries, as his tradition had always done: No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. - Matthew 6:24
"Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Luke 12:33-34
Brueggemann, Peace: pp. 49 and 50 - The promise of the Gospel is that we may be both free and united. That is the substance of shalom...That is an enormous promise, the one people in our time are waiting to hear. The promise of freedom is powerful to those who live coerced lives and are cut off from joy. The promise of unity is powerful to folks who are cut off from other people and from their own lives, who are frenzied and frantic because of their fragmentation (Reminiscent of what is going on now with the situation of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, et.al.—MA). As one reflects on the promise of freedom and unity and on the problem of coercion and fragmentation, the intersection of the two become clear...It is when we are fragmented in the hopeless effort to serve too many gods and honor too many priorities that we are coerced.
Brueggemann, Peace, pp. 49: The lack of unity we face lies not only between groups in our society but in the schizoid posture we come to take for granted in our own lives, so that in our carefully delineated roles, we are like the man possessed with a demon whose name was Legion (Mark 5:2-9). The Gospel wills us not to live that kind of life. After Jesus casts out the demon, the Gospel reports: They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. (Mark 5:15) This is what Jesus does and what the church might be doing. He takes this man with a scattershot life and restores him to unity concerning his person. Notice the translation: "right mind." And notice also that when the others saw it, they were afraid. The world is afraid of right-minded—that is, single-minded—people.
Brueggemann, Peace: pp. 48—First century Christians proclaimed that the world was not meant for alienation but for unity. The good news of unity was directed to the separated and the alienated. God aches at the disunity in the world. I want you to reflect on what kinds of things keep us at odds. Such factors include, at least, pride—of place and of accomplishments—greed for stuff and for power, fear, and misunderstanding. As I thought about this, it occurred to me that most obviously, fear is on the list as an agent of slavery and as an agent of separation. And surely in Jesus ‘ministry, everybody with whom he had to do—the well-off and the outcasts—everybody had an agenda of fears that immobilized and alienated. And it is not different now, is it?
Brueggemann, Peace: pp. 47 & 48—Whereas the Jesus texts were much more about freedom, Paul reflects much on unity. The central text of most of our current thinking about shalom is in Ephesians. Paul [or his disciples] writes. Remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of two, thus making peace (Ephesians 2:12-15).
Brueggemann, Peace: pp. 46&47—The unity theme is not as prominent in Jesus’ teaching as that of freedom, but it is there:
"I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd" - John 10:15-16
"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself" - John 12:32
Brueggemann, Peace, p. 45 & 46—continuing with unity: And then there is this most majestic view of unity:
"The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand in the adder's den." (Isaiah 11:6-8)
I present to you today the words of Fr. Don Snyder of St. Ladislas Parish in Westlake, OH. One of the permanent deacon candidates called it to my attention and it is too good to miss. Do see the exhibit of the St. John's Bible is you have the opportunity. The homily is shared with Dr. Don's gracious permission.
(Brueggemann, p. 44) Paul reflected a long time on slavery and freedom. He did not think there are a lot of little slaveries, but that they are all of piece, and we can name them. He called them "elemental spirits": "We are enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world" (Galatians 4:3) and "If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world?" (Colossians 2:20). This may sound primitive today because most people do not believe that way. But even if we are more sophisticated, we still know that the powers that coerce us are powerful and alive, and for some reason we are not free to lives our lives ward joy. We spend our time crying, satisfying others, measuring up, meeting quotas.