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.
Brueggemann, p. 43: "For freedom, Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery...For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters" (Galatians 5:1, 13). Obviously, the freedom Paul discovered in the gospel was not an invitation to irresponsibility, nor was it a promise that there would be no more burdens or hardships. But now they are the responsibilities, burdens, and hardships of a free person, one not driven, but one facing options and having the power to choose the good news against all the bad forms of news that make promises that can never be kept. Slavery is many different things. Whatever the slavery that binds a person, that is the one that counts. Let us characterize slavery simply as that which keeps us from being joyous. When we locate that, we will be close to the source of our oppression.
Brueggemann, in Chapter 3, decides of all the implied meanings in shalom to focus first on freedom: Jesus Christ frees. God intends freedom. It is clear to us all that our biblical story—our biblical faith—begins in the story of the exodus. Taken historically, that story is about how a band of Israelites were freed one wondrous night long ago. Taken theologically, it is the announcement of how God’s purpose for freedom intruded radically into history and redesigned the direction of history. Now history becomes the story of how God’s purpose for freedom made its powerful way in the affairs of persons and nations. Exodus has given us a model to understand that the key problem in human experience is the problem of oppression, embodied here in the Pharaoh.