|Home Articles Words of Comfort|
Printer Friendly Version
Subscribe to our FREE monthly e-mail magazine.
Messages from Mennonite leaders
God's people have hopeMarch 18, 2003
Monday evening, March 17, President George Bush issued an ultimatum to President Saddam Hussein to leave the country. Soon after, President Hussein refused. Troops are moving into position; families are laying in supplies or fleeing. An invasion might happen as early as Wednesday.
The world today is a bleak place for United States Mennonites who have worked for peace these last long months. We hold a deep grief for our sisters and brothers of Iraq, for the armed forces who have been deployed to the battlefields, and for leaders who chose violence.
Grief that leads to compassion is a grief that serves God. God speaks to us through deep sorrow and we must take the time to listen. Healthy grief will lead to prayer and action, not to depression or stagnation.
Our job was never to stop this war. Our job was to faithfully answer Christ’ s call to peace, and to share that call with our neighbors. As long as we have been faithful to God, we are not failures.
Much good has come from this work. We’ve clarified our thinking; we’ve taken time we didn’t think we had to work for peace; we’ve had conversations in our congregations, families, and communities about our theology.
The work is not done. We are continually called to be a conscience in our society. We will work to shorten any conflict, to bring justice during occupation, to help members of the armed services heal and feel God’s love when they return to our families and communities. We will continue to visibly share the light of God’s hope and peace with our communities.
If you’ve been planning to hold a worship service on the eve of an invasion, finish your planning soon. Two worship services are available on the Peace and Justice Support Network web site (below).
Our hope does not lie in day-to-day events, but in the everlasting God, who has created us and called us good, who has lived among us to teach us how to be peacemakers, who sustains us in our worst times. This God loves you with a love that will not let go. This God will bring spring to us regardless of human events, and in spring, we have the rebirth of Easter. May you soon see a blooming bulb, may you soon see a child’s smile, may you always feel and share the joy of Christ.
Pray for Peace,
Susan Mark Landis, peace advocate
As our nation prepares for war, it is time us as a people of peace to decide how we will follow the Prince of Peace. May we be fervent in our prayers and bold in our actions as we speak out for peace in our families, congregations, communities, nation and world.
In recent weeks I have been drawn often to the words of Jesus in Matthew 12 about the unclean spirit returning to the person from where it had departed, or been cast out, and bringing with it seven other spirits more evil than itself. The result is that the "last state of the person is worse than the first." Matthew's account ends with Jesus saying: "So will it be with this evil generation."
One of the truths in this parable seems to be that even well-intentioned actions, expelling unclean spirits, can have unintended consequences. This parable warns that even allowing for the possibility that Saddam is as evil as our government is portraying him to be, we should be careful in trying to expel or kill him. Our government may be successful in killing Saddam, but this may well result in many unforeseen consequences which will make our final state worse than the first.
In pondering this scripture, I was also drawn to a similar warning in Matthew 13.24-30, the well-known parable of the weeds in the wheat. Our government is launching a major campaign to pull out the weeds in Iraq and elsewhere. These words of Jesus remind us that this campaign will also destroy many healthy wheat plants. Jesus advises: "Let [the wheat and the weeds] grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, collect the weeds first and bind them together in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn."
This parable may or may not be a blueprint for US foreign policy, but it again points to unforeseen consequences in trying to deal forcefully with evil in the world. It also points to the dangerous futility of trying to divide the world into good and the evil, presuming to know who is evil, and determining to stamp it out.
These scriptures provide little comfort in this time, except the comfort of time-honored wisdom. President Bush and his closest advisors AND the enemies they would stamp out would do well to ponder the wisdom in these scriptures. The world is bearing the cruel consequences of foolish crusading against evil whether it comes from Al Queda or Iraq or the United States. May the word and the wisdom of our Lord somehow prevail.
The following quote from Wordsmith caught my eye:
I say, take courage. We've been here before--during the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the Revolutionary War (1776-1782), the War of 1812, the Civil War (1861-1865), World War I (1914-1918), World War II (1941-1945), the Korean War (1950-1953) the Vietnam War (1964-1975), to name the major ones.
Perhaps this article (Mennonite Historical Bulletin, April 2002) featuring a petition to U. S. President Abraham Lincoln by Ohio Mennonite bishop John M. Brenneman will provide context and perspective.
John E. Sharp
It is easy to become disheartened and feel that our words, our pleas, our prayers over the last several months made no difference. But our message has been crucial, even if it is not the path chosen by our government. Words and actions for peace shape our identity, and help us to withstand the pressure of our society to believe and do what is "realistic" or "necessary." Our words may be foolishness to the world, but they keep us grounded in the wisdom of God.
Janeen Bertsche Johnson