Advent 19 of 50: Imagine
These last couple of days on our Advent Journey we have spoken about Jesus’ commandment to not resist evil. The champions of good, by virtue of that title, are the heroes of folklore, history and even fantasy. All of them have left their mark by opposing and fighting evil, hence, the great disconnect between the good guys in our life and Jesus’ commandment to not resist evil. In Jesus’ case, his opposition to evil is not defined by increased violence. His opposition to evil came without inciting more evil.
John Lennon, in a song widely regarded as one of the greatest songs of all time, challenged us to Imagine, there’s no heaven… above us only sky… people living for today. Imagine countries… nothing to kill or die for… no religion… no possessions, no need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man… Imagine all the people sharing all the world… and the world will live as one.
This song was written in opposition to the Vietnam War (1971) and Lennon himself regarded it as an “ad campaign for peace.”
In our encounter with Jesus’ commandments, and in particular with this one which asks us to not resist evil, we are understand that opposition to evil cannot come by adding evil to the equation. Evil + evil will never equal an absence of evil. We can’t fight fire with fire when it’s only reasonable (and preferrable) to fight it with water.
“Whoever slaps you on your right cheek,” Jesus instructs, “Turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” (Matthew 5:39-41)
Absence of evil is love and so “love your enemies” is a natural next step, and a necessary step on the road to peace.
Within the Armenian Church, the phrase “Peace unto all” is repeated often in its seven hours of worship, and most notably during its Divine Liturgy. Imagine that, a people that have not known peace, and at the same time have possessed no military power or elaborate military strategy, and yet they proclaim and offer peace.
We pause today with an invitation and an Advent challenge, in preparation for Christmas, can you imagine an alternative to evil to resolve evil? Jesus’ call to “Be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matthew 5:48) implies that there are means that require us to use our God given talents to overcome the tragedies we identify as evil.
The Advent Journey is about preparing ourselves for the great Theophany, the Revelation of God. That preparation is through the struggle to understand – “imagine,” if you will – our existence as children of God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
We pray a prayer by Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. O God, the Creator and Preserver of all mankind; in whom to dwell is to find peace and security; toward whom to turn is to find life and life eternal, we humbly beseech Thee for all sorts and conditions of men; that thou wouldst be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, Thy saving health unto all nations. We also pray for Thy holy Church universal; that it may be so guided and governed by Thy Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. Finally, we commend to Thy Fatherly goodness all those who are in any way afflicted or distressed in mind or body. Give them patience under the suffering and power of endurance. This we ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.