... Ecclesiastes 2:26 ...
Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.

Pentecost 4 Year B
Message June 21th, 2015

Road to Peace By Way of Reconciliation

Text: 1 Samuel 17:1a,4-11,19-23)32-49; Psalm 9:9-20, 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41

With acknowledgement that today is Fathers’ Day and we give thanks for all Dads, today is also National Aboriginal Day; and so in light of the wind up of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada, their findings and the injustices suffered by Canada’s aboriginal peoples, the sermon today is on the theme of reconciliation and the steps needed to come not only to be reconciled but to be able to move forward in unity and peace.

Depending on which course you study reconciliation has a variable number of steps or stages. However, most would agree on five basic ones, namely: 1) mutual recognition of the problem, 2) an equalization of any imbalance of power, 3) restoration or reparation for any losses, 4) forgiveness and acceptance of forgiveness, and, 5) reconciliation. And as we read today’s lessons each stage or step is present albeit veiled in allegory or story form.

Both the stories from Samuel concerning David and Goliath and the letter of Paul to the Corinthians acknowledge that there are issues and problems between the various groups. The Philistines and Jews are at war, with the Philistines being the oppressors, aggressors and dominant side, and the Jewish nation having suffered at their hands and now about to be annihilated. Paul and some leaders of the church at Corinth are obviously at odds over doctrine and the direction in which the young Christian community is heading.

Regarding the equalization of an imbalance of power, the story of David and Goliath is dear to all hearts as we root for the seeming underdog. The psalm speaks not only of an equalization of imbalance but also of restoration. All four look at forgiveness and acceptance of forgiveness in light of the righteousness and faithfulness of and in God. And finally reconciliation is elaborated upon by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians and the actions and words of Jesus during the perilous crossing of the Sea of Galilee.

As we look at the first stage, i.e. the mutual recognition of the problem as illustrated in 1 Samuel, I’m sure the Philistines really saw no problem at all – they were a mighty army superior to their surrounding nations, better equipped and better prepared. Throughout history we see a similar attitude – the wealthy slave owners over against their slaves: what did they have to complain about – don’t we their owners look after them? There’s no problem here! Residential schools! What problem – we look after the children give them an education, bring them into the 19th century?! All these issues and stances of the aggressor or those with power can never be resolved until the issues or stances have been recognized by all, and a willingness to have change. The Philistines had no such desire. They were superior in all ways and just to show it they challenged Saul to a one against one fight. “Send out your best warrior to fight our best (Goliath), winner take all. King Saul knew there was a problem, knew they would be defeated, again suffer at the hands of their surrounding nations. However, the boy David knew differently. He knew that to fight the Philistines on their terms would never result in their recognition of an imbalance of power or injustice. And from the very get-go, it was the Philistines who were the underdogs. David’s God-given skill and talent, the fact that the Spirit of the Lord was in him, lets us know that David is the superior warrior. So the scene is set – Goliath huge, muscled, and armoured with all the weapon of hand-to-hand combat is pitted against David the sharp-shooter. No contest! The real surprise of the story is that the Philistines didn’t recognize the problem or the situation until loo late and by then the balance of power has gone to the nation of Israel. We do not get to hear anything further of the reconciliation process for we are directed to see that the turn of events is an intrusion into human affairs by the power of God and it is this divine interference which occupies the writer’s story of David’s rise to kingship.

While the story of David and Goliath speaks to the recognition of a problem and the equalization of imbalances of power, Paul’s letter to the Corinthians informs us that the imbalances of power are and will be corrected only by God’s redemptive work. That divine intervention requires a transformation on the human side which not only results in recognition of the imbalances in the human arena but causes a set of actions and implementation which will lead humans to avoid the reversals so common in history. All too frequently history shows us that when the oppressed are forgotten ignored or maltreated they often become the oppressor when the opportunity presents itself. The sexual abuser has often been the sexually abused earlier in life; the child beater was often beaten as a child. The human tendency is to retaliation not to reconciliation. The Hammurabi code was an attempt to redefine retribution, to ameliorate the cyclical and spiralling vengeance and revenge of earlier cultures. However, over the course of history and the various intervention by God, especially in Christ Jesus, humanity has slowly come to see that there is indeed a better way – a way of mutuality. The process, unfortunately, is slow and not well understood or accepted. Yet, if we read Paul’s admonition correctly, the more we put our faith in God through Christ, the more we (one another) will come to see that we are the same – reconciled in God and that there is an equal demand to be reconciled with one another.

But reconciliation is not just a simple step from recognition of a power imbalance to an accepting embrace. Restoration reparation forgiveness and acceptance of forgiveness need to be worked through and worked through thoroughly. In the Gospel story of the calming of the wind and seas we must look deeply at the messages. It was Jesus who suggested they go by sea on a night passage and in many ways the disciples saw their perilous plight as being his fault. They perceived themselves as truly being on the brink of drowning while Jesus slept. Another aspect we tend to overlook is the allegorical representation of the sea as the sea of chaos, the demons of the world of darkness and the forces of evil prior to the power of God. Jesus in quelling the seas and the wind, re-creates the time of Creation, displays the divine power over nature, and becomes the emblem of redemption by which chaos is overcome such that a true peace and faith might be experienced. Jesus’ act of rebuking the seas and wind was a restorative act between him and his disciples so that they could move forward in trust and faith, and that they might eventually come to know who Jesus really was.

The stage of forgiveness and acceptance of forgiveness is exemplified in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. His admonition, “Be reconciled to God and to us” a paraphrase of his words capture his appeal and show that to be truly reconciled means that forgiveness must be given and accepted before one can truly be at peace. In fact Peace is the word and intent Jesus expresses throughout his ministry with his disciples. Peace – true peace – is the hallmark of reconciliation and cannot be experienced until forgiveness is known. And therein lies the rub – so to speak, because humans have a difficult understanding as far as forgiveness and accepting forgiveness. We tend to do the accounting model of credits and debits when it comes to forgiveness. We say we forgive but not forget. We say forget about it while inwardly harbouring a grudge. We find it hard to trust always thinking the other is out to get one up on us. Paul on the other hand, by his position toward the Corinthians, points out what we need, “…our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections…open wide your hearts also.” Only when we are wholly open, only when we are without secret evasion, only when we can fully trust then, and then only, can we be reconciled and know peace.

May we come to know peace – peace in our lives, peace in our families, peace in our communities, peace in our land and with our aboriginal brothers and sister, and peace in our lives in Christ. Amen