Jesus and the Biblical Imperative Against Violence: “No More of This”

Jesus and the Biblical Imperative Against Violence: “No More of This” September 20, 2018

A Sermon by Ellen Corcella

From the Biblical Texts:

Luke 22:47-53

Isaiah 2:1-4

This is a guest post by Ellen Corcella. She delivered this sermon at Zionsville Christian Church the day after her Ordination as a Minister in the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ.  It has been slightly edited for publication.

On Friday, May 25, 2018, I started my day, as usual, at a morning meeting and administrative tasks before I went to see patients. Then I received a telephone call.  A voice said, “there is a shooting at a Noblesville school.”  I must have said “what” because the staff Chaplain repeated, there is an active shooter at Noblesville Middle school.

I was called because I am the trauma Chaplain at Methodist Hospital, the largest of Indiana’s level one trauma hospitals.  My job is to run to the emergency department after shootings, car crashes, suicides and other traumatic events to provide spiritual care to patient and families.

My insides did not shake as much as dissemble from the inner chest.  I fought back tears.  Tears from fear and sadness; but also tears from anger.  I knew this day  would come, even visiting a representative from my Congresswoman’s office, with another church member, begging them to do something to stop school shootings after the Parkland, Florida shootings

I steadied myself, entered the Emergency Department only to see the same fear and apprehension in the eyes of doctors, nurses, radiologists –  everybody.  One doctor tried to hold back tears to do his job, but could not because his children attended Noblesville middle school.

These shootings are a disease whose consequences spread deep into our communities. The sting, emotional turmoil, searing psychic pain does not disappear because the news cycle moved to another story.  The children, staff and parents will experience nightmares, inexplicable bouts of fear and flashbacks.  So also will the nurses, doctors, radiologists, chaplains and all others roped into the violence.  These shootings are not isolated events, the school shootings are nestled in our cultural, social and political embrace of violence.

This love of violence must stop.  This is not a political imperative, it is a biblical imperative, from the ancient prophets to Jesus, himself.  Isaiah wrote,  “the people shall beat their swords into plowshares” and  “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

No more violence.  No more defending against violence with violence. “No more of this!”  Jesus’ injunction is clear, Jesus did not bury his command inside a parable or metaphorical language.  The challenge is for us, who cannot get Jesus’ message.  Jesus wholly and utterly rejected the violence of the world.

Instead, we continue to be like the Disciples in the Garden, aligned with Jesus, but acting in accordance with the world — we sometimes pause long enough to check our faith with questions, like the Disciples in Luke’s Gospel,  “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” Unfortunately, like the Disciples, we lack the patience to wait for an answer, using the sword.

Violence is easy.  Love is hard.  It is easier to violently separate children from their mothers, than engage the hard work of peacemaking, sitting in a room as adults to work out the causes and solutions to problems.

Violence is easy.  Love is hard.  I mean the unconditional love the requires us to see each other as children of God, joined together as God’s creation.  It is easier to deal with the ongoing slaughter of innocents by doubling down on violence, arming teachers and installing metal detectors, than to teach conflict resolution or look out for the lost and the lonely.

Our local, state and national elected leaders have done nothing, let me repeat nothing, to protect our children.  This is a profound dereliction of duty, a devastating failure for which children and families and teachers are paying the ultimate price. The gun, the swords of our culture, is a scapegoat that absolves us of taking a deeper, honest, soul searing examination of ourselves, our families, our communities, and our nation.

We must be firm as communities of faith and say no more of this.  No more responding to violence with violence; no more arming our nation, our communities, ourselves to the teeth.  As The Reverend Dr. Michael Miller, Academic Dean of Payne Seminary has said, our faith demands our allegiance to Jesus, to the communion of disciples, not to the world.  Even if our violence is legal, we are called to be of the reign and rule of God, not of this world.

No more ripping children from the arms of their mothers in the name of deterrence.  Jesus said we will be judged by how we treat the least of these.

No more buying into the false myths about Christian values; politicians have stolen the language of faith for their own purposes.  This is not new – after all, while Rome was raping and pillaging their way to world domination, they did this under the flag Pax Romana — the peace of Rome. While Hitler was demonizing and detaining Jews, he prayed that God give blessing, strength of purpose and gift of wisdom (See Preaching in the Third Reich, editor Dean G. Stroud, 2013, p. 5) to the chosen Germans chosen by God.

No more violent, vile and divisive language in our politics, from our leaders, in our national, local, social media driven discussions.

No more of leaders who go to Washington to fight with each other and who spend more time plotting and funding their next election than doing the real work, the creative work, the energetic work, the wise work, the solution building work of serving the people;

No more of hate propagated as so-called Christian values, when we know, in our heart of hearts, in the depth of our souls, and the moral compass of our conscience, the Jesus we follow would never turn away a gay couple, or a homeless man, or a pregnant teenager, or an undocumented immigrant from his arms of love, compassion and wisdom.

50 years ago, Robert Kennedy stopped a riot in Indianapolis after Martin Luther King’s death:

In the Garden, Jesus did more than reject violence, he reached out to those who came to arrest him and healed the ear of the injured.  In that act, Jesus empowered us —  communities of faith – to go boldly forth to  mend, to heal, to unify, to bring wholeness to a fragmented world; to surrender ourselves to the peace of Jesus;  Following Jesus requires work, constructive imagination and resolve.

I imagine that instead of sending grief counselors to schools after the slaughter of our children; we flood schools with guidance counselors, career counselors and school nurses at the beginning of the school year; I imagine the return of art and music teachers who open opportunities for creative expression; that teachers be allowed to teach and remain after class to work with students, rather than running from classes to provide crowd control in cafeterias and bus stops

I will tell you one final thing that happened that horrible day of the Noblesville Middle School shooting, I learned the teacher, who put himself between the shooter and his students is a faithful man, active in his church community, filled with the love of Christ;  I learned from this hero teacher, we do not need a gun to stop a massacre, we just need hearts filled with the love of God and the love of neighbor so strong that  one would risk their life for a fellow child of God.

Image: Flickr, Ben Sutherland, Creative Commons License 

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