Eco-Justice Ministries  

Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

Peaceful Hope
distributed 3/21/03 - ©2003

The Gospel of Luke culminates with the powerful Emmaus story of resurrection and recognition. This week, it is fitting to recall that wonderful narrative.

On the third day after the crucifixion of Jesus, two of the disciples are walking away from Jerusalem, depressed and distressed at the horrible turn of events. As they move sadly along the road, talking between themselves, they are joined by a mysterious stranger who seems to have remarkable insights into scripture and current events -- a man soon to be recognized as the risen Christ.

Among their other laments and questions, the disciples confess that "we had hoped that he (Jesus) was the one to redeem Israel."

Dashed hopes are devastating, especially when the hope is so profound.

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For months, a well-organized global peace movement has worked to prevent war in Iraq. In settings ranging from the United Nations and the US Senate to city councils and neighborhood gatherings, committed people have prayed, planned, politicked and protested. Millions of citizens have taken to the streets calling for peace. NATO and the UN have been stretched almost to the breaking point by intense disagreements over the appropriateness of war.

Never before has such a massive, coordinated force gathered to oppose a pending war. Against all odds, many of us hoped that this would be the movement that actually would stop a war.

On Wednesday night, the invasion of Iraq began. This morning's news details the start of the "shock and awe" blitzkrieg on Baghdad, which is certain to have large numbers of civilian casualties.

As the bombs and missiles now fall even more heavily on Baghdad, and as the tanks move across the Iraqi desert, we feel some of the disciples' despair. The thing for which we so desperately hoped has not happened. We had hoped so deeply, and now it feels like we have failed.

There are many layers of response to the grief of this week.

There is the practical and factual layer which asserts that the peace movement is not dead. Shaken, perhaps, but not in need of resurrection.

Unlike Jesus for the disciples on that Sunday afternoon -- dead and buried, and then mysteriously missing -- the peace movement remains alive, active and visible. In many ways, those who have worked for peace continue the struggle for non-violence and reconciliation -- in protests, in relief work, in prayer, in public expressions of grief and mourning.

The powerful peace movement of the last few months is not dead. Indeed, in a widely circulated speech, Dr. Robert Muller recently asserted that there are now two superpowers: the United States and the merging, surging voice of the people of the world.

While I am encouraged and strengthened by the ongoing, practical work for peace, the most significant layer of response in my thoughts and feelings at this moment comes from a deeper, more philosophical level.

As the growing war in Iraq racks up ever-greater loss of life and livelihood, and as the environmental devastation increases, the peace for which we hoped has been lost. The outcome that we most wanted to see has not occurred.

But paradoxically, we may never have been stronger in claiming where we ultimately place our hope. We have been strengthened in claiming the values and principles that are our primary allegiances.

In our work to stop this war, we have claimed the value of non-violence and diplomacy. We have claimed international cooperation over nationalistic arrogance. We have lifted up the names and faces of innocent civilians, instead of fixating on the ruling elite. Religious leaders of all faiths -- internationally and locally, lay and ordained -- have proclaimed the primacy of theologically grounded ethics, and given voice to the clear convictions of faith.

While we have hoped for peace in Iraq, we have placed our hope in God, in the depths of our faith traditions, and in the best expressions of our global human family. We have placed our hope in faithful peacemaking, and we will not be moved from that hope.

The fact that war has started does not mean that we will now become warriors. The (apparent) failure of this campaign for peace does not mean that we will abandon the cause.

The two grieving, confused disciples on the road to Emmaus did not see their hope for a transformed, redeemed Israel brought into being through the worldly work of Jesus. But their hope in the transformative power of God, in the power of a committed community of faith, did carry on, and did bear great fruit.

May we, too, be strengthened in our ultimate hope and our deepest convictions.

NOTE: my sermon, A Matter of Hope, which is posted on this website, develops the difference between "hope for" and "hope in."


Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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