We will fight for peace, but we will do no violence.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Disarm My Heart, by Mary Emily Briehl Duba

It was February of my senior year in college.

I was studying and working abroad in northern Thailand,
but my heart was not present.

Back on campus,
my dearest friendship was falling apart.

We had had a terrible falling out,
just before I left,
and now—in my absence—things were getting worse.

Each Monday, my day off, I would travel into the city to use the internet.

I would read what my friend had sent during the week—read it with anger and suspicion,
ready to be hurt by whatever it said,
and I would reply,
sending the same sting straight back across the Pacific Ocean.

I said things in those emails,
I simply could not have said in person.

Had I been looking into her eyes,
standing in her presence,
I could not have said such hurtful things.

But in the disembodiment of email,
and in the physical distance that lay between us,
I felt protected.

I felt as though I were playing a character,
that, somehow we were writing a novel together,
or a screenplay,
and that this hateful dialogue would not be later held against me.
it would not cause real harm.
It did. 
Sin prays on disembodiment.
Sin says,
Why come face to face?
Why be that vulnerable to one another?
This September
saw a landmark in the war in Afghanistan.
It marked the most significant use yet,
of Drones.
Drones are unmanned planes,
remotely controlled from military bases, like the one in Creech Nevada.
These drones collect live video footage
          and send it back to the control station,
                   where the pilot—from the safety of his or her office—
          can drop missiles
without ever being in physical danger.
It is disembodied warfare.
Why come face to face?
Why be that vulnerable to one another?
*        *        *
In response to the horrific violence of World War II,
Albert Camus wrote,
“Hope only remains in the most difficult task of all:
          to reconsider everything from the ground up,
so as to shape a living society inside a dying society.”
A secular French philosopher,
          Camus nonetheless articulates for me the meaning of the incarnation:

Jesus is God reconsidering everything from the ground up.
Seeing our world of violence,
          God reconsidered the whole creation.
Choosing not to act with wrath or terror,
          God imagined a way of making peace with humankind.
God entered the dying world from the ground up
as the new Adam—a being of the earth—
          the firstborn of a new creation.
God entered human life,
          to bring us the embodied presence of the reign of peace.
The Incarnation—God dwelling among us in Jesus—is God’s
          supreme and subversive act of peacemaking.
Into a world that looks to military might to secure the peace
          and save the people,
                   into a region of the Middle East occupied by the Roman army,
          God entered human life as a dependent, vulnerable infant.
This confounded the ancient expectation that God would send
          a warrior-king,
and that Israel’s salvation would take the form of military victory
over its enemies.
God subverted the occupying powers with the weakness of a baby.

In Jesus,
God says:
I come to you face to face
I desire to be vulnerable with you.
In response repentant and joyful response to this God,
Christians embody the ancient practice of peacemaking and nonviolence.

We do not do it well.
But don’t we hunger for it?
          For communities where peacemaking is a way of life?
I invite you to share a practice of peacemaking with me.

It is a simple practice,
a prayer to say before leaving the house each morning, perhaps,
          or before responding to an email,
                   or anytime sin whispers in your ear:
          Why come face to face?
Why be vulnerable to one another? 
The prayer is this:
God of Peace, disarm my heart.

Disarm my heart. 
It is the prayer I prayed last winter,
          five years after I last spoke with my friend,
when I received word that she had given birth to her first child.
It is the prayer I prayed,
          as I knit a sweater for that little one,
                   that soft and vulnerable body,
          to welcome him into this world.
And this fall,
I received a thank you note in the mail.
It read: 
“I love putting Peter in your sweater when we walk in the chilly evenings—I feel
like I’m wrapping him up in a warm, safe hug.”
God the Incarnate,
knows that Peace comes in bodies.
In bodies, brought face to face,
in bodies vulnerable to one another.
And so, for the gift of the Incarnation,
          the gift of Peace made possible in the messiness of embodied life,
we say:
Thanks be to God!
Morning Prayer at Valparaiso University on December 8, 2010.
Original title: “The Word of God for the people of God”

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