To Wear the Crown of Peace: We’ve All Been Told a Lie
Episode 5 – February 25, 2018
Featuring the words and music of Gordon Lightfoot
Ainsley McNeaney – “Only Time”
Reading No. 1
Mark 8:31-38 Jesus Rebukes Peter
Read by Pearce Thomas in Newmarket, Ontario.
“Reading” No. 2
“Sit Down Young Stranger” by Gordon Lightfoot
Love for the World
Part of each episode of the Living Presence Podcast will feature a section where we lift up people and places who can use our alliance, our attention and some hope. (If you are from a United Church, this would be similar to “Prayers of the People” or “Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession”).
The idea and our hope are that listeners from all over can send in the people and places they would like to bring to our attention, and I would love it if YOU would consider sending something in to be aired. You can either a) record something with the voice recorder app on your phone and email it to email@example.com OR b) call 289-903-0019 and leave a voicemail OR c) Leave a written comment and I will read it on the air.
THIS WEEK WE LIFT UP:
- The victims, their families and friends, of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida
- People who are grieving loss
- Those affected by sexual violence, sexism, etc.
- Those who are survivors of suicide
- The people of East Gwillimbury
- The Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nations
- The athletes from North Korea
- The families and communities of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine
Sit down young stranger, and tell us who you are…
So, right off the top, I have a few fun facts to share with you…
The first, is that Gordon Lightfoot and I are from the same hometown. I grew up just outside of Orillia, Ontario. Gordon Lightfoot and I would have gone to highschool together…if he happened to be 45 years younger.
The second is that Gordon Lightfoot seems to follow me around. When I released my first album at the Orillia Opera House, Gordon Lightfoot came and played there 2 weeks later. The next year when I played at St. Paul’s United Church, Gordon Lightfoot played there two weeks later. So, in case you’re wondering, I lead a service and performed some music at Sharon-Hope United Church this morning so, two Sundays from now, you might want to check them out…you never know….
It is a poorly kept secret that Gordon will play a song during the Christmas Eve service at his home church in Toronto, every year, for the 10pm service. We happen to have the same home congregation, and for the last few years I have sang at the 7pm family service. So…I kinda like to think that I’m opening for Gordon…just reeaaaaaaaaaallllly far in advance…
I didn’t intend to join the same congregation as Gordon Lightfoot…it happened by accident. About eight years ago, in a time before marriage and children, and sometimes it’s hard to believe that there was a time before marriage and children, my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I were looking for a spiritual home. We liked this particular congregation right away. It was a week before Christmas, and during the announcements the minister said that their “usual guest” would be appearing to sing on Christmas Eve. Jason and I had plans to spend Christmas in Calgary with his family, and I turned to him and said, “If they’re talking about Gordon Lightfoot I am never going to speak to you again.” I obviously got over it…
You have to understand – I grew up with Lightfoot everywhere. He has influenced how I write, how I sing…I mean, when I was in elementary school, I actually had to complete a math problem to the effect of “If the capacity of a bucket is a 3 litres, and the volume of a droplet is 2ml, how many drops of Early Morning Rain will it take to fill the bucket.”
The first time I saw Gordon at church, Jason motioned for me to go over and speak with him. I didn’t want to bother him. I didn’t want to fangirl him. Jason and I were in the midst of a minor argument about this when the matriarch of our church called me over and said, “Bri-anne, could you please go and ask Gordon whether he takes milk or cream in his coffee?” Mrs. X is lovely, but not the kind of woman you say no to. So that was it…my first words ever to one of my all time musical heroes was “Excuse me, but Mrs. X would like to know how you take your coffee.” Not exactly how I had envisioned that conversation going…
Kinda like the point at which we enter our Gospel story for today…
Just moments before these events, Jesus has asks his disciples “Who are people saying that I am?”
“John the Baptist” say some. “Elijah” say others.
Then he asks Peter, “Who do you say that I am?”
And you know what? Peter gets it right!
“You are the Messiah.” Jesus is very pleased with Peter.
So, Peter is in. He’s the right hand man and would seemingly hold some sort of power or influence within the Jesus movement, which always sat uncomfortably at the edges of a more violent Zionist faction.
But then, quite openly, Jesus starts to explain to the disciples that he, their Messiah and their friend, will need to suffer and die in order fulfill his purpose within the world.
And yeah – Peter is understandably upset! I mean, things had been going so well! This is not the way he envisioned that conversation moving.
Sit Down Young Stranger and tell us who you are…
This song, and the album it’s named for, was released in 1970. It is an anti-war ballad about the generational distance between a son and his parents. It plays out the friction between vastly different understandings of what is important, understandings of power and understandings of one’s place and role in the world. The father asks incredulously:
And will you gather daydreams
Or will you gather wealth
How can you find your fortune
When you cannot find yourself?
There is also a distance between Peter and Jesus in the moment of his rebuke. Nothing in the disciples’ experience of the world would have prepared them for the idea that Israel’s divine champion would need to violently and shamefully suffer. Their Messiah was supposed to come out triumphant. Their Messiah was supposed to kick ass like a Quentin Tarantino film.
Jesus’ journey towards his execution on a cross – the Passion story – is a scandal…and is a powerful example of truth exposing the lie of redemptive violence – that evil will ever be overcome with brutality and intimidation. And let’s be honest – the idea of redemptive violence has become a pillar of our society and how it functions. It is neither new, nor old. It is lie that there will ever be a “War to End All Wars”. It is the lie in proclaiming that justice is served by restraining an unarmed prisoner and shooting a chemical cocktail through his veins 20 years after his crime. It’s the lie of suggesting that in the wake of a school shooting, the best answer is to arm teachers and show them how to shoot first.
And will you try and tell us
You’ve been too long at school
That knowledge is not needed
That power does not rule?
That war is not the answer
That young men should not die
Sit down young stranger
I wait for your reply
Each of the Gospel writers make clear that Jesus did not need to subject himself to the brutal, shameful and scandalous death of the cross. And it was a scandal. In Matthew’s version of this story, Jesus not only refers to Peter as Satan, but also a “stumbling block” – in Greek, Skandalon…and the root of our English word scandal.
“You are setting your mind not on divine things, but human things.” Because Jesus gets it! The humanness of Jesus gets it! We have a very human instinct for fight or flight – and Jesus scandalously chooses neither. Jesus offers another way, but it is hard and it is brutal and he is tempted…Satan is, after all, is The Great Tempter. This passage is often read as Jesus casting Peter away in anger, “Get behind me, Satan!” But… what is translated as “get behind” is the greek phrase “opisou mou”. Another spot in the Gospels where we see “opisou mou” is when Jesus is going to Peter, Andrew, James and John as they’re fishing and asking them, inviting them, to follow him. Get behind…or to follow…to be back in line and to have his back.
Rather than Jesus being angry, I wonder about Jesus making a desperate plea to Peter…”Please, do not tempt me…do not make it even harder for me to see this through. Please do not make it even more difficult for me to keep my mind on the divine, and not the human…believe me…I do not want to die”
Jesus says that to follow him means to struggle and to suffer…to take up the cross. Not in the way this phrase has been used to further marginalized vulnerable people, such as women in abusive situations. This is not encouragement for passivity. There is nothing passive about the Passion. The very act of Jesus allowing his execution to take place is an act of defiance.
To wear the crown of peace
You must wear the crown of thorns
Because Jesus knows that there is no such thing as redemptive violence. What Jesus is offering is a radically different way of relating to power, and relating to community. It is the end to scapegoating. The end to a community’s pettiness in bickering over who is the greatest, and who should hold the power. The end of answering violence with more of the same. The end of Might is Right. The end of greatness being defined by what one has, rather than what one has given. Of being defined by where we come from rather than what we stand for.
Scapegoating. Resentment. Pettiness. Violence. It ends here. It all ends here.
But it begins here too…
“Oh Peter” a weary Jesus might have said. “If only you could read my mind…what a tale my thoughts could tell. I need you to get behind me. To follow me. Please…do not be ashamed of me. Because the ending’s just too hard to take…”
The Living Presence Ministry is a community ministry of the United Church of Canada
Featured Photo by: Matthew Henry