Psalm 40: 1-11
Isaiah 49: 1-7
1 Corinthians 1: 1-9
John 1: 29-42
This Sunday, I hope to sing with you this hymn, a prayer:
Lead on, O King eternal,
Till sin’s fierce war shall cease,
And holiness shall whisper
The sweet amen of peace.
For not with swords’ loud clashing,
Nor roll of stirring drums;
With deeds of love and mercy
The heav’nly kingdom comes.
And this week, we will hear from the gospel according to John. We will hear how John the baptizer pointed out Jesus and said, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) This prepares us to better understand Jesus’ sacrifice of himself for our sake, gentle and innocent as a lamb.
Then, when John’s gospel comes to the Passion story, when Jesus is arrested, abused, put through an unjust trial, and crucified to death, it reports these words which Jesus said to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate: “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Judeans. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36)
This year, we will also hear a lot from the gospel according to Matthew. In Matthew’s account of the Passion, when the authorities and soldiers arrive to arrest Jesus, Jesus says to Peter and the other disciples, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and He will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:52-53)
During Jesus’ time, one “legion” of human warriors meant thousands.
I share these Scriptures to give context to the following letter, which the United Church of Christ General Minister and Associates published last week.
CALL FOR PRAYER, FASTING FOR PEACE
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.
“To bring peace among the people” - such is the calling of the disciples of the one we know as the Prince of Peace.
Having celebrated Christmas and the birth of Jesus, now preparing for the season of Epiphany, we call upon the congregations, the members and the clergy of the United Church of Christ to join together in a time of prayer and fasting for peace throughout the world.
Threats to that peace are numerous and can be felt in all corners of the globe. Today especially we are mindful of the global unrest ensuing given the latest actions of the United States and Iran. Both governments have taken steps that the other could determine to be an act of war– a war this world does not want, does not need and will not win. It is a war that many fear, once started, could trigger disasters felt in every part of the world.
We are calling on all affiliated with the United Church of Christ to use this prayer either in worship or in their personal prayer life during the season of Epiphany as a means of advocating for peace in these days.
We also invite all who are willing and able to commit to a day of fasting for peace– a personal commitment of spiritual practice and discipline centering on the mindfulness that makes for peace between peoples and nations.
Please also feel free to contact your elected representatives and let them know that you are participating in a time of prayer and fasting for peace and would encourage them to use the power of their office to do what they can to avoid any further escalation which could lead to war.
In the words of a beloved hymn, “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”
Your humble servants in Christ,
The Rev. John C. Dorhauer
General Minister and President
The Rev. Traci Blackmon
The Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson
Associate General Ministers