Peace Moment: The God of Israel Speaks Peace and Justice
by Glenn Johnson
My childhood view of the Old Testament was that the God of Israel was portrayed as a God of wrath, vengeance and judgment whereas in the New Testament God gave us his Son Jesus Christ and forgave us. The New Testament was better because it was, well “new” and the Old Testament was lesser because it was “old.” Unfortunately, this simplified view caused me to miss much of the importance of the Hebrew scriptures and particularly how they informed and shaped the life, teachings and ministry of Jesus. Around 30 years ago, I realized this mistake and spent time rehabilitating the law, the writings and the prophets in my mind. I was especially drawn to the concepts of justice that could be seen and discovered in the many layers of writings that comprise these scriptures today. As a result, I am able to say that the “God of Israel Has Spoken” to me as a God of peace and justice and righteousness and not simply in those portrayals where seen as a vengeful, wrathful God of judgment.
Learning more about how the Hebrew scriptures informed and shaped the worldview of Jesus led to greater appreciation of Jesus central teachings about the kingdom of God, or as the Greek renders it, the Basileia tou theou. In the 1990s, I was one of the three original pastors of a new congregation we called Basileia: an Open Door Community of Christ. Our purpose was to provide a safe space for LGBT persons and allies to engage in the mission of Jesus Christ. We were a small group of about 15, so we adopted a new model for Sunday church where we had a rotation of activities, all of which we considered worship: the first Sunday of the month was Communion Sunday, the second Sunday of the month was Education Sunday, then Spirituality Sunday, Service Sunday, and if there was a fifth Sunday of the month that was Celebration Sunday. We did not have sermons in our worships but instead focused on dwelling in the word, study, discussion, and other ways of proclaiming the Word. We found this model liberating. It engaged a wide variety of spiritual types and forced each of us to spend time with spiritual experience outside of our favorite or natural type. The lighter load of not trying to offer pre-worship, classes, high-church worship services and so on, meant we could experience congregational life as a joy. During these years, the God of Israel continued to reveal an understanding of and engagement with peace and justice in our lives that remains a powerful anchor in my life and ministry today. I am thankful that when the God of Israel has spoken to me, I can hear the voice of peace and justice echoing through the years.
How has my understanding of the Bible changed over the years?
How has the Bible helped the growth of my relationship with God?
Prayer for Peace
Your Divine Peace is revealed continually to us in creation, in the words of scripture and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Most completely and clearly your creative peace is revealed in Jesus, the peaceful one. In humility, individually and in community, we prayerfully listen to understand more completely Your will for our lives, the church, and creation. As we look for ways You are with us and speaking to us. We hear Your desire for humankind to live together in peace . Reveal to us, we pray, the ways of peace and inspire us to live in those ways. In Jesus name, Amen