Tag Archives: peace

Trump, the Pax Romana, and Palm Sunday

This Sunday, many churches around the world, including our own, will take time to remember and honour Palm Sunday: the moment when Jesus enters into Jerusalem and begins the events prior to his arrest and crucifixion.

Two particular things happen on Palm Sunday: Jesus rides a donkey colt, and a number of people wave palm branches and shout, “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

The symbol of riding on a donkey colt was meant to conjure up the image of a King riding into Jerusalem.  Solomon rides on a mule when he is anointed as King over all of Israel.  Zechariah also prophesies that when the long-awaited Messiah, the great King of Zion, will enter Jerusalem “riding on a donkey’s colt” (Zech. 9:9).

The addition of palm branches is interesting.  Palm branches were already a common symbol of royalty in Jewish culture at the time; but palm branches were particularly connected to when the King entered the Temple and performed a sacrifice upon the altar.

Palm Sunday is a celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry as a King into Jerusalem and we see two things quickly emerge in this image of Jesus: 1) the donkey colt was also a symbol of humility and 2) Jesus is going to be a King performing a sacrifice.  But instead of sacrificing an animal on the altar, he sacrifices himself upon the cross to heal the world of its sins.

Now try lining up this image of King with that we see quickly emerging in our beloved Donald J. Trump.  As a leader or ruler, Trump says things like:

“We will have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with winning. Believe me.”

[Speaking of a protester] “I want to punch him in the face.”

“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of ’em, would you? Seriously. Okay?”

“See, in the good old days this didn’t use to happen [people protesting], because they used to treat them very rough. We’ve become very weak.”

When asked about the recent assault of a protester who was subsequently manhandled by three police officers (not the man who actually assaulted him), Trump says, “He deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him. We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization.”

Trump represents what we could call the Pax Romana or “Peace of Rome.”  Just before the birth of Christ until about 180 A.D., Rome enjoyed about a relative peace for about 200 years.  Their claim was that the civilization and military expansion of the Roman Empire had engineered this peace.

However, the Pax Romana was anything but peaceful.  The Empire engaged in widespread torture and executions in order to maintain power over oppressed cultures, and it still engaged in warfare.  It just didn’t have any major civil wars during this time or any major opponents who threatened the stability of the Empire.

But the basic concept of the Pax Romana was that physical force and violence against your enemies creates security and peace.

This is what Donald Trump believes will happen when he uses physical and verbal force against protesters.  This is also what also lead Trump to say things like: “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families.”

This was the logic of the Pax Romana.  Use whatever physical force is necessary in order to ensure peace.

Two different leaders.  Two different concepts of “King.”  One leader advocates that because he is so rich and powerful, he will make America great again.  The other leader rides on a donkey colt to announce his arrival.

One leader says you have to sacrifice people on the altar of peace and security in order to be safe.  The other leader sacrifices himself to save the world.

This Palm Sunday let’s ask ourselves “What is truly the peace that we want for the world? And which kind of King will we ultimately follow?”

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This week Arnold Neufeldt-Fast will be speaking in our church, he is a member of Community Mennonite Church in Stouffville (and also an associate professor at Tyndale Seminary).  I was looking at their church website  this week, and found out that they are putting up a plaque commemorating their peace witness.  Since that is something our church did as well I was interested to read what they wrote. Here is the text from their plaque:

“Peace Church Settlers of Whitchurch-Stouffville”

A large number of early settlers of present day Whitchurch-Stouffville were members of the Historic Peace churches: Brethrenn in Christ (Dunkers), Mennonites, and Quakers. They were attracted to settle Upper Canada by Lt. Governor John Graves Simcoe with the offer of military exemption (1793). The peace teachings of the Christian tradition deeply shaped their faith and caused them to wrestle with what it means to be people of God’s peace, especially during times of conflict and war. As pioneers of conscientious objection in Canada, their commitment to the work of peace and reconciliation continues to stand witness in this community and around the world.”

Compare this to the text from our own plaque:
Mennonite Conscientious Objectors 1812-1814

During the War of 1812 the Mennonite congregation meeting on this site included members who followed their conscience and refused to serve in the military. Other Mennonite settlements in Niagara, Rainham, Markham and Waterloo faced the same issue at that time. As members of a historic peace church, Mennonites believe that Jesus taught and lived love of enemies, and that following his example does not allow taking up arms. In 1793 the government of Upper Canada had recognized the right of Mennonites, Quakers and Brethren in Christ to be Conscientious Objectors to war; the War of 1812 was the first testing ground of this right.

The Prince of Peace is Jesus Christ…
True Christians do not know vengeance.
They are the children of peace.
Their hearts overflow with peace.
Their mouths speak peace,
and they walk in the way of peace.   – Menno Simons, Reply to False Accusations, 1552

This week Arnold will be sharing about how their church has tried to witness to peace during this anniversary of the War of 1812.

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What are we made of?

This week we are going to continue on thinking about what it means to witness to Christ under pressure.  More specifically, we want to talk about what it means when people in our congregation take faithful stands on different things.

Are we fine with everyone taking their own path?  You think the environment is so important, so you are very careful about your fossil fuel footprint.   Another person doesn’t bother with that, but they think that supporting the education of orphans is good, so they focus on MCC.  Yet another person is very consumed with supporting the spreading of the gospel to people who have never heard it before.  They support the Bible Society and Gideons.  Each of these people lives out their faithfulness in their own way; it’s likely that we can all do this cordially in the same congregation. 

But what about places where our witness is more controversial.  You won’t pay your war taxes, and you want other people in the church to sign on to do this too.  Or another person feels called by God to save the unborn babies killed every year through abortion, and they would like our church to have a service devoted to this.

We walk carefully in the community of faith, understanding that God lays different things on our hearts.  At times the community joins together in solidarity.  We put certain things in our budget, for example, or we work together to sponsor a refugee family.  Other faithful endeavors are undertaken in a more private way.

These sorts of issues have led to deep divisions and anger in the history of the church. Hopefully today, our guiding rule is the love of Jesus.  We want our community to be made up of love.  Love before us, love behind us, love beneath us, love above us, love within us.  Love will find a way, even through disagreement.

This weeks’ prayer:  God grant me the serenity to be faithful in the things you call me to do, the peace to believe that other people have different callings, and the wisdom to know how to negotiate our differences.

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I went to Israel when I was 23 years old.  My friend and I were deeply impacted by the hostility we saw there between Palestinians and Jews.  Hostility that was evidenced in military harassment of Palestinians, in the way Palestinians were denied access to water, or were refused building permits, and the way Israeli settlements were being built on land stolen from Palestinians.  Hostility that was evidenced in acts of terrorism, that made everyone afraid and nervous.

So when I decided that I was going to Israel this year, I wondered what it would be like to go back almost 30 years later.  What has blossomed?  I’ll give you a hint, it’s not peace.  What has blossomed is a wall, a big giant concrete wall that separates people.  Before there was separation, but now there is Separation on a different scale.  The wall is the fruition of all the other earlier types of discrimination.  When I went and saw the wall I just wanted to kick it and say, “This is so stupid, stupid, stupid!”  How can the world tolerate a wall like this, when our world just finished tearing down the Berlin Wall?

This week in church we’re going to be talking about walls of hostility.  Maybe there aren’t giant concrete barriers in our lives, but we certainly have invisible walls and iron curtains of prejudice and discrimination.  Maybe we are even doing the preliminary work of creating concrete walls.   How does Jesus challenge these walls in our lives?  How is peace coming to the world through our actions?

This week’s prayer:   Today we pray for all whose lives are affected by walls…the concrete kind and the invisible kind. Open our eyes to our participation in wall-making.  Help us to hear your call to wall-breaking!

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Remembering peace

When war was declared in 1812, members of our congregation held true to their faith in Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and refused to fight.  We recently installed a plaque on our property commemorating this.  Read more about the process of how this plaque came to be in the article below.  Special thanks to Jonathan Seiling, who was instrumental in helping get this done.


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What do you get someone who has everything?

It never occurred to me till this year
to put God on my Christmas list.
Heaven knows, I’ve been on the receiving end
too many times to count,
with a God whose giving knows no ending.
Maybe God would like a gift,
for a change.
What do you get Someone who has everything?
Slippers?  Does one size truly fit all?
A book?  What hasn’t God read yet?
An ipad?  Are there apps made in heaven?
Can everyone really use socks?
Tickets to a show…theatre?  sports?
Is God hopeful enough to be a Maple Leafs fan?
Maybe I should get God something more personal.
A home-made gift perhaps,
like a coupon book.
What God might really like
is a coupon that says,
“One minute of world peace”.
I wish we could send messengers to God,
holy angels singing,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace,
good will from all people.”
This Christmas, a present for God
seems out of reach.

If I can’t get a present,
maybe I can be a present,
by being present for God.
This minute, this hour as my present.
I will completely turn my attention to God;
tuning in instead of tuning out,
deciding to be an active listener.
I will take the Bible at its word
and believe that God wants to hear from me.
I will present my requests to God
humbly, gratefully, honestly.
It`s not wrapped in shiny paper,
it`s not a perfect gift for the Father of Lights;
but I will try to be a cheerful giver.
Here`s hoping that God will say,
“This is just what I’ve always wanted!”

 Carol Penner

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Fighting for peace?

I read an article in the Globe and Mail this week, where a woman reflected on the sacrifice her father made as a soldier in WWII.  The difference about this article from many articles I’ve read about war, was that her father was a soldier in the German army.   I was particularly struck by one line at the end of the article, where she refers to her father and other soldiers “fighting for world peace”.

Everyone is fighting for world peace.  It’s such a contradiction in terms.  Maybe if people stopped fighting, we would find peace. If the people on one side are praying to God for victory, and they believe they are fighting for world peace, and the people on the other side are praying to God for victory, and they believe they are fighting for world peace; who does God listen to? Maybe God is praying for us…that we would listen to what the other side is saying, and say, “Hold on here a minute…you want peace too?”

I still remember a poster that hung in our church years ago, “A modest proposal for peace: Let the Christians of the world agree that they will not kill each other.”

But peace is hard to find, on a global scale and a local scale.  I have a hard time dealing with my own anger, my own frustration with people I interact with.  I see war on small scales happening around me; what am I doing to help people find peace?

This Sunday we will be talking about peace with the help of some of the seniors in our church; hope to see you there!

This week’s prayer:  Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me!



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