A sermon drama in three voices based on Matthew 5:38-48
given at Mount Vernon, OH on February 23, 2014
by Rev. Scott Elliott
VOICE 1: If you pull out an English translation of the New Testament you will find that it reports Jesus said a number of things about peace. For Jesus, peace works. Jesus said . . .
VOICE 2: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called [schildren] of God.” (Mt 5:9)
VOICE 3: “Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (Mk 9:50)
VOICE 1: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”(Jn 14:27)
VOICE 2: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:33)
VOICE 3: “ On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were . . . Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” (Jn 20:19)
VOICE 1: Later followers of Jesus also talk of peace, in 1 Corinthians (7:15) the Apostle Paul tells Christians that “God has called you to peace.”
VOICE 2 And in Philippians (4:6-7) Paul writes: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
VOICE 3 And in Romans (14: 17-19) Paul points out that “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”
VOICE 2 The author of James (3:18) puts it like this “a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
VOICE 3: In 2 Corinthians (13:11) Paul gives us this good news: “rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
VOICE 1: The word “peace” in the Bible is derived from the Hebrew word “shalom” which literally means fullness and well being.
VOICE 2: As one theological dictionary puts it “It’s more than the lack of war and points to full societal and personal well being, coupled with righteousness.” 1
VOICE 3: In that sense peace is when all have enough and are treated justly and with respect.
VOICE 2: The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia puts it like this, peace is “a condition of freedom from disturbance, whether outwardly . . . or inwardly, within the soul. The Hebrew word is shalom . . . meaning, primarily, ‘soundness,’[and] ‘health,’ but coming also to signify ‘prosperity,’ well-being in general, all good in relation to both man and God.” 2
VOICE 3: It is interesting to note that Love is defined along the lines of well being as well. The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms defines love as a “Strong feeling of personal affection, care and desire for the well being of others . . . [a] “primary characteristic of God’s nature and a Supreme expression of Christian faith and action.” 3
VOICE 1: Peace and love are at the very heart of the Gospel, indeed of the entire Bible.
VOICE 2: Jesus takes the heart of the Bible to heart in his teachings.
VOICE 3: Jesus tells us – in no uncertain terms– to Love.
VOICE 1: “I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Lk 6:27)
VOICE 2: “Love your enemies.”
VOICE 3: “Do good to those who hate you”
ALL VOICES: LOVE!
VOICE 1: Jesus’ love centered-ness is permeated by a “Strong feeling of personal affection, care and desire for the well being of others. . .” Even enemies.
VOICE 2: Even Enemies
VOICE 3: Are to be loved.
ALL VOICES: LOVED!
VOICE 1: The Love and Peace center of the Bible, and his relationship with God, led Jesus to follow a Way of non-violence.
VOICE 2: Non-violence is not the absence of action, it is the intentional absence of physical injury, neglect or abuse to others.
VOICE 3: Jesus takes action, but he does so without physical injury, neglect or abuse of others.
VOICE 1: When one of his disciples attempted to defend Jesus with violence, Jesus admonished “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (MT 26:52)
VOICE 2: The early followers of Jesus refused to participate in violence. We have some trouble with that idea in our culture. Indeed we often hear people quoting the eye for an eye Bible verse to justify violence.
VOICE3: But Jesus expressly rejected that notion. As we heard in the reading today Jesus addressed the eye for an eye text the very opposite way of violence. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.” (Mt 5:38-41)
ALL VOICES: “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.”
VOICE 1: Whether we like it or not. Jesus’ Way to peace and love was and remains a path of non-violence.
VOICE 3: Paul got this. He puts it like this in Romans (12:17): “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.”
VOICE 2: Non-violence does not mean letting evil happen without resistence.
VOICE 1: Non-violence does not mean non-resistence.
VOICE 3: Non-violence does not mean inaction.
VOICE 2: Jesus took action.
VOICE 3: He argued.
VOICE 1: He protested.
VOICE 2: He took stands.
VOICE 3: He got angry.
VOICE 1: He taught.
VOICE 2: He helped.
VOICE 3: He opposed oppression.
VOICE 2: He demonstrated.
ALL VOICES: But did no violence.
VOICE 3: He caused no physical injury.
VOICE 2: He caused no neglect.
VOICE 1: He did not abuse others.
ALL VOICES: He loved everyone, even enemies.
VOICE 3: On the cross he prayed this for those who nailed him there:
ALL VOICES: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Lk 23:34)
VOICE 2: Non-violence is a power to be reckoned with. Indeed it may be the most powerful force known to humankind.
VOICE 1: Jesus taught and used a Way of non-violent activism to oppose the brutal and oppressive ways of Rome and the Temple it controlled in first century Palestine. He cared for the poor and the sick and others who were oppressed and cast aside as unworthy.
VOICE 2: To Jesus’s Way of being and seeing, no person is unworthy.
VOICE 3: All are loved, even enemies.
VOICE 1: Mahatma Gandhi was inspired by Jesus’ teachings to use non-violence activism in opposition and resistance to racism in South Africa and discrimination in India, as well as the violent, oppressive, occupation of India.
VOICE 2: Mahatma Gandhi was not only successful in pursuing non-violent activism, but, is remembered and highly revered because of it. Mahatma was not Mohandas Gandhi’s name but a title of Spiritual reverence meaning “Great Soul.”
VOICE 3: Mahatma Gandhi developed nine basic steps toward decreasing or ending violence in conflicts.
VOICE 1: Number 1: Define the conflict, clarify what’s at issue so what needs to be solved is known.
VOICE 2: Number 2: Focus on the problem, don’t focus on and blame people, focus on the problem.
VOICE 3: Number 3: Identify shared concerns between those in conflict, find what common ground there is.
VOICE 1: Number 4: Determine and look to facts, not opinions.
VOICE 2: Number 5: Listen carefully to what is being told
VOICE 3: Number 6: Hold resolution efforts with the parties in a safe, neutral place
VOICE 1: Number 7: Start with what is doable. Take small steps and solve the simple things first.
VOICE 2: Number 8: Work toward the future with forgiveness, work to set the past behind.
VOICE 3: Number 9: Set your personal ways toward non-violence, purify your heart.
VOICE 1: Mahatma Gandhi’s nine steps to non-violent conflict resolution: (1) define the conflict, (2) focus on the problem, (3) find common ground, (4) look to facts, (5) listen carefully, (6) meet in a safe place, (7) start with what’s doable, (8) forgive and (9) purify your heart to non-violence. 4
VOICE 2: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King took Jesus’ teachings and Mahatma Gandhi’s method and used both examples to oppose racial discrimination, brutal violence and oppression right here in America. And it worked.
VOICE 1: Rev. King boiled down Gandhi’s nine steps to four steps to use when engaging in activism. In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” he writes: “In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action.”
VOICE 2: Non-violence, of course, was the modus operandi of the civil rights campaign Rev. King led. Its action was by non-violent protest through marches, civil disobedience, demonstrations and boycotts.
VOICE 3: The problem, not the perpetrators, were the targets of the protest and the focus of change.
VOICE 2: And in the end the love center led by Rev. King transformed not just the history of African-Americans, and not just African- Americans, but all of history and the people of this nation.
VOICE 3: Lord Jesus and Mahatma Gandhi and Rev. King’s efforts all vibrate still in our lives and throughout the world. We have a deep reverence and awe for what they accomplished. Their victories over oppression, over violence itself through non-violence is not just impressive, it has a deep sense of the Divine to it.
VOICE 1: And the reason goes back to Jesus. He worshiped and followed and understood God as Love.
VOICE 2: Jesus’ love centered-ness is permeated by a “Strong feeling of personal affection, care and desire for the well being of others. . .” Even enemies.
VOICE 3: He taught and practiced love, including non-violence and it has made all the difference. We can feel that difference in the efforts of not just Lord Jesus, but Mahatma Gandhi and Rev. King’s efforts that were derived from it.
VOICE 1: Non-violence is God’s way. It’s the loving way to peace
VOICE 2: Peace is “more than the lack of war . . .”
VOICE 3: “Peace points to full societal and personal well being, coupled with righteousness.” 1
VOICE 1: Love is a “Strong feeling of personal affection, care and desire for the well being of others . . .
VOICE 2: Love is a “primary characteristic of God’s nature.”
VOICE 3: Love is a “Supreme expression of Christian faith and action.” 3
ALL VOICES: May it be our expression,
VOICE 3: Love
VOICE 2: And peace.
VOICE 1: Some might argue that Jesus and Gandhi and King’s efforts are all fine and good when protesting domestic issues, but have no application in times of war.
VOICE 2: Usually the argument is that the response to Nazi-like aggressors of the world has to be violence.
VOICE 3: Many believe that non-violence is ineffective in the landscape of war.
VOICE 1: But it can actually work in war.
VOICE 2: It actually worked against the Nazis.
VOICE 3: It actually worked in Denmark during World War 2.
VOICE 1: Thomas Merton wrote that “Denmark was one of the only nations which offered explicit, formal and successful non-violent resistence to Nazi power. The adjectives are important.”
VOICE 2: Merton notes that “The resistence was successful because it was explicit and formal . . .
VOICE 3: “[A]nd because it was practically speaking unanimous . . .
VOICE 1: “The entire Danish nation simply refused to cooperate with the Nazis . . .
VOICE 2: “[A]nd resisted every move of the Nazis against the Jews with non-violent protest of the highest and most effective caliber . . .
VOICE 3: “[Y]et without any need organization, training, or specailized activism . . .
VOICE 1: “[S]imply by unanimously . . .
VOICE 2: “[A]nd effectively expressing in word . . .
VOICE 3: [A]nd action . . .
VOICE 1: “[T]he force. . .
VOICE 2: “[O]f their . . .
VOICE 3: “[D]eeply held . . .
ALL VOICES: “[M]oral convictions.” 5
VOICE 1: The Danes non-violent action was done “By strikes . . .
VOICE 2: “[W]ork slow downs . . .
VOICE 3: “[Refusals to repair German ships in their shipyards . . .
VOICE 2: “[A]nd hiding or helping Jews to flee . . .
VOICE 1: “[T]hey calmly and efficiently defied the Nazi invaders.” 6.
VOICE 2: “In September , word leaks out that the Nazis are about to round up Danish Jews for exportation.
VOICE 3: This galvanize[d] Danish citizens into active and potentially life-threatening resistance.
VOICE 1: To evade their pursuers, most Jews [were] funneled to neutral Sweden by Danish resisters.
VOICE 2: In a testament to human determination, only 472 out of roughly 8,000 Danish Jews are lost to Hitler’s ‘final solution.’” 7.
VOICE 3: Now that’s some powerful stuff.
VOICE 1: “Non-violent resistence saved the country [and more than 7,500 Jews,] and contributed more to the Allied victory than Danish arms could ever have done. ” 8.
VOICE 2: Nonviolence is not non-action.
VOICE 3: It’s not about being unarmed either.
VOICE 1: “People in non-violent struggles are not unarmed.
VOICE 2: “They are simply not armed with violent weapons . . .
VOICE 3: “ [M]ake no mistake they, they have formidable resources that flow from the fabric of their society.” 9 . . .
ALL VOICES: Non-violent resistence.
VOICE 1: The type of resistence taught and used by Jesus . . .
VOICE 2: By Gandhi . . .
VOICE 3: By King . . .
VOICE 1: We all know that armed response to the Nazis was successful in ending the war.
VOICE 2: Thank goodness the war was ended and the Axis nations were stopped.
VOICE 3: But armed response was not the only successful response. Non-violence worked too.
VOICE 1: Non-violent resistence is a formidable resource that flows from the fabric of our religion’s first and foremost leader, Jesus and his teachings.
VOICE 2: Jesus not only taught it, but let loose it’s power in his protests,
VOICE 3: And practices, proving love of all – even enemies
ALL VOICES: Is the very force of God.
VOICE 1: If you pull out an English translation of the New Testament you will find that Jesus said a number of things about peace and love.
VOICE 2: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called [children] of God.”
VOICE 3: “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
VOICE 1: “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
VOICE 2: “I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer.
VOICE 3: “[I]f anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.
ALL VOICES: “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.”
VOICE 1: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
VOICE 2: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.”
VOICE 3: “ On the evening of the,
VOICE 1: “First day of the week,
VOICE 2: “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them,
ALL VOICES: “Peace be with you.”
VOICE 1: Non-violence is a power to be reckoned with. Indeed it may be the most powerful force known to humankind.
VOICE 2: It’s a tool of love.
VOICE 3: It’s a tool for peace.
VOICE 1: “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them,
ALL VOICES: “Peace be with you.” . . . AMEN.
1. Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, “Peace”
2. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, http://www.bible-history.com/isbe/P/PEACE/
3. Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, “Love”
4. These nine steps are summarized from the list set out in Colman McCarthy’s dynamic book on peace and non-violence called I’d Rather Teach Peace (pages 39-43).
5. The quote from Merton that the voices refer to is from Merton, Thomas, Danish Non-violent Resistence to Hitler, quoted in Coleman McCarthy’s book I’d Rather Teach Peace (pages 82-83).
6. McCarthy, at 83.
7. Figures are from “A Force More Powerful,” by Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall, published by St. Martin’s Press, 2000 found at this great website: http://www.aforcemorepowerful.org/films/afmp/stories/denmark.php
8. McCarthy, at 85.
COPYRIGHT Scott Elliott © 2012 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED