Posted by: rogermitchell | May 6, 2010

Righteousness and peace have kissed

“Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. Lovingkindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth springs from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. Indeed, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its produce. Righteousness will go before him and will make his footsteps into a way.” (Psalm 85: 9-15)

This is quite some statement for an election day! I will aim to add some comments as it proceeds …

1. The first observation is that its important to understand what it means for “glory to dwell in our land.” I suggest that this has to mean the restoration of the creation as the context for life laid down loving. I have deliberately not quoted the very Israel-centric first part of the Psalm to avoid the misunderstanding of glory and the land that many western Christians display. The whole point of Israel’s special selection and task was of course to demonstrate to all the peoples of the earth that he loved them in exactly the same way as he loved Israel. So I wanted to avoid the suggestion made by so many intercessors and prophetic people from the evangelical, charismatic and pentecostal camp that God is a racist with favourites who justifies ethnic cleansing! The very opposite is the case. The land is for everyone and if glory dwells in it then the kenotic love of the trinity is in it and the city and rural life of the people collaborates with the flora and fauna in the context of the blessing and fullness of the whole ecological  landscape.  I am currently on my way to an interesting conference which I discovered in the course of my research. It is entitled Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of this World for Crucifixion and Empire. It centres around a recent book of that name by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebbecca Ann Parker (Beacon Press 2008). I am only part way into it, but it certainly contains some very interesting research, not least extremely convincing evidence that the earliest artistic portrayal of the crucifixion found so far dates only from 965 and associates the crucifixion with the crusades. Their argument is that salvation was about the restoration of paradise earth and that the death of Christ was about overcoming the worst that empire could do – crucify you – and that resurrection was the sign that empire could never overcome God’s plans to restore the earth. I suggest that glory cannot dwell in our land unless we care for the creation and step back from the rape and pillage of the planet that the partnership of church and empire has visited and continues to visit on it. The fact that all three leaders of the main political parties at least pay lip service to this can only be progress!

2. So how and when have lovingkindness and truth met together or righteousness and peace kissed each other? In the context of the Psalm it was when God restored the land and forgave its people. From our Jesus perspective this happened consummately at the cross and was sealed by the resurrection. Mercy now forever triumphs over judgment. This is emphatically not the ‘slag them all off ‘or ‘blame the others attitude’ which sadly has characterised the electioneering of the three main party leaders. I don’t say this with any blame either, because I tend to be as bad. Because I see the whole nation state system as the result of the ecclesia getting into bed with empire I’m inclined to respond with a pox on all their houses. But this absolutely won’t do. God is full of grace towards his enemies, so perhaps the more so, if possible, to those who show him any kind of acknowledgment. So He is waiting to bless them all whatever the outcome of today’s vote! Which does NOT mean he doesn’t care but that he always has a way through for those follow it.

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Responses

  1. Oooooo, Roger, exciting stuff about loving creation and living in right relationship with it – which, I would contend, tends to put us into right relationship with one another too. How tragic then the spill in the gulf of Mexico or all the other ways we despoil the earth and kill off the marvelous biodiversity God gave to this planet (often with what appears to be a whimiscal bit of humour). I have heard about the cross coming late into Christian symbology. Initially, was it not the fish? That would be a great creation symbol as it would speak of the oceans (which we are destroying rapidly) and other species, and food and all sorts of good things.

    But I take heart – empire cannot destroy God’s purposes to restore this planet. Yes!!! Take that oil spills and toxic dispersants, take that all those chemicals in our water, take that all the C02 heading into the atmosphere and causing freak rainstorms in the Artic in April. Empire cannot prevail.

    enjoy the conference and the book, C.


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