Monthly Archives: January 2013

Pacifist Writings, volume one

Peace Theology Books, 2012. 188 pages.

[To purchase ($15) go here]

In this volume, Ted Grimsrud has gathered together short articles on peace that he has published in various periodicals over the past thirty years. When read together, these articles convey a powerful and practical vision for biblically-based pacifism.

The first section of the book collects articles on various topics related to Christian peace convictions published in church periodicals.
The second section contains short meditations on a variety of biblical texts originally published in Mennonite Weekly Review. These meditations present the Bible as a book of peace.
The third and final section contains devotional articles written for Purpose magazine that reflect on how peace concerns are relevant for various aspects of the Christian life.

Transforming Babylon

[This is the twelfth in a series of sermons in interpreting America in the 21st century in light of the Book of Revelation. The series will continue, monthly for about two years.]

Ted Grimsrud

Shalom Mennonite Congregation—January 20, 2013—Revelation 15:1–16:21

We seem to get mixed messages about love. Jesus was asked to identify the greatest commandment—it’s the call to love, he said. Probably if we were asked what was the most important emphasis for Martin Luther King, we’d say it was love. He called one of his most famous books, Strength to Love.

And yet it also seems that love is kind of looked down upon. It certainly doesn’t seem to come up much when we talk about social policy and social problems, gun violence, economic inequality, terrorism, climate change. When we talk about social issues we tend to use “realistic” language—power, coercion, justifiable violence, finding a seat at the table, self-interest, just desserts.

Marginalizing love

Love may seem sentimental, naïve, emotional, soft. Nice for life on a personal level (perhaps), but not very central to negotiating social life, not very central to the work of social justice and social order.

I’ve read a couple of books that bear this out. Michael Burleigh in his book on World War II, Moral Combat, and Jean Bethke Elshtein in her book on the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Just War Against Terror, both write about values and moral standards—but neither devote any space to talk about love. In the “real world,” love is irrelevant it would seem. But is it? Have the violent strategies with which the “realists” deal with conflict and wrongdoing actually worked to enhance human life?

I think this is a challenging question—given all the terrible things that go on in our world. I wonder if the book of Revelation gives us any insights about love and social life? What would you guess I think? Let me read a portion of Revelation—a passage that may not seem to say much about love—chapters 15 and 16, and then you can see what I will pull out of the hat. Continue reading

Revelation Notes (chapter 15)

Ted Grimsrud

[See notes on Revelation 14]

After chapter 14’s visions of judgment that actually focus on Jesus’ self-giving love, we turn in chapter 15 to the final series of plagues. Though there is a sense of progression moving from the seal plagues in chapter 6 through the trumpet plagues and now to the bowl plagues, these three series are best seen as three angles on the same picture. They do not actually portray three separate events but rather portray a deeper sense of urgency in relation to the one “event”—which is not one specific historical but a symbolic way of referring to the “three and a half years,” that is, the time between Jesus’ life and the final end.

Revelation 15:1-4—The great song of saving justice

As the book does numerous times amidst the recounting of various plague and trauma visions, here also we get a powerful vision of celebration. One of our big questions in interpreting Revelation is how we understand the relationship between the plagues and the celebrations. I would suggest, given the self-identification of the book as a “revelation of Jesus Christ,” given the centrality to the entire book of the vision in chapter five of the Lamb receiving the scroll, and given the ending vision of the New Jerusalem that portrays an amazingly inclusive sense of healing, we should see the celebrations as the fundamental reality.

Continue reading