In the audio podcast of this service…
The Scripture Reading starts at 21 min 55 secs:
The Sermon starts at 24 min 35 secs:
“The Easter War” by Pastor Todd Buurstra
On the seventh Memorial Day since the Iraq War began, just shy of Easter 2003, I hope we’re far enough removed to begin a conversation about war—not a war about war. So I will encourage you to have roast rev for lunch today, or Buurstra bar-b-q tomorrow with your family. I only ask that it be a dialogue that seeks God’s truth, as opposed to a diatribe that polarizes the issue. And, I would love to carry on the conversation by phone, visit, or email together. I will try to start this conversation in the way I preach today.
So, what can we learn from God’s Easter justice about war?
Well, how does this passage talk about war? For years I’ve read this passage and thought that the Sadducees just had a theological problem with the resurrection. And they did. But what our theological companion for this Easter series, Bishop N. T. Wright has helped me to see is that they also had a moral problem with the resurrection. Why? The Sadducees were Palestine’s princes. They were, like us, the superpower in their region. But the belief in a resurrection meant that there was an afterlife, which meant there was a Judgment Day, which requires superpowers to use our power for justice in this life.
That’s Easter Justice. So Jesus, in effect, tells superpowers like Sadducees and US:
When God told Moses at the burning bush, I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God wasn’t just saying, Hey, there’s life after death for these saints. God was saying, Hey, the God of your forefathers hears the cries of slaves, so help me free them!
So Easter justice moves from Resurrection=Afterlife=Judgment Day=Justice for Daily Life
But that still doesn’t apply to war. As Jesus refers to the liberation of the Hebrew slaves in this passage, it’s just a little step to ask: and how did those slaves get the Promised Land? Joshua fit de battle of Jericho… Conquest. Holy War. The first jihad.
How do you balance Invasion of the Promised Land with Jesus’ call to be Peacemakers in the Sermon on the Mount? Those who more heavily weigh Jesus’ words tend to be pacifists. Those who tend to weigh more heavily the Promised Land conquest tend to be holy warriors. Those who seek a balance tend to be Just War folk. I’ve been all three. I was raised in a family who taught me I had to fight the commies at all costs. In college I met Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount and became a Viet Nam War opposing pacifist. Now, I see the Just War position as the mature middle. What about you?
And, what does the Christian Just War theory state? Two things relating to Iraq:
War is just in God’s eyes when its fought 1) in self defense, and 2) as a last resort.
7 Memorial Days ago we were told, in direct contrast to the UN Weapons Inspectors, that there were definitely WMDs, so that we were fighting in self-defense, and that we had given Saddam every chance to comply, so that it was a last resort, even though the UN Weapons Inspectors asked for more time to complete their work. This Memorial Day we know there were no WMDs, and that listening to the inspectors might have saved a $700B.
But hindsight is 20-20, right? Except that 8 Memorial Days ago, before the March 2003 “Shock and Awe” invasion of Iraq, mainline Protestant leaders and the US Catholic Bishops, in consultation with our churches in the Middle East, told us not to pull the trigger. Based on believers on the ground they declared that an Iraq War would not be in self-defense or a last resort, and therefore not just. I taught that in a class and spoke that at the December 2002 Ecumenical Steak and Egger. Maybe had we known our Bible and theology better up to $1T could have been saved and countless lives. But here we are.
So what have we learned? Before that, have you heard the one about the little boy who was looking at all of those plaques with names of soldiers who died in the various wars in his church’s history? So he asked his pastor, Who are all of these people? The pastor replied, Those are the names of boys who died in the service. To which the boy replied, Which one? The 9 or 10:15 service? I guess their length had almost killed him.
So what might God teach America about war in light of resurrection justice and the Iraq War? One more time I’ll say, two things that I hope most of us can agree with:
1. America will not support a morally ambiguous war over the long haul.
The best question that I remember from our summer 2003 class in the Youth Lounge where we debated Just War theory and the Iraq was, Why is it that in WWII the whole country rallied around, but in the Iraq War we still have 30% opposed? My answer was that after Pearl Harbor WWII was clearly in self-defense and a last resort, the Iraq War, in my opinion, was not. America needs moral clarity, like WMDs, to support a long war.
2. Unlike Viet Nam, we must always support our troops.
Here’s my Memorial Day 2009 climax. Next week we hope to have a veteran’s testimony that couldn’t happen today. I hope that whatever our view of this war we remain fervent in support of our troops. May we never again spit on returning vets, but always thank them for their service to our country. Agree with this war or not, our troops have made all the difference!
Got enough to talk about yet? Is this what you believe our God of Easter justice teaches America about war in light of Iraq? Or is it something else? Let’s talk.
Learn how you can listen to the audio files streamed over the Internet, download files to your computer or download files to your portable media player. Visit our Podcast page for complete details.
DVD recordings of the Sunday services are also available. Please contact Bruce Taggart at (908) 685-3165 with questions.