Isaiah 2: 2-5 (NRSV)
In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord!
Psalm 70 (BCP, p. 682)
|1||Be pleased, O God, to
deliver me; *
O LORD, make haste to help me.
|2||Let those who seek my
life be ashamed
and altogether dismayed; *
let those who take pleasure in my misfortune
draw back and be disgraced.
|3||Let those who say to
me "Aha!" and gloat over me turn back, *
because they are ashamed.
|4||Let all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you; *
let those who love your salvation say for ever,
"Great is the LORD!"
|5||But as for me, I am
poor and needy; *
come to me speedily, O God.
|6||You are my helper and
my deliverer; *|
O LORD, do not tarry.
Revelation 7: 13-18 (NRSV)
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you are the one that knows.’ Then he said to me, ‘These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’
Matthew 2: 13-18 (NRSV)
Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’
This day is chosen for the commemoration because the international community recognizes April 24 as a day of remembrance for the Armenian Genocide, the systematic annihilation of the Armenian people during and just after World War I. On April 24, 1915, more than 250 Armenian notables - - civic and political leaders, teachers, writers, and members of the clergy--were rounded up, imprisoned, tortured, and killed. Before the cessation of conflict, it is estimated that as many as one-and-a half million Armenians perished, many as a result of forced marches, deliberate starvation, and heinous massacres. President Theodore Roosevelt, declared the Armenian Genocide to be the greatest crime of World War I. The close relationships between Anglicans and Episcopalians and our sisters and brothers in the Armenian Church of this day a particular sing of our fellowship as the Body of Christ.
Tragically, human history is littered with such atrocities and the Armenian Genocide was far from the last such mass extermination of people in the twentieth century. One only need mention Croatia, Nazi Germany, Zanzibar, Guatemala, Bangladesh, Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, East Timor, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Kurdish Iraq, and Tibet, and this is by no means a comprehensive list. The unflinching resolve of people of faith, in prayer and in action, is critical if the travesty of human genocide is to be curbed and ultimately stopped. (Holy Women, Holy Men, Celebrating the Saints, p. 342)
It is hard to come up with words to write on this day. When I think of incidents such as this and many others, it seems that anything I might write would be so inaccurate and/or incomplete. And, in fact, it is. Human tragedy and suffering is painful and difficult enough with illnesses, natural disasters and the reality of human nature by itself. Yet, humankind can stoop even lower and perpetrate death by generations with very little effort.
Among the things that forever amazes me is how human beings will reach for violence as a means to try to solve conflicts quicker than striving for peace and justice. Excuses for removing people we don't like can be made in the thousands, each and every day. A simple election of a political leader who promises a better tomorrow for everyone, overnight turns into a humanitarian nightmare.
It is easy to think that such attitudes and behaviors are left to Governments and political movements alone. However, individuals and groups make good use of churches and religious institutions to scapegoat the marginalized through political maneuvering and negative stereotyping just as much. Fundamentalist Christians as well as the Catholic church have targeted women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender individuals, Native Americans, Muslims, Jews and many other groups for Centuries. Organizations such as Focus on the Family, the Liberty Council, the Family Research Council, American Family Association, the National Organization for Marriage and many more, are all examples of political and religious organizations seeking to marginalize anyone and everyone who does not accept their views about a woman's right to chose and LGBT people, for some kind of extermination. Socially, politically, spiritually etc. It doesn't really matter. What matters is raising the funds and the billion dollars in revenue to bully their agenda into the public square to dominate, control and manipulate. They falsely label LGBT people by comparing us to the Nazi's and call progressive and liberal people "socialists" so to create fear and violence around us. Could this not also be considered a form or political genocide?
Ex-gay groups with their determination to use failed science and psychological approaches to suggest that people can change their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and/or expression, is also a form of spiritual malpractice and doctrinal abuse. All for the purpose of eliminating those who are different.
In the last few years a few states have enacted anti-immigration bills that subject "illegals" to racial profiling and injustice. It is not enough that families suffering all over the world might like to come here and find the hope of prosperity and peace. We have to label them as "illegals" and return them to their native countries, even if they face death and poverty because of oppression. It matters not that one of them might be here to care for the needs of a sick partner/spouse, if they are here illegally, they have to be sent home.
These past two years we have seen attacks made on women's reproductive health care, including invasive ultra-sounds and keeping them from contraception. Is this not also a form of violence that could be seen as a form of genocide?
The God who came to us in Jesus Christ, and offered his life on the Cross and rose again from the dead, is not a God of discrimination. Nor does God condone violence and oppression as if it were commissioned or ordained by Divine Law. What is written in the Hebrew Scriptures came from a time when people believed that God was a wrathful being. In recent years, we have come to understand that the Bible is full of words and events authored by imperfect people, describing events and interpretations from a culture and time far removed from our own. The truths contained there are limited, but not totally irrelevant from those of our own time. They are not blue prints for the future. They are full of lessons we all have yet to learn.
Christians who know that we are redeemed by God in Christ, have a responsibility to proclaim salvation for all humankind. A salvation bought with the price of the blood of Christ. A blood that cleanses us from sin and gives us the power of the Holy Spirit to sanctify us and the world in which we live. We have only to continue our work as witnesses to God's transforming grace by which a world filled with darkness and violence, becomes a world with the Light of Jesus Christ and the peace that the world cannot give.
The prevention of violence and religious based oppression and hatred begins with knowing that God loves and embraces us all. Without exception. God's love shown in the Incarnate Word calls and commands us to embrace one another without exception. May it be so.
Almighty God, our Refuge and our Rock, your loving care knows no bounds and embraces all the peoples of the earth: Defend and protect those hwo fall victim to the forces of evil, and as we remember this day those who endured depredation and death because of who they were, not because of what they had doneor failed to do, give us the courage to stand against hatred and oppression, and seek the dignity and well-being of all for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, in whom you have reconciled the world to yourself; and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (HWHM, p. 343).
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us
through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole
human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which
infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and
confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in
your good time, all nations and races may serve you in
harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen. (Prayer for the Human Family, Book of Common Prayer, p. 815).
Look with pity, O heavenly Father, upon the people in this
land who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death as
their constant companions. Have mercy upon us. Help us to
eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors. Strengthen those
who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law
and equal opportunities for all. And grant that every one of
us may enjoy a fair portion of the riches of this land; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Prayer for the Oppressed, Book of Common Prayer, p. 826).