Draft Dodgers

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 — Week of Proper 28, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 101, 109:1-4(5-19)20-30 (morning) // 89:19-52 (evening)

1 Maccabees 3:42-60

Revelation 21:9-21

Matthew 17:22-27

Our passages from the apocryphal First Book of Maccabees contain some unusual lessons. Today, we learn how to raise a rebel army. Judas Maccabeus sounds the trumpets, appoints leaders, and assigns ranks. But then, “Those who were building houses, or were about to be married, or were planting a vineyard, or were fainthearted, he told to go home again.”

Judas thinks that there is no room in battle for people who dream of building houses and families, who expect what they have planted to come to fruition, and who know that they are not invincible. He bases his policy on a portion of Deuteronomy, in which officials question their troops, “Has anyone planted a vineyard but not yet enjoyed its fruit?” “Has anyone become engaged to a woman but not yet married her?” “Is anyone afraid or disheartened?” If so, they should not join the fight.

The officials explain this last question about fear even further: “He should go back to his house, or he might cause the heart of his comrades to melt like his own.” Fear is contagious, so the cowardly should turn back. It sounds like a piece of cold-hearted military strategy.

But I also wonder whether this advice about raising an army is ultimately part of God’s plan for peace: Build homes. Fall in love. Plant gardens. Recognize your vulnerability. If we can all do this, no one will be left eligible for the draft. And if we do engage in struggles that impact our families, that uproot us, and that frighten us, may they be for the peace and justice that are signs of the kingdom of God.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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