Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Vine and Fig Tree

Micah 3:9-4:5

And every one neath their vine and fig tree
Shall live in peace and unafraid
And every one neath their vine and fig tree
Shall live in peace and unafraid

And into plowshares turn their swords
Nations shall learn war no more
And into plowshares turn their swords
Nations shall learn war no more

I learned this little Hebrew folk tune about 10 years ago, when I was part of a group of Christian Educators putting on a vacation Bible School called GIGL (Gathering In God's Love). We taught it to about 120 children and adults, together with the appropriate grapevine dance, and sang and danced it together in a darkening Presbyterian sanctuary on a hot August night.

There are at least four places in the Hebrew Scriptures where the phrase "under [his] vine and fig tree" is used to denote a place of safety, peace and plenty.

I want to say something profound about this, but mostly I feel a sense of weariness. This sense of safety is so elusive for everyone, no matter where they are. The truth is, as a US citizen living in a less densely populated area, I am probably as safe as anyone in the world can hope to be. Little likelihood of a terrorist attack. I have a warm home to retreat to on a cold October day, and a refrigerator and freezer filled with meat and vegetables and grains. I am not in danger (or so I imagine) of sudden assault or home invasion or cluster bombs exploding. Certainly, in comparison with a woman of Darfur, no question. I don't face rape and abuse when I go to the market (just temptation). Certainly, in comparison with an Israeli woman, no question. I don't face the possibility of suicide bombers along my commute. Certainly, in comparison with the homeless woman in the US, no question. I am safe.

I don't always feel safe. I didn't feel safe as a seminarian living half of each week in New Work City in the fall of 2001. I don't feel safe when I consider the antibiotics used to raise the chicken and beef I purchase and prepare for myself and my family. And I don't feel safe when I hear about random acts of violence perpetrated against good and peaceful people, either on a local level or in my name by my government. Yet, the truth is this. I am safe, By comparison with the vast majority of people who inhabit this planet, I am almost unimaginably privileged, and my safety is a part of that privilege.

My question to myself is this: how can I use my safety to help to bring safety to others? Is it possible for me to step out of my cosy home and life to bring the reality of the vine and fig tree to others who live at the knife's edge every day? Together with other safe people can we help the vine and fig tree to flourish in Baghdad and Kabul and Darfur and Laramie?


steve westby said...

First of all, thank you for the lovely post.

My thought about your question of how we can "spread safety" is that safety springs from peace, and that we must cultivate peace inside ourselves in order to give it as a gift to others.

Peace is spread in ways both large and small. It is spread through treating others with kindness, dignity, and respect. It is spread through political action to promote tolerance. It is spread through taking the time to console someone in pain. It is spread through refusing to permit violence.

It is spread through phone calls. It is spread through e-mails. It is even spread, it can be hoped, through blogs.

In other words, rest assured that bright, compassionate blogs such as yours help create peace in the world. Prayers and blessings to you as you strive to cultivate the gift of peace throughout your life.

Magdalene6127 said...

Thanks Steve, your words meant a lot to me today. I hope... therefore I blog! Peace.


more cows than people said...

yes, magdalene. truly a lovely post... thank you.

reading steve's comment i was reminded of an Elie Wiesel quote i heard on "speaking of faith" recently. the episode was several months old, i get behind. "Peace is not God's gift to us. Peace is our gift to one another." i find that this is a helpful reminder.