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Shalom

Welcome to this theme issue on shalom. You may not see that word outside of this editorial, but the whole issue can be summed up in that one Hebrew word. In reality, shalom is more than a word—it’s a concept, a dream, a promise. Whether we are talking about becoming a hospitable community, caring for the needs of people with disabilities, fighting human trafficking, working for immigration reform, or seeking solutions for the conflicts in the Middle East, we are talking about becoming a people of shalom.

“Shalom [the Hebrew word for “peace”] means the end of war and conflict, but it also means friendship, contentment, security, and health; prosperity, abundance, tranquility, harmony with nature, and even salvation. And it means these things for everyone, not only a select few. Shalom is ultimately a blessing, a gift from God. It is not a human endeavor. It applies to the state of the individual, but also to relationships—among people, nations, and between God and man. Beyond this, shalom is intimately tied to justice, because it is the enjoyment or celebration of human relationships which have been made right.

 

—Johann Arnold, Seeking Peace: Notes and Conversations Along the Way (Plough Publishing, 2013)

Why should a journal dedicated to the practice of worship take up such matters? Because, as James Smith reminds us in Imagining the Kingdom (Baker Academic, 2013), worship is not just about me praising God; it is formative. When we gather for worship we are being formed into Christ-followers; our hearts are becoming attuned to God’s; we are becoming likeminded with Christ. And what was Christ about? Christ was about the inauguration of the kingdom of God, a kingdom in which he is Lord and shalom is abundant.

Though we will not reach the fullness of shalom until Christ returns, that does not mean we rest now. If our heart is indeed atuned to the heart of Christ, we cannot remain inactive. We will care for those who need caring, fight for those who do not have rights, speak for those who are voiceless. Just as Christ himself did when he was on earth.

In a sermon preached at the opening service of the Conference on Worship, Theology, and the Arts, Neal Plantinga said:

If we believe in the Kingdom of God we will pray, and we will hope for those without much hope left. And one more thing, one more tough thing. We will work in the same direction as we hope.

In a wonderful book entitled Standing on the Promises, my teacher Lewis Smedes says that hoping for others is hard, but not the hardest. Praying for others is hard, but not the hardest. The hardest part for people who believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ is in “living the sort of life that makes people say, ‘Ah, so that’s how people are going to live when righteousness takes over our world.’” The hardest part is simple faithfulness in our work and in our attitudes—the kind of faithfulness that shows we are being drawn forward by the magnet force of the Kingdom of God.

—from Neal Plantinga’s address at St. Olaf College, July 24, 2000. Full text available online at tinyurl.com/PlantingaShalom.

And so we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Through me, today.” This issue is focused on social justice concerns so that our worship might better reflect the things that concern the heart of Christ himself and our prayers might better reflect the selfless prayers of Christ.