December 9th, 2018
This morning in worship at St. George’s, when I explained that the second week of Advent is the week of peace, I asked the children what peace means. There were some less than expected answers: death, church, love. There were some very typical answers: being kind, listening to others, being still & quiet. Though the most common was some variation of not fighting with your brother/sister/mom/dad/grandma/teacher…
I explained to them that Jesus, and the Jewish people he learned from, and the people who follow him, think of peace a little differently than not something. Peace is actually a verb, an action word, something you do. I shared the Todd Parr story, “The Peace Book,” with them, where the author describes peace in terms of reading all kinds of books, helping a neighbour, planting a garden. He also says that peace is everyone having a home, wearing different clothes, sharing a meal…and, of course, there being enough pizza for everyone.
What I am Thinking About
Peace isn’t just resisting fighting (or perhaps resisting the urge to fight)…sometimes peace is fighting for what is right. In Hebrew, the word for peace is shalom שׁלום, and shares the same root as the words for wholeness or completeness. In Jewish literature, it is also bound up with the notion of shelemut or perfection and is most commonly referring to a state of affairs – a state of well-being, tranquility, prosperity, security, and justice.
Peace is perhaps, as we understand it socially, the absence of war. I was wondering about this on Remembrance Day this year – the 100th anniversary of the armistice of WWI. As the youth I was on retreat with, along with churches all around the world, rang bells 100 times, I could not help but feel the irony of ringing bells of peace on a day when surely mortars were falling on youth in Yemen at that very moment.
Peace in ancient times, the time when Jesus walked around, was secured by the Roman authorities – the Pax Romana. This was a peace that came through terror and authoritarian control. This is not the shalom of God’s dream for humanity where peace is a by-product of justice for all.
What I am Grateful For
Yes, of course I am grateful that I live in a country where I am not in danger of incoming enemy fire at all times of the day. But there is bitterness in that gratitude as I cannot un-know the death and destruction happening on other pieces of this planet. I am grateful for a God that dreams of peace, a God that calls us, pulls on our hearts to work together for this dream of peace. I am grateful for the others who feel this uprising within themselves and take action for peace for the sake of the world and all of her children.
What Inspires Me
This week in my morning meditation, (I am currently listening to the daily Pray As You Go app), we reflected on the verses spoken by the prophet Isaiah several thousand years ago, reiterated by Jesus, and spoken by Jews, Christians, and Muslims since then. It is God’s dream, God’s promise of peace to come:
The wolf will live alongside the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the young goat,
the calf and the lion will eat together from the same trough,
and a little child will tend to them.
The cow and the bear will graze the same pasture,
their calves and cubs grow up together;
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will play over rattlesnake dens,
and the toddler will stick its hand down the hole of the serpent.
Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill on the holy earth.
This is peace not only for some. This is the peace that comes from safety and security, not fear and terror.
It is a state of blessing on emotional, physical, and spiritual levels, for all.
How I am Practicing my Faith
Today I choose to live in the hope of this peace. Not the peace that humans promise – not peace at any cost. Not peace under authority, without freedom, only for some at the expense of others. I want a peace that is born from the end of homelessness. The end of hunger. The end of oppression, poverty, tyranny, control, subversion, inferiority, suffering…I want the peace that comes when there is enough pizza in the world for everyone.
This is not the peace that we can bring about on our own. We have made it very clear through history and in the present that our own efforts are not enough. We need a power greater than ourselves to have a hand in this. This is a peace that is born in the form of a vulnerable newborn to unwed, homeless, teenage parents in a land not their own for a purpose greater than they would ever know.
I am practicing my faith by living in action towards a peace that comes when humanity partners with God to work for justice for everyone. Everyday. In a thousand small ways.
Join me, won’t you? Pray for peace. Work, tirelessly, for peace. Trust that your work will not be in vain…that it will be multiplied in unseen ways for generations to come.