Photo by bitzi â˜‚ ion-bogdan dumitrescu, June 20, 2006, Creative Commons License
As I sit to write this month's blog on the peacemakers, Syria's army has been unleashed against its own people in massacre after massacred. The global drumbeat of war against Iran is beginning to beat more loudly -- from Democrats and Republicans. The anger in Afghanistan over the burning of the Qu'ran --and the US military occupation-- has led to danger for military and civilian persons. And the constant, untreated wound of Palestine and the state of Israel festers still.
As I set to write this month's blog on the peacemakers, Ohio's children have been shot and killed by a lone teenaged boy with a gun. The local drumbeat of gang warfare in our cities and towns from Tempe to Seattle to Chicago continues like a mad, racing heartbeat. The danger on the streets of Mexico from guns made in and trafficked from the United States continues. And the constant, untreated wound of US racism, US classism, and US sexism and heterosexism festers still -- even in the church.
Friends, it is hard to write a blog on peacemaking in the year 2012, if this is where we must start. It is hard because the dominant mode of the whole world, even of our own nation, is not peacemaking but war-mongering and even I can get caught up in it far too easily. It is easy to forget that, "enemy" or "friend", victims of violence are all human, all made in the image of God.
And perhaps, this is exactly why, in March 2012, we need to hear Jesus' insistent instruction that only those who make peace are truly God's "sons," God's children born of God's own will, adopted into God's own family, co-heirs of the covenant with Christ.
Photo by yeowatzup, September 23, 2010, Creative Commons License
In Jesus' mother language --Aramaic-- the word for peace would not be the Pax Romana designed to keep Roman-occupied territories quiet. Peace, in this case, was a broader word, a word about wholeness, about everyone having what they need and no one being in want, a word about a world without oppression and violence, but also without hunger and poverty.
James, who some scholars now think may well have been Jesus' brother, says it this way,
"If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." James 2:15-17, NRSV
The good news is that the church, imperfect and often torn apart by schims itself, still stands up for peace, sometimes even taking the call for peace to the streets!
In the PCUSA, we stand with non-governmental organizations bringing peace to war-torn nations. We pray and bear witness with sisters and brothers who have been tortured and killed that their families may know a just peace. Through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, our One Great Hour of Sharing offering and other mission giving goes to help in the very heart of war, bringing food and aid the most vulnerable. We gather to work and to pray for our own nation too. At the end of this month, we with Christians from around the country will gather in Washington D C to learn, to pray, and to advocate for a just peace in Ecumenical Advocacy Days.
Peacemaking isn't easy. It calls for action, and contemplation; sacrifice and sorrow. Peacemaking includes prayer and providing food; standing with the victims and standing against violence. And peacemaking, the kind of peacemaking that Jesus did, can lead one to a cross. David LaMotte reminds us of this in his prophetic song Peter, a song set in Golgotha -- and in every other place of conflict:
"It sounds so simple, but it's so complicated, not gentle, not just a warm feeling. Many will die in the name of peace, but war will not lead us to healing. And I meant what I said, Peter, put down your sword. Did you forget, or did you think I was joking?"
As we walk the path of discipleship this Lent, and try to live into the second half of these beatitudes: showing mercy, walking with integrity, making peace let us pray
- For those whose actions bring war and violence, that their hands may be stilled and their wars cease
- For those who seek peace in their own lives, in their communities, and in their world, that their peacemaking may be fruitful
- For those who need peace, that what we say, what we do, and how we pray may bring them closer to that peace they so desperately need
- That we might be makers of God's peace for this God-beloved world.
Normally, in March we might pray St. Patrick's Breastplate, put perhaps this March, as we honor those who make peace, we should pray with our brother Frances of Assisi instead:
Photo by kevin dooley, November 22, 2009, Creative Commons License
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Photo by James Emery (hoyasmeg), May 5, 2007, Creative Commons license