Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Homily~ November 9~ Culture of Peace

Peace Making

(by George Pell, with edited material from an article

by Dianne Strickland entitled ‘When the Warrior Drops His Weapons)


To day is a day of remembrance; today is a day to pray for peace.


If you look hard enough, you will usually find in scripture passages that say almost the opposite.  Take the following passages about pruning hooks and spears, which can be both symbols of peace and war.


Prepare war, stir up the warriors.

Let all the soldiers draw near, let them come up.

Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears;

let the weakling say, “I am a warrior.”  (Joel 3:9,10)


 {God} shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many

 peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

 neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:4)


Our lives are full of situations where the road is not always clear, and where we must search carefully to discover the will of God in that situation. We must make choices.


In a passage from Deuteronomy, we see Moses, having led God’s people from slavery through the wilderness, standing on a hill overlooking the Land of Promise.  He is giving his farewell challenge to the people brfore they cross the Jordan River.  Moses describes a time in people’s lives when they would need to make choices.  “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.”  Moses calls on the people to ‘choose life’. (Deut. 30:19). “Choose life, so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying God and holding fast to God.” The choice not  only affects those who choose, Moses declares that their choices will affect them and their descendants.


It was Joshua who succeeded Moses and led them into the ‘Promises Land’. In our first reading today, at the end of his leadership, Joshua challenges the people to renew their covenant with God.  He reminds them of how God has guided through them many ‘trials’.  Joshua says that each of them must choose whether to follow God’s path, but ‘as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’”


As children, many of us were given a wonderful gift. It was a gift we received when everything seemed to have gone wrong.  Someone, often a parent, but sometimes a brother or sister or friend, came alongside us to say to us with conviction, "It will be all right.”


It is always a precious gift, as a child, to hear those words, and to believe them. These are also words {of Wisdom} we need to hear and believe as adults. Things still go wrong, our hearts still break and our spirits can feel defeated. It is a wonderful gift to hear a voice saying with sincerity and confidence, "It will be all right. Things may hard right now, but it will be all right."  Peace can be established even when we can not see it for ourselves.  And as Moses declared, our choices affects those who follow.


Sometimes our problems are solved simply and completely. But as life goes on, too often we begin to discover that "all right" often does not mean that life returns to how it was before things went wrong. "All right" turns out to be the place where we have learned to live with our loss, our disappointment, our fear or our hurt. It is the place from which we go on to risk living again, in spite of being wounded and scarred.


A lawyer once noted that winning a suit in court could never bring closure for victim or offender. That closure or ‘peace’ would only come if the person’s life could be returned to the way it was before the offense. That is impossible for any court to deliver. No amount of damages awarded can undo what has been done.


In the Bible, we read stories of God's holy yet very human people experiencing great losses, disappointment, and hurt. Time after time, in the midst of these experiences, faithful prophets and priests were raised up by God to proclaim in various ways…"It will be all right. It is hard right now, but it will be all right." (This reminds me of Hildegaard of Bingen, a hermit and mystic, who said “All will be well, and all shall be well, and all shall be exceeding well.” It was a message that her people needed to hear and it sustained them.)


God’s will is for people to live in peace; but peace is often hard-won.  And peace is not the absence of war; it is not a ‘truce’; peace, God’s peace which passes all understanding, is a positive relationship between people  At the beginning of this homily I used two passages that make reference to pruning hooks and spears as illustrations of how, even amongst God’s people, it is difficult to know the wise path at any given time.  There is a passage in Micah that shares Isaiah’s illustration calling for a time of peace, and adding the image of swords being beaten into ploughshares.  That image is the basis for the humanitarian efforts of ‘Project Ploughshares’.

 The passage from Micah goes on to describe a situation where…

“nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.”


In Zephaniah, the last book of the Hebrew Scriptures (or ‘Old Testament’), there is a description of a ‘divine warrior’ who will bring about peace for God’s people.

This ‘divine warrior’ comes to their midst. This warrior  "will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival" (vv. 17-18a). That hardly echoes with our common understanding of a warrior! Where is the war report?  Where is the story of the fallen enemy? Where is the proud declaration of the victory? This divine warrior throws down his weapons of sword and arrow as soon as the victory is won. He leaves them where they lie and comes to the remnant people with music and a heart full of love.


The divine warrior who fights for the chosen people knows that peace is not established by the defeat of their enemies. It takes more than declaring winners and losers. Real peace coming ‘from the hands of the Lord’ means the healing of peoples, the exchange of bad sentiment for good feelings. "I will remove disaster from you so that you will not bear reproach for it. I will deal with your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame, and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth" (vv. 18b-19). The battlefield for victory is not only "out there."  The Lord must restore the people themselves. 


Let’s fast forward to our day... to now.

 How do we deal with difficult circumstances, such as the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq that bombard our senses through radio, TV, internet and newspapers? In a hundred ways we may try to say "It will be all right, just as soon as…" (and we complete that sentence with different scenarios.)   But our lives and our sense of safety will never be the same….The world is too intimate. 


War, even half way around the world becomes a local reality.  We know that it won’t, it can’t be the same. The change is real.  But when we have said and done all that we can do, when we have offered all we can offer, we may still pray the promise of Zephaniah. It is still important as individuals, {as churches, legion members and communities},

to pray and to work for peace…


We pray that we remember the sacrifice of many who fought for peace.  But we honour tgheir memory best by working for peace…. There is a song which says “let there be peace on earth’  It continues “and let is begin with me.’  We as individuals, and we in OUR church must allow God to trandsform our lives so that peace, renewal reconciliation, and wholeness will be our fervent desire.  Mahatma Gandhi reminded us that we must become the ‘change we desire’.  If we want peace, we must live peace. It is prayer that all peoples and all individuals may learn to open their lives and hearts to God, the source of all love.  We know in our heart of hearts that ‘perfect love casts out fear’. God does want healing and wholeness for all peoples.


Each of us have our own ways of trying to make things ‘all right’.  Sometimes we avoid hearing the bad news.  In another situation we may avoid speaking with a person who has hurt us. But there is another sense of renewal, of making things bearable.  People on the front lines of human suffering everywhere know that all the best efforts of human effort cannot create the life of blessings envisioned by Moses and Joshua, and by the many prophets who pray and taught for restoration of God’s people. There is a dimension of divine promise that is only fulfilled when God's will is done on earth as it is in heaven.  That peaceis something, as individual and as a church we can pray for , and work for.


In the ministry that we offer to each other and our community,…let our faith be in God’s peace.  Just as it takes a whole village to raise a child, it takes a whole (and a holy) church to create Peace. It cannot just be our individual efforts; we cannot and do not need do it all ourselves. 


When we share the ‘Peace’ in our worship services, we are doing much more than greeting friends.  We are recognizing one another as family members, brothers and sisters united as a family by God. The way we often share the Peace, taking time individually to greet each person is good, and yet it looses sight of a greater truth.  When I share God’s peace with you, and you share God’s peace with your neighbour, I have shared God’s peace with your neighbour.  Perhaos this will be clearer if I use names. Let use names. If I Share with Tom, and Tom shares with June, then I have shared with June. 

I would like us to try over the next few weeks to practice this way of sharing peace.  It is a holy peace we share. And it is a peace we work together to share. We can work together as a community of faith to share God’s peace. We can trust one another in this great exercise of sharing God’s  peace.


We are God’s people gathered here today.  To rephrase Joshua’s encouragement, let us today (as a church) choose to live in a covenant of love with God.  Let us, to echo Moses’ challenge, ‘choose life’.  If we do this, we choose wholeness; we choose healing; we choose peace.

1 comment:

Marieta said...

Bible Study does help. I think the "Peace" is working too.