I’m sharing this brief reflection this afternoon as part of a prayer service for international peace at Wesley College- where I serve as campus minister.
As I sat at my desk and read through the news- there are attacks happening between Israeli’s and Palenstinians; conflict in Syria, continued conflict in Afghanistan; and the threat of war and violence in many other places.
In the wake of last week’s election- there is unrest amongst our own citizens. No, it hasn’t been violent, but it has been divisive. Many of us had to edit our Facebook or Twitter feeds because of the divisive rhetoric online.
In just a few short days- many of us will be joining together with extended families- while we have an idyllic vision of family holiday gatherings- many go back to families that are filled with pain, anger and brokenness.
This afternoon, we gather to pray for peace. From the international world down to our families- peace can often be something that is very hard to find.
In the Gospel of Matthew, the fifth chapter- the longest sermon of Jesus is recorded. It is the sermon on the mount. In the teaching- he turns conventional wisdom and understanding on their heads and redefines how people of faith should live. In Matthew 5:9 Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.” Blessed are the peacemakers. Not the warriors. Not the winning politicians. Blessed are the peacemakers.
I think it is interesting that Jesus does not say “Blessed are the peacekeepers.” Peacekeepers are widely ineffective. I think of UN Peacekeepers in the Somalia, Kosovo, and Rwanda in the 1990’s and their impotence to make any difference. Peace keepers are appeasers and people pleasers. A peace keeper does whatever is necessary to avoid conflict and keep people happy.
What Jesus teaches is “Blessed are the Peace-Makers.” Blessed are those who actively pursue peace- who seek to end hostilities and bring the quarrelsome together. Being a peacemaker means taking a sometimes uncomfortable stance. Being a peacemaker means finding a third way, a win-win situation of working out a solution. Being a peacemaker is not passive, weak, or impotent- but it is intentionally and courageously working for the cause of peace. Being a peacekeeper is a position of offense- moving forward for the cause of peace. Our world needs more peacemakers.
In our United Methodist Tradition – we often sing a song around Christmas called “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” It’s #431 in your hymnals. It reads:
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me
Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be
With God our creator, children all are we.
Let us walk with each other in perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me; let this be the moment now.
With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow:
to take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
Friends- God has given us responsibility and purpose in our lives. Peace begins with you and me. In our relationships and in our families. Peace begins by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. Peace begins by listening to those different than us rather than judging them. Peace begins when we advocate for those who have no voice- the most vulnerable in society and in our world. As we pray to God for peace on earth- let us hear the answer to our prayer- It begins with you and me.