Sunday Reflection: Peace

Happy Father’s Day and Happy Summer. You may watch the service on our facebook page at 9am this morning.

I hope you are not tired of the Beatitudes.  I’m still reading and being inspired by E. Easwaran for my reflections. 

Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas

God Blesses those who work for Peace for they will be called the Children of God.  

Peacemakers are the children of God.  Peacemakers are those who live like Jesus.  

The Peacemaker.  It can feel a bit like a rock and a hard place.  Not on this side.  Not on that side.  A place where one can listen and turn knowledge into wisdom and ideally share and spread that wisdom to all the corners.  Cultivating peace…without causing or condoning harm.  

We like to put things into boxes and categories.  Being a peacemaker can feel like one big box for starters,  maybe something like a boxing ring.  It’s probably not a great example for me to use, as I know very little  about boxing, but envision the ring.  Probably surrounded by spectators and spotlights.  Maybe this feels a bit like life all the time.  

The opponents come out and we start sizing one another up.  We get nervous (think: fear).  We start to compare and categorize (think: more boxes) to better understand who, and what’s, before us.  We put things into corners and sides.  This goes here.  That goes there.  Everyone goes into a box, even if it doesn’t quite fit.  Boxes are comforting.  Things that don’t fit are threatening.  We don’t know what to do with things that don’t fit our familiar way of looking at things.  We don’t know how to respond.  

Where does the peacemaker go? 

Referee, maybe?  In the middle?  Anyone who’s every been in the position of peacemaker knows how hard this place is.  The one who’s trying to see all sides, trying to be fair and balanced, and being attacked by all sides.  The hazard of the middle.  The hazard of the spotlight.  

What about keeping peace when you are actually firmly in one corner?  And the other side is…wrong?  We’re going to have these times.  

How can we be peacemakers when we’re facing off and our own fears and emotions are rising?  We’re under attack?  And maybe we feel like attacking.  

Sometimes, it seems like we’re set up for failure.  Much of the Beatitudes are qualities we don’t really value.  We talk about them, and a few of them we toss around as things to aspire to, but do we?  

Peace is one we toss around a lot, but do we live it?  In big ways and small ways.  Socially and in our own  small lives.  What we live, spreads.  

These next few thoughts can apply to the big world and also our own small lives.  

We long for and talk about peace, but prepare for…war.  Yes, we call it defense.  But what happens when you engage with someone in your life in “defense mode”?  Does it ever goes peacefully?  We’re meeting armor with armor, preparing our weapons to meet challenge.  

How do we overcome oppression and violence without resorting to…oppression and violence?  Look at our politicians, they can’t seem to engage in a peaceful conversation for the good of our people.  Look at how we often engage in work environments.  It’s a battle for positions and power and money.  

Peaceful protests often turning to riots and clashes.  And the term: “agitating for peace”, how does that even make sense?  

It’s like we don’t even know how to be peaceful.  

Toys.  How many of our toys that we give our kids are influenced by war and fighting?  I get it; I know what the cool toys are.  Everything we allow our kids to play with influences their thinking and emotional growth.  What are we teaching our kids?  Creativity and peace?  Or how to put up arms and defend themselves at all costs or perhaps we inadvertently teach them to attack first, ask questions later.  

Do we know how to teach our kids to  engage without causing harm?  That comes back to: do we know how to engage peacefully with our peers?  

Is our work good work? The jobs do we admire and encourage, do they do good work? Do we support good causes? Does our money support peace? There are so many small actions the encourage peace or not.

I’m not here to judge or even to come up with answers.  I’m here to get us to think about the roots in our own lives that spread either goodness and peace or something else.  

The other day, I was in a conversation about someone being attacked on their social media account for saying something people didn’t agree with.  The person I was talking to, someone who’s opinion I value, said, “social media is the place to attack one another; it’s normal and appropriate.  If they don’t want to be attacked, keep it off social media.”  Hmm, I thought (especially since I was thinking of this scripture for the week) if we can’t engage in non-attacking way in places where we have time to step back and formulate responses, how can we ever expect to engage peacefully and respectfully when we’re face to face and in conflict?  What are we practicing?  What are we feeding?  

We feed our norms through our day to day actions.  

When we go out into the world expecting the worst, we invite the worst.  When we go out into the world trusting God and trusting that we are meant to be fully alive and joyful, we invite joy and enthusiasm.  

If we are to live peacefully, we must behave peacefully.  Peace is one of the seven fruits of the holy spirit.  One of seven.  It’s what we’re called to pass on.  But we can’t pass it on, if we don’t possess it ourselves.  

It might be that, aside from ourselves, the spectators of the ring are the most important in the scenario.  They are not engaged in the emotional turmoil of the ring, but they are watching.  How do we influence those watching us?  We engage with peace, even if we “lose”.  We win by behaving with integrity, especially when it’s hardest.  

Perhaps the biggest key is to really embody that each person is a piece in God’s creation.  If we greet each person with that in our minds, we can not think of them as the enemy or “other”.  We have found common ground to engage.  Even if someone is acting in anger and rage, often underlying that is fear.  Remind yourself that no matter how awful, at the heart of every human being is a spring of goodness.  How do we tap into that well of goodness in ourselves and others?  

First, we don’t get carried away on the tides of emotion and separation.  Slow down.  Find stillness and the quiet center within you.  That’s why we’re here.  To rest and reflect, then return to engage in the world, bringing a bit of this goodness with us.  

And pray.  Prayer brings peace into our hearts.  That’s what makes the Beatitudes so wonderful, they are a mantra of peace.  A prayer to repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Pray.  

Let’s take a moment to say the Beatitudes together (from your Order of Service).

Heartening words: if you repeat your prayer when feeling angry or emotional, the energy of that emotion will drive the words of your prayer deeper into your soul.  Use your anger to drive in goodness not to drive a wedge between two persons of God.  

We are charged to spread the peace.  If we spread peace to just ourselves and one or two people, we have begun the ripple effect that creates change from the roots.  It is said that true change and lasting change comes from a general popular uprising for peace.  

Be that peace.  Spread that peace to the as many people as you can.  It spreads.  Trust in that.  

Closing Blessing

Praise to you, Ever-present One, singer on the wind all around reminding me of your nearness.  Praise to you, Wild Goose, flying through the sky above, reminding me how far can be our horizons.  Praise to you, Holy Dove, reminding me of your gentleness, when you come in peace assuring overhead “This is my Beloved Son in whom my soul delights.  Amen  

–Tess Ward (p 126)

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