Pastors Pen December 9, 2015

“May the Lord bless his people with peace!”

Psalm 29:11

“Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

Psalm 34:14

Lying awake at night as a ten-year-old child, I considered the screaming sounds of aircraft in the flight pattern over our neighborhood. I grew up during the cold war, as jet fighters practiced their descent to SAC Air Force Base outside of Omaha, Nebraska. My father toured the base with us, teaching my brother and me the meaning of their motto: “peace is our profession”. He described over the dinner table the deterrent strategies of the government he served as a civil engineer.

I held this knowledge in the palm of one hand, as I also sat with my mother and father and brother every Sunday in church without fail, and learned of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. This way of knowing I held in the other hand, the two in creative tension, living not only within my household, but also within my own life that was shaped between these two powerful world-views.

As children we see things black and white, one or the other, either/or... As grown-ups, we come to know that reality as often as not can be based on both/and. The capacity to stop aggression can make for peace as surely as a fence around a pasture protects the livestock who reside there. But I also watched my father build fences lightly, a thin wire sufficient to remind certain animals of their safe boundaries. He wouldn’t have built a concrete fortress around the whole farm to keep out coyotes, for example, if one rogue coyote was causing problems for the sheep. Rather, he would re-locate the one coyote far from home, where wild game were more plentiful.

Like these two perspectives, we learn two ways of looking at peace within the Bible. The first reflects that God alone blesses us with peace. This is the peace Jesus spoke about as he left the world. “Peace I give you, peace I leave with you, not as the world gives do I give it to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Peace is God’s gift to us and to the world. It is the intended state of being for all God’s people, our set point, our resting place. It’s not so much that we have to be the ones to make peace happen as to resist the temptation to stir the pot, to throw sticks or generally provoke others out of their tendency for peace.

At the same time, we read texts like Psalm 34 that invite us to participate in things that make for peace. As God moves towards us by entering the world through the life of Christ, the Prince of Peace, so God invites us to resist evil, to choose good, and to participate in God’s peaceable kingdom through word and action. This is the meaning of the prayer of St. Francis that begins, “Lord, make me an instrument of peace…”

As we await the coming of the Prince of Peace into the world, we pray that God will use us as instruments of peace, resisting the temptation to judge others when we’re afraid, and engaging the world through practices of prayer, compassion, forgiveness and generosity.

Prayer: Lord, make us instruments of your peace, peace beyond human understanding. Grant us sufficient faith to trust you in all things, and the courage to follow the Prince of Peace who comes into the world through Jesus. Amen 

God’s grace, mercy and peace,

Pastor Verlee