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Committed to Peace

Here at the beginning of Advent, our prescribed scripture readings set the stage for why the world needed a new voice – a child of hope, light and peace. 

The book of Isaiah begins by condemning the people of Israelf for their unfaithfulness to Yahweh, their greed, their corruption and their lack of justice for orphans and widows. Isaiah purports that the conquest of Assyria over Israel is God’s punishment and God’s attempt at refining the chosen people. (Trust me, I'm not supporting this view, but it was the author's experience and understanding of God at the time.) Then in chapter 2, Isaiah offers Israel a modicum of hope. He says, once this is all over, Jerusalem (Zion) will once again be a place of Yahweh, where people will come to be instructed in God’s ways, where God will judge the nations who will then “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (a tool used to prune tall trees and vines) and peace will come upon the land.

So, here’s an interesting thought… peace, a war-free world, has been a dream, a prayer, a hope and a wish forever.  However, I’m not sure that the idea of beating swords into plowshares or spears into pruning hooks was terribly popular with the powers-that-were at the time. Sadly, I’m not convinced that the concept would be any more popular today. You can correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel like speaking out for peace and non-violence, is not politically correct these days. It’s ok to talk about freedom, but not about peace, not about putting down our weapons.

In 2015, 2.4 billion people claimed to be Christian, but Jesus was very clearly about peace and non-violence.  Henri Nouwen, in "The Road to Peace," said,

How would the world look if all Christians – in Australia, Asia, Europe, Africa, North and South America – were to commit themselves without reservation to peace? How would the world look if all Christians – young, middle-aged, or old – were to say loudly and clearly in words and deeds: “We are for peace”? And how would the world look if all Christians – Protestants, Catholic, Orthodox – were to witness together for him who is the Prince of Peace, Jesus? What would such a consensus in conscience bring about? Would we still spend billions of dollars every month to build ingenious instruments of death while millions of people are starving? Would we still live with the constant fear of impending holocaust? Would we still hear about parents who question whether it is responsible to bring children into this world and about children who wonder if they will see the turn of the century?

The impact is clear. If one-third of the world's population who claim they are Chrstians actually followed Jesus' example of peace, compassion and non-violence, this would be a different world. 

G.K. Chesterton once wrote an essay on three modern Wise Men. 

[The Wise Men] journeyed to a city of peace, a new Bethlehem. They wanted to enter this city and proffered their gifts as passports of admission.  The first put forth cold gold and suggested it could buy the pleasures of the earth.  The second did not carry frankincense.  He brought instead the modern scent of chemistry.  This scent has the power to drug the mind, seed the soil, and control the population.  The third brought myrrh in the shape of a split atom.  It was the symbol of death for anyone who opposed the ways of peace.

When they arrived at the palace of peace, they met St. Joseph.  He refused them entrance.  They protested, “What more could we possibly need to assure peace?  We have the means to provide affluence, control nature, and destroy enemies.”  St. Joseph whispered in the ear of each individually.  They went away sad.  He told them that they had forgotten the child.

This story is a critique of modern wisdom.  True peace cannot be bought, manufactured nor forced.  True peace is within each of us.  The child Jesus, and frankly, every child everywhere, reminds us of this truth, if only we will open our hearts to pay attention.  By forgetting the child Jesus, the wise men of this story completely missed what he came to teach and to share. 

On the eve of his death Jesus says, “Peace I leave you.  My peace I give you.  I do not give as the world gives.”  The peace he left them with was a peace drawn forth from the core of his being.  A peace that sustained him through conflict, denial, betrayal, grief, loss, torture and death.  Perhaps they could not understand that this kind of peace already dwelt deep within them and that they had the power to call it forth. Perhaps it was Jesus' hope that in "bequeathing it to them," they’d actually find it within.

I think it is entirely possible that because Christians for centuries have focused on individual salvation, they have ignored the justice, love and peace that would “save” us collectively.I believe the very root of what will “save” us collectively and bring peace, is for all of us to stop seeing our differences and start remembering that we are all ONE. We are all connected spiritually and energetically (quantum physics verifies this).

There are moments when large numbers of people are able to transcend their differences and it feels really good. Why? Because I think it somehow brings back to consciousness this oneness that we've forgotten.. I bet you've experienced this feeling at a sporting event where everyone did the wave, or at a concert with everyone singing along, or at a prayer vigil as people held candles. Perhaps you've experienced people coming together after a natural disaster, or to offer condolences and help at a funeral. 

To say “I am for peace” means that compassion is more important than winning. Committing to peace means that we hold a vision of unity (not sameness) for humanity and we’re willing to step forth and help make that happen, non-violently and with love. 

Love & Light!