How can I write a blog about peace in these troubling times? Everywhere I look, I find unrest, conflict and violence. Everywhere I listen, I hear angry name-calling, truth denied and lies uplifted. God’s got it right when he chastises the prophets and priests in Jeremiah’s time, saying, “Peace, peace they say, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). But this Advent season, we celebrate the coming of Christ who is the Prince of Peace. Where is this Prince?
But then I remember that Jesus told the crowds gathered around him, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt 10:34). That more truly describes the upheaval Christ’s coming caused. The Prince of Peace acted like a spark to dynamite. Instantly, Jesus was in conflict with religious powers and worldly powers. Why? Because the reign of the Prince of Peace will always be in conflict with injustice, hate and falsehood. So, do I need to look for places of injustice, hate and falsehood to find unity?
Finding Peace in Times of Grief
This past month, we saw a gunman filled with anti-semitic hate open fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, killing 11 victims. That morning’s Shabbat service destroyed by gun violence and death. A community ripped apart by one person’s racism. But in the face of that mass shooting, I found accord in a vigil we held here at United Church Homes' Pilgrim Manor for the victims and the Tree of Life community. In solidarity with them, residents lit candles as we named the victims and then took time to express our own anger and grief for the victims’ families. I found peace in the shared compassion for fellow human beings.
I also found it this week when I visited a resident named Lauren. Lauren’s physical conditions required her to move into our assisted living community. Unfortunately, she could no longer take care of her dog, Scarlett, and has bitterly grieved their separation. I told her about the death of my black Lab Muta, and she told me, “I’m so sorry. I know how much that hurts.” As I was attempting to bring comfort to her, she comforted me. There was something deeply comforting about being able to share our individual losses. We could be open and vulnerable, and I think it touched both of our hearts in fundamental ways.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). It is in praying and advocating for unity in places of hurt, injustice and hate that I actually find my own peace. As we connect with others, we share in the Prince of Peace. As Jesus told his disciples right before his own torturous crucifixion, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). When we make peace with others, we discover the Prince of Peace, moving heaven and earth toward his peacable kingdom of shalom.
This Advent, let us watch faithfully for signs of God’s peace breaking into our world. Let us watch for signs of God's compassion and grace breaking in. May the Prince of Peace continue to transform us into peacemakers, and our world into the kingdom of shalom. And may we be blessed by Jesus the Christ’s peace as we affirm our common humanity in community. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. ... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. Come, Lord Jesus, come."