Wednesday, September 19, 2007

October 7: Blessed are the Peacemakers" Matthew 5:1-11

Here we go with community sermon writing. Climb on board. Each Wednesday we will have a new posting with the coming scripture lesson and some outlined idea. Please jump in and add your insights and examples where the gospel applies. Good illustrations are welcome!

How often have we heard someone who is dealing with bad news--job loss, death of a friend or spouse, a decision to take a new course in life---"I am at peace with it."
The statement usually means that one has accepted the situation and is no longer grieving the loss or fighting the situation they find themselves. It suggests that one is ready to move on to what is coming next in life.

What factors are required to be at peace?
1. Having a trust in God's unwavering presence and love. There is an old saying, "It's not what the future holds, but who holds the future." Individuals who have come to fully trust God and believe in god's love for them are able to get to a point where they can accept almost anything like brings because they know that God walks with them. You have to trust that God loves you and wants the best for you. If you believe in "God" but your image of god is one who is always punishing you for sins committed in the past (I find "nominal' American Catholics are big on this one) then peace is often more elusive.
2. Being at peace requires that you trust that whatever comes at you; "It will be okay."
You might say this is the same as trusting in god's unwavering presence and love. I think it has more to do with how you have been taught to face difficulty. This is more of a "track record" then a faith thing for me. My Father never worried and never paniced (I wish I could say the same) Early on my siblings and I always felt that with Dad around it will always work out OKAY. When my kids would get hurt or in trouble I always communicated to them " don't panic"--if you are still breathing we can and will take care of everything else.

I think you have to teach your children (and other close relationships) to work at being what we used to call a "Non anxious presence." Slow down. Survey the situation. Take care of immediate concerns. Pray. Get good counsel. Work your way through the problem. ...always trusting that it will be OKAY. You will survive to enjoy life again.
Some parents save their kids from having to work out their own problems and deal with the consequences of mistakes. It is hard to let them work things through when you can easily "fix things" for them. But remember---they will have to teach the next generation and they need to gain the confidence that will help them be at peace and be confident in their abilities.

These are personal matters related to "being at peace."
But it is not peace that jesus is directing us but to be peacemakers. Being a peacemaker is a much harder and more dangerous calling then to "be at peace with a situation."
The cost of being a peacemaker is high. Those that opposed this war by suggesting containment of Saddam (like we contained the Soviet Union in the cold War) or who doubted the wisdom of going to war were shouted down. Twice amputated war veterans even lost congressional seats because they questioned the tax cuts that were crammed down Congress throats as part of the post 9-11 trauma.
Peacemakers are always few and quiet because the onslaught of pro-war fever and the desire to get revenege is so strong when patriotism is stirred up.

We see in Iraq how many courageous Sunni and Shia leaders , including many clerics, are killed by terrorists groups whenever they seek to co-operate with the new governments and the American peacekeepering troops. Praise god for their courage. They try to be Peacemakers and are paying a high price.

Peacemakers have to get the conflicting parties to talk with each other. If you have ever tried to mediate a divorcing couple fighting over property and custody of children you know this is a thankless job. Both parties try to "triangulate" you and draw you into supporting "their side" of the dispute.

Nelson Mendela did remarkable work with the "truth and Reconcilation" councils in South Africa. Nelson had spent over 20 years in prison as a political prisoner. He witnessed first hand the brutality of the white minority. He knew that the oppressors need to acknowledge their brutal acts and to face the victims and to hear their stories. This is courageous work for everyone involved. But the truth sets us free.

Too often we ask in prayers "God give us." In being a peacemaker we are instead asking "God change us." Change our hearts. Cleanse us from bitterness. Enable us to see the conflict and the underlying causes from an opposite perspective.

I will leave you with something Jospeh Campbell, the renown teacher on Religious Myth.
"The greatest teaching in Christianity is love your enemies." This is what being a peacemaker requires.

I look forward to your comments.
Be a peacemaker.
James Brassard