Peace…the Common Good

The images and rhetoric in the news recently have been ghastly…. frightening, disheartening …. discouraging to say the least. We grieve for victims wounded by violence bestowed upon them by other human beings, by ravaging floods or fires or a devastating epidemic. Images and stories of suffering people, of ISIS, a brutally, violent, sick terrorist group, ravaging communities and cutting off the heads of other human beings…murder, disease, senseless abuse in the NFL. …. a grown man beating upon his son with a stick….. it’s just horrific. Tragic that these kinds of stories dominate the news ….sending forth a negative energy that wounds us all. Perfect timing for International Peace Day which calls forth people from all nations and faiths to pray ….and work for peace.

It’s futile, I have heard some say…..and have wondered it myself…..wasted energy. A glorious impossible dream…that originated when humans , seeking relationship with a Higher Power , first put words and images to that Creator’s design for Creation … a vision of a universal garden of wholeness…where “ all living things were in bedrock union with the source of their being.” ( Margaret Silf, Sacred Spaces) …until the temptations of power and greed divided creation into islands of disharmony and mistrust. How long can we long for and pray for peace, hoping and believing that it is actually possible!?

Two Native Americans were talking things over in a fox-hole between air raids during World War II. “The way I figure it,” one said, “is that when they smoked the peace pipe in 1918, nobody inhaled!”

In Bible study groups too numerous to count, I have been asked about all the stories of violence in the Hebrew Scriptures…. of God ordering the Israelites to slaughter people occupying what they think ought to be their land. Was this part of the divine plan for a peaceful kingdom? My answer then and now: NO, it was the human struggle to relate to and understand Divine Power and their misunderstandings. The Hebrew Scriptures are stories of humanity’s developing relationship with God. The violent, vengeful God was and is the god of human design and construction. The loving, divine spirit would never, in my belief, command or encourage any act of violence. The Divine Spirit is the energy of love, period.

In an online course I signed up for on Spirituality and Health created by Thomas Moore, I read this:

Here is an intriguing passage from the Nicolas of Cusa book, The Idiot.

“Pagan:  What are you worshiping?

 Christian: God.

Pagan: Who is the God you worship?

Christian: I don’t know.

Pagan: How can you seriously worship something you don’t know?

Christian: It’s because I don’t know that I worship.

 Pagan: It’s amazing to see persons devoted to something they don’t know.

Christian: It’s even more amazing to see persons devoted to something they think they know.”

Sadly, my dear friends, we have to admit that religion has contributed to disharmony over the years, even today. We have to own that.

Does it mean that religion is bad and we are wasting an hour a week here in worship? Oh, my goodness no. I pray that worship will provide a listening place for us…..a safe, peace-filled place where we can put our spiritual and mental agenda’s under the pew and be available to the Spirit. A place where we can experience community… where we share common ground as seekers of the Light that Jesus shed. I pray that we will all feel comfortable responding to the question : Who is the God that you worship? The God I worship is Love. Period.   Believing this, how then will I chose to act?

In this interesting passage from James that Marti read today, James reminds us of the fact that we are capable of saying both terrible, harmful things and compassionate, loving things out of the same mouth! It is the mind that controls or loses control of the mouth! This should not be, says James anymore than a spring will produce both fresh and salt water and a fig tree bear olives!   He makes it sound like, as people of God, we should not even be capable of language and actions that are evil, destructive, hurtful to our sisters and brothers. It’s demonic.   And indeed, many of the actions we have seen lately do appear demonic. If we seek the wisdom of God…of the Divine Spirit, writes James, our words and actions will be peace-loving, full of mercy, considerate, impartial and sincere…bearing good fruit. It all begins with us….with every word we speak, every action we produce in our daily lives.

Leo Tolstoy told the story of a Russian youth, a conscientious objector to war, who stood trial. In the courthouse the young man expressed his position, declaring that his philosophy of life came from the demands of Christ. The judge replied, “Yes, I understand, but you must be realistic. These laws you are talking about are the laws of the Kingdom of God and it has not come yet!” The courageous young man answered, “Sir, I recognize that it may not have come for you, nor yet for Russia, nor for the world. But it has come for me.” And so we are called to living by an understanding and an ethical imperative that Jesus set apart in these beatitudes. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God. You and I cannot control our nation or any nation’s foreign policy, may not be able to bring about world peace in our lifetimes, however, we can be peacemakers in our own circle of life…allowing the peace of Christ to rule our tongues….our words and our actions. It begins with us.

 Rev. Jan Hryniewicz