Blessed are the peacemakers…

……. for they shall be called children of GodBlessed are the peacemakers: this theme of peace is frequent in the teaching of Jesus: it was fitting that the angels who hailed his birth sang of “Peace on Earth”.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies, . . . do good to them that hate you and pray for those who persecute you”. Matthew 5:44.

And in John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “My peace, I give to you” John 14:27.

And so, peace is an integral part of Christian teaching. Paul writes in Galatians, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace . . .” Galatians 5:22.

The makers of peace, are few, for it is easier to fan the ashes of ancient feuds than to prevent conflict. The appeal to angered prejudice is stock in trade to certain politicians, while the plea for understanding is often a lonely cry.

Peace does not come on its own, it requires work to bring people and groups together. Often, there can be no real peace until people are reconciled to God, for when we are right with Him, then we can reach out to each other in peace.

But when we are at odds with God, we will not be right with ourselves or our neighbours.

Therefore, helping each other to practice the presence of God, we can help to bring peace both in our homes and in the world.

We sang “Be Still, for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One is here”.

By simply acknowledging God’s presence in our midst for worship, work, meetings, social or business, we can realise that we are on holy ground, and that God has a transforming effect upon our thoughts, speech and actions.

Peter Millar, minister, author and poet, has written a beautiful prayer/poem:

Amidst the washing-up (Be still – and know that I am God Psalm, 46:10)

Amidst the washup-up

And shopping and filling of forms

And paying bills

And worrying about the next bill

And doing the ironing

And speaking on the phone

And waiting for the bus

And feeding the dog

And paying more bills,

May there be these moments

Of simple awareness

In which

I know I am held

Within the wonder of that love

Where my heart is at home

And at rest.

 

And in that moment, we can know peace, when we are right with God; in fellowship and communion with God.

In Psalm 34:11-14, we hear an invitation to God’s children,

“Come, my children, listen to me;

I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

Whoever of you loves life

and desires to see many good days,

keep your tongue from evil

and your lips from speaking lies.

Turn from evil and do good;

seek peace and pursue it.

In Greek the word is eirene, in Hebrew: shalom.

In Hebrew, peace is never only a negative state; it does not only mean the absence of trouble; in Hebrew, peace always means everything which makes for a person’s highest good.

Peace is something, we must therefore work at achieving. It will not come on its own or through being passive. The Psalmist reminds us that we must “seek peace and pursue it” (v11-14) by turning from evil and doing good, keeping our tongues from evil and our lips from speaking lies.

William Barclay also points out that the active making of peace is not the same as loving peace. People can love peace so much that they fail to act and thereby make trouble, not peace. “The peace which the Bible calls blessed does not come from the evasion of issues; it comes from facing them, dealing with them and conquering them. What this beatitude demands is not the passive acceptance of things because we are afraid of the trouble of doing anything about them, but the active facing of things, and the making of peace, even when the way to peace is through struggle.”

Remember the often-quoted words of Edmunde Burke “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

And perhaps that is the struggle to which Jesus points when, he surprises us by saying, “I have not come into the world to bring peace, but a sword.”, because the path of righteousness leads to struggle against evil, either internally, or against others.

These are the challenging words of instruction by Jesus to the Disciples when he is sending them on their missionary journey to the lost sheep of Israel. Matthew chapter 10.

And after encouraging them not to fear persecution for their part in teaching all that he has taught them, he warns them that this path of obedience and righteousness might well bring suffering and conflict.

This is not because Jesus wants to create trouble, but because the evil of sin in our world needs to be confronted.

Peace can be won, sometimes through conflict, and we owe a debt of gratitude to the brave men and women who have fought to win the peace, and keep the peace.

But peace can also be a preventive measure. We bring peace, by placing bread in another person’s hands as in the words of the hymn by Fred Caan:

Put peace into each other’s hands

      and like a treasure hold it;

protect it like a candle flame,

      with tenderness enfold it.

 

Put peace into each other’s hands

      with loving expectation;

be gentle in your words and ways,

      in touch with God’s creation.

 

Put peace into each other’s hands,

      like bread we break for sharing;

look people warmly in the eye:

      our life is meant for caring.

 

As at communion, shape your hands

      into a waiting cradle;

the gift of Christ receive, revere,

      united round the table.

 

Put Christ into each other’s hands,

      he is love’s deepest measure;

in love make peace, give peace a chance

      and share it like a treasure.

In Scotland, a piece of bread and jam, is known as just a ‘piece’.

And for those unschooled in the arts of the Scots tongue, they can be forgiven for getting confused at lunchtime, if asked “Do you have yer piece?”

As children, we are always taught to share, but somewhere along the line, we grow up and forget the most important things we learned as children in pre-school. Perhaps, as children of God we need to be reminded, and that is what the author and minister, Robert Fulghum does at the beginning of his wonderful book, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten

“Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up after your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Flush.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.”

In a world where many go hungry, food shared is often the way to creating peace and turning enemies into friends.

Or, even before things fall apart, food relief both domestic and international can save the peace and prevent more damaging conflict and unrest. Which is why acts of compassion and justice are performed every time the church is involved in soup kitchens and foodbanks and international disaster relief.

The breaking of bread between politicians and world leaders over banquets is an essential path to peace, for these are occasions when a place at the table is sign of acceptance and recognition. And when all are fed, are the actions of those creating justice in our world.

The New Zealand hymn writer, Shirley Erena Murray, captures God’s desire for justice, not only that everyone is fed, but also that they are heard and included at the table. For without justice, there can be no peace. ​​Amen.

Let us sing together:

For everyone born, a place at the table,

for everyone born, clean water and bread,

a shelter, a space, a safe place for growing,

for everyone born, a star overhead,

          and God will delight when we are creators

          of justice and joy, compassion and peace:

          yes, God will delight when we are creators

          of justice, justice and joy!

For woman and man, a place at the table,

revising the roles, deciding the share,

with wisdom and grace, dividing the power,

for woman and man, a system that’s fair,

          and God will delight when we are creators

          of justice and joy, compassion and peace:

          yes, God will delight when we are creators

          of justice, justice and joy!

For young and for old, a place at the table,

a voice to be heard, a part in the song,

the hands of a child in hands that are wrinkled,

for young and for old, the right to belong,

          and God will delight when we are creators

          of justice and joy, compassion and peace:

          yes, God will delight when we are creators

          of justice, justice and joy!

For just and unjust, a place at the table,

abuser, abused, with need to forgive,

in anger, in hurt, a mindset of mercy,

for just and unjust, a new way to live,

          and God will delight when we are creators

          of justice and joy, compassion and peace:

          yes, God will delight when we are creators

          of justice, justice and joy!

For everyone born, a place at the table,

to live without fear, and simply to be,

to work, to speak out, to witness and worship,

for everyone born, the right to be free,

          and God will delight when we are creators

          of justice and joy, compassion and peace:

          yes, God will delight when we are creators

          of justice, justice and joy!

For gay and for straight, a place at the table,

a covenant shared, a welcoming space,

a rainbow of race and gender and colour,

for gay and for straight, the chalice of grace,

          and God will delight when we are creators

          of justice and joy, compassion and peace:

          yes, God will delight when we are creators

          of justice, justice and joy!

Words Copyright © 1998 by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream IL 60188

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