What Peace?!

What Peace?!
April 5, 2024
Grief and Hope!
April 19, 2024
What Peace?!
April 5, 2024
Grief and Hope!
April 19, 2024

I was talking this week with a colleague, who was telling me of many small arguments, disagreements, disputes and dummy spitting happening in their parish at the moment.  Its not a new story and I suspect many of you have heard the same stories, been involved in such disputes, found yourselves listening, sharing and passing on such stories.  I also heard someone who belongs to a volunteer sporting group telling the same story about the same behaviour and actions.  It seems like niggling, dislikes, growing intolerance and an unwillingness to be generous have become the hallmark of our human character at the moment, evident in much of our interactions in our communities.  We have become like hedgehogs, or echidnas, full of prickles and spines and refusing to shift our opinions and say ‘sorry’ for our actions. 

I remember when we lived in Chittering WA, and one day when we were walking the firebreak, we found an echidna, who panicked on seeing us, and hid behind an old fence post.  The post covered its eyes and snout, and it clearly thought ‘I can’t see them, they won’t be able to see me’, although the rounded body was clearly visible either side of the thin post.  This was the image that came to my mind, as I thought about our stubbornness and refusal to see a different point of view or even contemplate its possible legitimacy or the reality of other people’s experience, even though others can see there is more than is being acknowledged.  I think its called ‘wilful ignorance’, and it is a choice we take at some basic emotional level, where we refuse to see, or hear something that challenges us or invites us to change.   We will always have moments when we are offended, but we have a choice about whether we take offence and then hang onto it as part of our identity.

Jesus chose love, courage, and forgiveness, he chose hope, justice, peace and resurrected life when he stepped in among the disciples after his crucifixion and death. His disciples were startled, terrified, disbelieving, and they thought they were seeing a ghost.   Jesus’ first words to them were: ‘Peace be with you.’ (Luke 24:36)

Jesus didn’t choose offence or grievance or remembering.  He chose peace.  I wonder whether we think of that in our relationships with friends and neighbours, with those we niggle along with in the church, as members of Christ’s body.  I wonder whether we think of this when we refuse to allow a difference of opinion, a different perspective, a different understanding and knowledge, when we choose offence rather than peace. 

I listened to the vitriol poured out over the new Governor-General in the last few days, which commenced within minutes of the announcement of her appointment. Then there is the unkindness of the racism experienced by Eddie Betts’ children playing in their back garden; the taunts of racism against a young black player in the premier league in Spain whose skill is phenomenal, but whose skin is black.  It has played out in the war between Israel and Hamas as people were described as animals, not human; just as it was in the debate about The Voice referendum last year, as people were silenced from all perspectives by the barrage of unkindness and misinformation. 

Next month is Domestic and Family Violence Prevention month in Queensland.  I also think about peace when I look at the brokenness of our relationships and the slide into violence and fear, the lack of trust and unwillingness to believe such violence is possible when its someone we know. 

We continue to see conflict, violence and division played out through misogyny and excuses for sexism and patriarchy, through abuse and bullying, and in all our social interactions, churches and workplaces.  And how does this play out?  We see the consequences of such unkindness and violence, in the rising mental health crisis, the vulnerability of people when attacked carelessly, deliberately and relentlessly.  Sustained bullying, coercion and manipulation remind us, ‘peace’ is not with us. We have chosen to take offence and not repentance or forgiveness of our own behaviour. We have focussed on the ‘other’, we have not looked at ourselves. 

Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you’.  His offering of forgiveness, his gift of the Holy Spirit, his love for those who betrayed, denied and killed him, has me asking, how do you and I work for peace here in this place, in our hearts and in our families and communities?  How would you describe your Jesus-led peace making activism to a stranger if they asked you?

Jesus knew us so well, he was able to say with confidence that everything written in the law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms would be fulfilled:

‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses to these things.’ (Luke 24:46-48)

Just as I preached last week, we hear Jesus’ words resonate and flow with the reminder such peace comes from our repentance, forgiveness and the sharing of God’s love.  Liberation from the oppression of sin and our choices which separate us from God is profoundly life-changing, as the grace of God fills us with love.

God’s call for justice and mercy are unmistakeable as God’s love and peace is abundantly shared; as Christians, this is our calling.  We need to practice it with one another, with our family members, with those we don’t like, who drive us nuts because we disagree on everything, and who seem always to make us behave badly, defensively, passively and aggressively.  We push others away and deny our vulnerability; we forget Jesus’ crucifixion wounds; we forget his forgiveness to those who betrayed and killed him. Like the echidna, we hide our offence and lack of peace in plain sight.

Jesus offered his body, his hands and his feet to be touched, as the visible, undeniable evidence of our lack of peace and our desire for violence to get our own way.  He offered forgiveness, he brought peace as something real and tangible in the wounds of his body, and he walks with his brokenness into our hearts to show us it is possible to forgive, to repent, to love, and to seek justice and mercy.  We are sent to share this radical, totally mad, illogical message of love and peace.  We are the body of Christ, broken and healed, it is we who are now asked by Jesus, by God, to share the peace of God with one another through our own brokenness.      

The Lord be with you.  

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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