“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Through the magic of genetics, I ended up looking just like my grandmother. When I’m with extended family, someone always says—still, nearly 20 years after her death–“Kim, you look just like Lujette!” No matter what I do, because of my physical traits, I always will be known as “Lujette’s granddaughter.”
A similar thing happens with people of faith when we make peace. When we work actively to create peace in ourselves and those around us, others will know—they’ll just know–that we are God’s children. Apparently, peace-making is a dominant gene for God, so dominant that anyone who actively works at making peace is going to be known as “God’s child.” So, what are we waiting for? Let’s get to it!
Making peace, making peace…Let’s see…First, I’m going to…Yes! I’ll go to the United Nations! They’re all about peace, right? I’ll bet I can purchase my ticket right now. http://www.airtran.com…I’ll go to the United Nations and I’ll… talk to…people… about… peace. World peace….like peace all over the world! Hmm… sounds a little vague, doesn’t it?
Maybe the Peace Corps would be a better way to go. With them, you go and actively work for peace, right?, for like two years or something. I could go and help somewhere in the world, working for peace…but two years. I’d have to quit my job…and the Peace Corps isn’t a religious organization, so they probably wouldn’t let me preach. Or sing Broadway songs… no. I don’t think I’m called to make peace with the Peace Corps.
Maybe I’ll go to the UCC website… Does someone have a smartphone? Look up the UCC website—www.ucc.org– and search for “peace.” Tell us what comes up…(Responses.) That might be a way to get working for peace…but it’s a little overwhelming. I mean, working for peace in the Middle East? I’d have to do a lot of research before I’d even know what the issues were, much less how to address them. And helping Iraqis and Afghanis or the people in East Africa…I could do something there, I guess. But what difference could my small contribution make? [David begins playing, “Let There Be Peace on Earth….”] Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me…
When I planned to preach this Sermon on the Mount series, I thought we’d be addressing the externals of our faith–doing unto others as we would have them do to us, judging not, loving our enemies, that sort of thing. Tons of people throughout history have used the Sermon on the Mount as a platform for living the gospel in the world—Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Clarence Jordan at Koinonia Farm. If you’re wanting to live your faith actively in the world, there isn’t a better text in all of Scripture to follow.
The thing that’s surprised me about the Sermon on the Mount, though, is just how much time Jesus spends on the internal lives of believers, especially in the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” One of the key things about living faith, it seems, is getting our internal lives and our external actions in sync. Clarence Jordan said it this way: “Before this new order (the kin-dom of God Jesus is trying to establish), before this new order can ever become a reality, it’s got to take root in our own lives” (Cotton Patch Evidence, by Dallas Lee, p.193).
Which is certainly the case with making peace, isn’t it? How can you create peace outside you if your insides are in turmoil? [David: Let there be peace on earth…]
When doing research for a book on silence, author George Prochnik visited a monastery in the Midwest. Brother Alberic, his host for the visit, shared some thoughts about monks and silence. “Monks live in the desert,” he said. “These giant, snow-covered fields are the desert. It’s where monks have always been drawn. We come for a radical confrontation with ourselves. Silence is for bumping into yourself. That’s why monks pursue it. And that’s also why people can’t get into a car without turning the radio on, or walk into a room without switching on a television. They seek to avoid that confrontation.”
Here’s where Alberic’s ideas get really interesting. “I think this may be one reason for the incredible violence of that final surge during the Gulf War…You remember there were those long, long delays before the last invasion, with waves of troops going over there and just sitting in the desert, week after week. The soldiers just sat and waited in more silence than many of them had ever experienced. And then, all of a sudden there was that huge violent surge—the Highway of Death. Americans don’t sit in a quiet, solitary place and flourish. They were starting to have a monastic experience. And that doesn’t jibe well with the military’s goals.” (27)
Fascinating theory, isn’t it? That those soldiers were so disturbed by what they discovered internally they lived it out externally. Makes you wonder what might have happened if their monastic silence had lasted longer…or if it had occurred in different circumstances, not in the middle of a war. Might they have found internal peace? Might they have externalized that peace?
Are you at peace? Do you have “peace like a river?” Is it “well with your soul?” Let’s try an experiment. Take out a piece of paper and something to write with. We’re going to have a few seconds of silence. Write down everything that comes to your mind in those few seconds. (You also can just do it in your head if you want.) Ready? [15 seconds of silence] Now, take a look at what’s on your list. Based on what’s on your list, would you say you’re at peace? Are the things on your list the signs of a peaceful person?
It might be helpful to step back and look at what peace is. What does it mean to be at peace? The Greek word for peace, which is used in this verse, is eirene. It’s related to the Hebrew word “shalom.” Eirene and shalom mean completeness, harmony, wholeness. Thus, the one who is at peace is whole, he is completely himself; she is completely herself.
So, another way of asking, Are you at peace is, Do you feel whole? Do you feel completely at ease with who you are? Or do you feel like something’s missing? Do you feel like all the pieces haven’t quite fallen into place for you? What would make you feel more whole? A job? A better job? A better marriage? A stronger relationship with your kids or parents? Relief from an addiction? Relief from an illness? Less anxiety? Less fear? More confidence? More quiet?
I’ve been doing some reading on silence lately. The more I read, the more I’m convinced that peace and quiet are intimately related. Brother Alberic’s theory about the violence of the Highway of Death is kind of out there, but it does make you think about how noisy our world is and how closely that external noise relates to our inner lives. It does seem sometimes like we insulate ourselves with noise. We keep everything that’s real and good—including peace–at arms length by enveloping ourselves in blankets of sound.
In the book I mentioned before–In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise—the author did more research by going on patrol with a policeman in a large city to see how the police respond to noise complaints.
That particular night, there were no official noise complaints. Finally, about 3:00 in the morning, Prochnik’s host, Officer Spencer said this: “The majority of domestic disputes we get called into these days are actually noise complaints. You go into these houses where the couple, or the roommate, or the whole family is fighting and yelling and you’ve got the television blaring so you can’t think, and a radio on top of that, and somebody got home from work who wants to relax or to sleep, and it’s just obvious what they’re actually fighting about. They’re fighting about the noise. They don’t know it, but that’s the problem. They’ve just got everything on at once.
“And so the first thing I’ll say to them is, ‘You know what, don’t even tell me what you think you’re fighting about! First, turn down the music. Switch off the game station. Turn down the television.’ Then I just let them sit there for a minute, and I say to them, ‘Now that feels different, doesn’t it? Maybe the real reason you were fighting is how loud it was inside your apartment. Do you still have anything to tell me? Do you?’ You would be amazed how often that’s the end of it.” (18)
Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be known as the children of God. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Peace and quiet… I wonder if the way we begin making peace is simply to be at peace, to make friends with quiet? Take a couple of minutes and see… [Two minutes of silence.]