MEDITATION: Luke 2: 22-40 peace
Simeon and Anna had been waiting their entire lives for evidence of God’s promise fulfilled. Somehow Simeon knew that he would live long enough. So, they served and waited for those many years at the temple and, having witnessed the infant, knew they were free. They are witnesses to this fulfilled prophecy.
In 2001 I was visiting in Israel, the neighborhood of the promised babe we call “Prince of Peace.” He grew up, walked right there, taught right there, died there, arose there……. so WHAT? WHERE IS THIS PROMISED PEACE POSSIBLE IF NOT IN JESUS’ OWN NEIGHBORHOOD?
Every historic city in Israel sits on layers of rubble offering examples of building, destroying, re-building, over eons of time. Conflict in this region certainly is not only recent! But, because of on-going CURRENT DAY conflicts, we witness the continuation of this age old pattern. We also witness the pain and desperation of everyone who lives in the region!
It is a frustration to recognize what seems like complete powerlessness over what is happening in the mid-east today. When I, Barbara, seek peace, pray for peace, imagine peace it seems to have no impact upon the hot spots around the globe! So, What? What can we do in the name of peace…… here is one possibility…
…… Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves.” Well……………..
I returned home from Israel in 2001 with the understanding that there was only one place where I had the power to establish peace, only one thing I have any power to change, and that is my own heart.
There is an account in John 20, and I have spoken to you of this before, that helps me understand that the “Prince of Peace” offered definite instructions in how to seek peace. It is an account of the resurrected Christ showing up quite unexpectedly in a locked room. There is a minute of confusion as the terrified disciples and friends process what is happening, this apparition.
Then, he speaks, “Peace be with you.”
They were already scared and in a heightened state and now this. It/He speaks? Not sure of what is happening…..seeing a ghost? But no………………..
He offers his hands and his side as physical ID and it slowly dawns on them what is happening and they rejoice!
Jesus repeats, “PEACE be with you!” To teach them something about peace…….something he thinks they have missed. PEACE IS HIS PURPOSE IN SHOWING UP! THINK: This INFORMATION, THIS POINT, is so important that he has returned FROM THE DEAD to be certain they get this message!
What he says next is a statement of self-evident truth, it is the law, it is intrinsically true and Jesus made an appearance after the resurrection just to be absolutely SURE we got this message about having and being HIS agent of PEACE ON EARTH:
HERE IT IS……ARE YOU READY? “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven! If you retain the sins of any, they are retained!” John 20: 23
Forgiveness, one heart to another, one person to another, one neighbor to another, one family member to another…….that’s it! Over and done. Forgiven…….God isn’t keeping score, we are!
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven” AND YOU HAVE PEACE……………..YOU, YOURSELF, AT PEACE. This glorious inner peace will ripple out into your community and to the world……
no reason to hold a grudge,
no reason to harbor resentment,
no reason to plan retaliation, no ‘getting even’
no reason to hate,
no licking of wounds. NO SELF PITY!
Are you able to imagine such freedom?
If you are able to let go of their sin, you are FREE! Not them, they are not your concern. YOU! Are free and with that at PEACE!
Aha, you say. There is the catch. “If I am able (or willing?) to let go of their sin,” But they hurt me! I have been wronged. I have been wounded. Our human way of thinking is that they must apologize, make amends, the other person must change! The problem with resentment is that it feels so justified! And, as is the case today in the Middle East, generational resentment leads to an even deeper need for justification.
This is where you must rely upon the promised Helper, The Holy Spirit!!! Before you dismiss this wisdom, I ask you to remember what happened to the one who is instructing us…..This is the guy who prayed from the cross as his earthly life was draining out of him, “Father forgive them because they do not understand what they are doing.’
If I honestly compare the wrongs done to me, Barbara, all of them, my whole life, every single one, against what Jesus faced, I judge that mine are not worse. If, in light of his example, am I able to say with him, “Father, forgive them for they don’t understand what they are doing?” perhaps there is hope for peace everywhere.
What if it turns out to be true that peace is not a magical gift that floats down from on high, but peace is a skill?
How many of you have ever played or attempted to play a musical instrument? Did you master it at the lesson or during regular practice?
How many awards would the marching band and drill team win if they only went to the class and never practiced on the field?
How many of you who tried made a perfect pie crust the first time?
Practice, practice, practice!
What I am suggesting is that if Peace is a skill, then with intention and practice it can be perfected.
First, make contact with “The Helper.” Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your efforts.
Second, approach Peace by signing up for disciplined “Peace Lessons”……where do you find these lessons, you ask?…… join a Bible study group, learn lectio divina, pray regularly with a contemplative group, join a 12 Step program, hire a Spiritual Director, go to counseling, develop a reading list of peace literature……………… AND lastly,
- Recognize the place of loving kindness inside yourself. It is there. Honor it, awaken it, and actively draw upon it.
- Drawing upon the source of loving kindness within, bring to mind someone for whom you feel sincere goodwill and tenderness, someone you love very much. From your source, send loving kindness toward this person and bless them.
- Awaken loving kindness for someone who is a casual friend or associate—someone not in your inner circle, but a bit further removed, someone you admire or appreciate. Send love to that individual.
- Now send loving kindness to someone about whom you feel neutral or indifferent—for example, a gas station attendant or a cashier. Send your blessing to this person.
- Think of someone who has hurt you, who has talked evil of you, whom you find it difficult to like or you don’t enjoy being around. Bless them; send this would-be enemy your love.
- Bring all of the first five individuals into the stream of flowing love, including yourself. Hold them here for a few moments.
- Finally, extend this love to embrace all beings in the universe. It is one piece of love, one love toward all, regardless of religion, race, culture, or likability.
THEN, Practice, practice, practice!
BENEDICTION from The Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac
“The irony for us Palestinian Christians is that evangelicals, with their overemphasis on prophecy, have lost the capacity of being prophetic.
You want to prove that the Bible is right? You do not do this by pointing to self-fulfilling prophecy or by pointing to world events as prophecy fulfillment. This is not how you prove that the Bible is right. We prove that the Bible is right by radical obedience to the teachings of Jesus—by proving that Jesus’ teachings actually work and that they can make the world a better place.
Let us love our enemies.
Let us forgive those who sin against us.
Let us feed the poor, care for the oppressed, walk the extra mile,
Be inclusive, not exclusive.
Let us turn the other cheek.
And maybe, and only maybe, the world will start to take us seriously and believe in our Bible.”