Every time I hear this Sunday’s Gospel, I am reminded of the final verse of Hymn 661. “The peace of God, it is no peace, but strife closed in the sod. Yet let us pray for but one thing – the marvelous peace of God.” (You can listen to the entire hymn as sung at Bishop Knisely’s ordination here).
In these challenging seven verses from Luke we hear about this not so peaceful, peace of God. “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” This image of Jesus is a little different than gentle shepherd, healer, or dinner guest we may be more familiar with. But, this image is just as important – if not more important – for us to encounter than the sweet Jesus of Children’s Bible Stories.
The world in which we live is one of division, strife, hardship, struggle, judgment – the list goes on and on. If you spend anytime watching the news – local, national, international – you will see that the world in which we live is hurting and broken. Jesus comes with a radical message that has, is, and will continue to turn the known world upside down. The kingdom of God disrupts the peace of society – those things we have learned to live with, those things which are not of God.
We are called to follow Jesus and the radical message that He brings. We are called to join in the work of bringing about the kingdom of God, of tearing down systems of oppression in our society. As followers of Jesus we are called apart to do this work, and there are many around us that may not like it. “From now on five in one household will be divided.” As difficult, challenging, and scary as this may be we must not turn away.
There is a fabulous blessing that calls us to strive for the marvelous peace of God. May it be for you – as it has been for me – a prayer of encouragement, strength, and courage.
May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart. May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people. May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy. May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.
I hope and pray that we at St. Peter’s may be filled with restless discomfort, holy anger, tears for those who suffer, and foolishness to believe that we can make a difference. Because at the end of the day we already make a difference in our community – let’s be foolish enough to dream bigger! When we do, we will truly know the marvelous peace of God.