Note: The text of a theological reflection shared with my parish community of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Spartanburg, South Carolina, during tonight’s livestreamed service of Compline from the Book of Common Prayer.
This past Tuesday night, during Compline, I offered a reflection, beginning, “We live in a highly fractious, deeply polarized time.”
It seems to me that many conversations end before they begin; either because at the first inkling of difference, people, anxiously or angrily, terminate the encounter or because people, knowing they differ about given subjects, refuse “to go there.”
Doubtless, it’s always been this way. Humans – across the relational board of families and friends, colleagues and acquaintances, and strangers – always have disagreed. Disagreement is a reflection of our inherent individuality. Nevertheless, it seems to me that disagreement arises more frequently and more intensely in this fractious, polarized time.
I’m an opinionated person who loves to talk. Name a subject and I’ll have a point of view, which I can discuss or argue with passion.
I also have learned to listen, especially to those who are “other” than I; those who don’t think and feel as I do. For they, as I also said on Tuesday night, “hold an element of truth that I do not…possess (thus)…I need to listen…that I might learn…something new about me and…our common humanity.”
This morning, thinking about all this afresh, Jesus’ words came to mind: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5.9).
Peacemaking! That’s something I believe we need in this day and time.
Peacemaking is not passive acquiescence to every point of view. To make peace is not to avoid, but rather to acknowledge conflict.
Why? To seek to bridge divisions between and among people.
How? Primarily, by reminding all people of our common dignity as created in God’s image or, non-theologically, yet indisputably biologically, our common humanity.
To do this is to remind all people of our destiny: We either live together in peace or die together in turmoil.
As I reflect on my peacemaking efforts, I’ve discovered a mystery – a riddle I can’t resolve by reason, yet something repeatedly proven as real, as true.
Jesus speaks to this mystery when instructing his disciples for their missionary journey: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you” (Luke 10.5-6).
Peace (oneness, wholeness) with God is something that we can give to others only when we have received it from God. The mystery is that peace with God also is something we can keep precisely because we give it away. For in offering peace to others, peace grows; encompassing both the giver and the receiver. And, when we offer God’s peace to someone who does not receive it, God’s peace is not, cannot be destroyed, but rather returns to us give to another.
When we, as peacemakers, receive oneness, wholeness from God, and then, faithfully, freely replicate God’s action by giving that peace away, we are living into our ontology, our beingness as God’s children.
© 6/6/2020 PRA