29 Church Street, Hamilton, Bermuda HM CX

St. Mark’s

How can I be a peacemaker?

When you read the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection in the gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John, there is something slow and calming about them. The resurrected Christ was not announced with trumpet fanfares or an entourage of servants, instead, we read that he met people in a garden, on a walk, by a lake, and over meals, and his first words were, “Peace be with you,” and, “Do not be afraid.” There was a gentleness in his demeanour and his dialogue was filled with compassion.

The risen Jesus continued his ministry and mission too — to commission his disciples to be his ambassadors to the world, as ones prepared and equipped to take over his work. And later on, as we discover in the book of Acts, though we may not have physically journeyed with Jesus we are still able to commit to being disciples of Jesus through connecting with scripture and allowing the power of God’s Holy Spirit to work in and through us.

If the gospel stories had ended with the death of Jesus, I wonder if Jesus’ disciples would have carried on God’s mission in the world? It seems unlikely. We know that some went back to their day jobs, back to the trades they worked before being called by this itinerant rabbi, however, the resurrection of Jesus changed everything. It meant that God’s mission in the world did not end on Good Friday, but began a new phase on Easter Sunday. The disciples asked, “How are we meant to do the things you did, Jesus?” and the risen Christ told them, “Be patient. Wait. I will be with you, for you will be empowered with the Holy Spirit of God.”

It seems that at least, here in the West, there is a fresh recognition of the need for peace, on every level; peace in the world, peace with our environment, peace in our nations, peace in our communities, peace in our relationships, and peace in our personal lives. Peace is not an abstract concept but a very real physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual need, and we long for it and know we need it.

It feels surreal to write the words that we are in a pre-war era, and that the threat of a third world war looms over us. Surely, it cannot be? Surely, it will not happen? As Russia edges closer to defeating Ukraine, this week using hypersonic missiles on civilian targets, and NATO edges closer, arming Ukraine with F-16s capable of delivering nuclear warheads, at some point, if Russia or NATO do not back down or no compromise is reached, the inevitable will happen and we will be at war. Am I afraid? Yes, very much so. I fear for the safety of my children. I fear for humanity. Oh, the relevance of the words of the risen Jesus — words I need to hear, “Do not be afraid. Take heart, for I have overcome the world.”

Despite the possibility of cataclysmic events on the world stage, I have hope, and I have hope because of the peace that we are able to bring to each other. As we do our best to follow Jesus and be his disciples, I take heart as I witness members of our community becoming more Christlike. Each time one of us decides to forgive rather than take revenge, to be generous instead of being miserly, to encourage rather than gossiping, to listen rather than give advice, or to change their lifestyle to live more ecologically rather than have disregard for our environment, it gives me hope that we are becoming the community that God calls us to be. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and we are all called to be peacemakers.

Faced with the enormity of the task ahead of us, we ask the same question asked by those first disciples, “How can we possibly be Jesus to the world in our own strength?” and Jesus’ answer is the same, “Let me be with you. Let me empower you with the Holy Spirit.”

The call of Jesus is to follow him, to be like him, and be bringers of peace in a torn and broken world, and as the need for peace increases, then we need to step up to the plate. If we long to see peace in the world then it begins with us, our lives, our relationships, and our actions and behaviours. If we have a broken relationship with someone then we must bear the pain of making the first move towards reconciliation. If someone owes us a debt that is unlikely to be repaid, we must bear the pain of letting go of our entitlement and rights. If someone has hurt us we must bear the pain of forgiving them, even if they neither ask for it or deserve it. If we have a habit of using take-out cartons and single-use plastic packaging, we must bear the pain of having to go without. If we are speaking with someone and they have a different point of view, we must bear the pain of listening instead of insisting on our own way. This, my friends, is the way of Jesus, the way of love, and the way of peace.

Like the risen Jesus, we are to be gentle bringers of peace wherever and whenever we can, in gardens, on walks, by the waterside, and over meals. We cannot hope to be peace-bringers in the world if we are unable to be peace-bringers in our own lives. We are called to be Jesus to our families, our friends, our colleagues, acquaintances, and strangers. We are called to be Jesus to plants and animals in our care, and to our land and our oceans. We, as a church, are called to be known as people who bring and foster peace to one another and to our community. The question is, will we step up to the plate?