December 15, 2013
In this past week, the second week of Advent waiting, we have traditionally watched for the coming One by the light of the Peace candle. Events here, however, have underscored the tragic absence of the peace for which we wait.
An intelligent high-achieving senior in a local high school entered the school carrying a shotgun, declaring his intention to kill the teacher who coached his debate team. In the chaos that followed, the targeted teacher was not injured, but several students were injured and one student was critically wounded by a shot to the head. The young man then apparently took his own life.
Editorials and news broadcasters have noted the irony that the shooting occurred shortly after the recent recall of three legislators who had supported increased gun control legislation.
The debate regarding action we should/should-not take as a community to limit easy availability of guns will continue, I am sure, and will likely be carried out at an even higher decibel level. I am not interested in initiating that debate with you readers here, however. I want to raise what I believe to be an even more difficult issue.
As people share their lives with me, the problem of peace appears to be an internal one. To me, there is a powerful straight-forward correlation between lack of peace within and (logically) a resulting absence of peaceful behaviors expressed externally. If I am not at peace with myself it seems logical to expect that I will not act peaceably in relationships with others.
By-passing the heated public debate, I want to approach the issue of violence from a smaller, more personal point of view. In my opinion, collective peace is something that we can all work toward by commonsense work on ourselves.
In my faith, I do this in the hopeful context that He, the Prince of Peace, will sometime come and set things right in our wounded world. But in a more general sense, I believe that communal peace results from peace-keeping practices that we undertake individually within ourselves regardless of the circumstances. Peace keeping is an individual internal discipline, a process in which we undertake to keep peace within ourselves despite the injustice, the hate and violence that at times erupts in the world around us.
So to speak, we all need first to pass internal legislation that governs ourselves. We need to hold ourselves accountable to an internal code that requires us to live at peace within ourselves so that we may act peaceably and so become peace-makers in a world of violence and despair.
As you know, I approach this difficult business of living at peace with myself and, consequently, with others out of a faith perspective.
Jesus said, interestingly enough, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you . . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” [John 14:27]
When we look at the text carefully something challenging emerges. Jesus gives us peace, but commands us then to live out of a peaceful, untroubled, unfearful inner world. It is, in a general sense of the text, a faithful paraphrase if I say to myself (and to you), “I have been given the gift of peace, but I have to keep the peace I’ve been given. Absent-minded misplacing of the peace, losing my peace through careless choices, choosing to act in ways that disrupt this gift of peace—none of these things are acceptable. Rather, I must use this peace as the foundation of intentional daily living so that, one day, Jesus can say of me, 'Blessed are you, Gay, for you have lived-out peacemaking as a child of God.' ” [Cf. Matt. 5:9]
How do you keep the peace, the Shalom of God that you have been given? If you lose it, how do you get it back?
Thinking with you this week, that as we light the third candle of Advent, the candle of Joy, that there is a profound connection here. Just as hope leads us to peace, peace, in turn leads to Joy.
Waiting with you, in hope, peace and joy.
See you next week.