Pursue Peace on Earth!
We see it on Christmas cards every year: “Peace on Earth!” But what would the world look like if individuals, congregations and communities truly pursued peace on earth? Is it important to “pursue peace on earth?”
The reason Community of Christ pursues Christ’s mission to pursue peace on earth is deeply rooted in our history as a people and in Judeo-Christian teachings and scripture related to peace and justice. The foundations for understanding the Christian mission of peace are found in the Hebrew Scriptures.
“In the beginning…”
The legend of creation found in Genesis is a profoundly spiritual and theological declaration that God is Creator! God’s creation of the heaven and earth and all living things transformed chaos into that which was “very good.” The result was an idyllic paradise. We know that the world we live in today is not a paradise, it is not at peace. Humanity has left the intended Garden of Eden and devolved into a state of decay where pollution, division, greed, hatred, destruction and war threaten to overcome God’s creative action in history.
The Hebrew Scriptures through the law, the writings and the prophets present a call to Pursue Peace on Earth and establish justice as a radical alternative to the decay of creation. The foundations of the call to shalom in scripture is contained in the Torah itself.
We first see the word peace itself used in God’s covenant to Abraham in Genesis 15:15.
“As for yourself, you shall go to your ancestors in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age.”
It comes from the Hebrew בְּשָׁל֑וֹם (bə·šā·lō·wm) which is the variant of shalom most often translated as in peace. Indeed, the Hebrew for in peace is often used to describe a person who is moving, going, departing, or journeying. I find this notion of journeying in peace theologically appealing. Like Abraham, we are called to live long lives which can be described as a journey in peace.
The law of Moses that establishes the procedures for wedding rites includes the priestly blessing, quite familiar in synagogues and churches.
24 The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
Often used as a benediction, it is indeed intended as a blessing. It contains within it a profound theological statement that the Lord (Yahweh or God) gives peace. Understanding God, and indeed Christ in Christian thought, as the source of shalom or peace is truly profound. The God who created heaven and earth in a condition that was good and offered to share that dominion despite our inability to maintain the conditions of shalom first inherent to the garden experience now seeks to give shalom to us. God’s continuing act of creation in the world is a continual act of creating and giving peace.
To be sure, the early writings in the Torah associate the various forms of the word shalom with peace, safety, well-being and protection from enemies. Often, that protection or safety from enemies was understood as an ability to overpower or dominate enemies, thereby bringing peace. This may not rest comfortably with our modern conceptions of shalom, but to deny its presence in the early texts would be intellectually dishonest. Consider Leviticus 26:6-8:
And I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and no one shall make you afraid; I will remove dangerous animals from the land, and no sword shall go through your land. You shall give chase to your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. Five of you shall give chase to a hundred, and a hundred of you shall give chase to ten thousand; your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.
Rather than be put off by what some might consider an antiquated view of peace as something held over and against one’s enemies, it is perhaps best to simply acknowledge that all of human thought has evolved and elevated from these very ancient times.
Shalom is often communicated in the Torah and elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures as being well, safe, at ease, of good health, welfare, prosperity, rest, and at peace. Indeed, the Hebrew conception of Shalom is both broad and informed by context.
Our call to “Pursue Peace on Earth” is deeply rooted in the Torah and has genesis in the richly complex and evolving understandings of Shalom as an elevated state of well-being that is creation’s intent and has God at its source. Shalom! Can I get an Amen!?
Spiritual Practices for Today
Hymn Text: Sung to the tune of Tune: MASTER, USE ME (CCS 651 “Send Me Forth”)
I will share the peace of Jesus – all are welcome all are called –
share a vision of creation that is whole!
I accept ‘Community of Christ’ as mission and proclaim
God’s great call of peace and justice as my goal:
I will share (I will share) the Peace of Jesus (I will share)
and promote communities of Joy, Hope, Love and Peace!
Jesus’ peaceful mission matters most for me on my journey
and I thank you God for our diversity.
We are women, we are men. We are children, we are old.
We are gifted, we are able, we are whole!
Healed by Christ we find a unity in our diversity
and proclaim that Jesus Christ is our Shalom:
In the blessings of discipleship, I’m vulnerable to grace
and compassion with the poor fills my soul!
As I seek sacred community and share gen’rously,
God’s great call of peace and justice is my goal:
After spending time in meditation, consider this prayer:
Pray: Holy Spirit of Peace, in our confusion we sometimes speak in the language of division. We ignore the pleas of brothers and sisters and pretend not to hear languages other than our own. Yet in our moments of connection with the Spirit of Peace, we find enduring truth through unity in diversity. There are those whose superficial differences all too often become a reason for separation. But your Holy Spirit calls us into relationship with all. Let us insist on justice in the pursuit of peace. Let us find the ear of the powerful and give voice to the earnest beggings of the weak. Let your Holy Spirit of Peace reign over the earth we pray in the name of the One who gives us peace. Amen.
14 Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
How is this passage speaking to you today?
Download or open the Community of Christ app on your smartphone or visit www.cofchrist.org to read today’s Daily Bread and Prayer for Peace. After reading the Daily Bread, consider these questions:
What does God want you to learn?
How might you be called to forgive yourself and seek forgiveness in light of this reading?
Pray the Mission Prayer: God, where will your Spirit lead today? Help me be fully awake and ready to respond. Grant me the courage to risk something new and become a blessing of your love and peace. Amen.
2021 Guiding Question: Are we moving towards Jesus, the peaceful One?