“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called daughters and sons of God.”
I begin this day with a confession that I daresay most of you would voice also. I detest partisan politics. Partisan politics, regardless of the side of the aisle on which one may find themselves, is a selfishness that divides, wounds, and even destroys. It maddens me in these critical days of the coronavirus outbreak that some of our politicians invest so much time hammering at one another, seeking to get their way. Can’t we all just get along right now, and pull together for the world’s sake? President John F. Kennedy’s words seem to be most instructive: “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
Lest I become arrogantly judgmental about national politics, there is also the partisanship that affects denominations and congregations. I mean, it hasn’t been all that long since we Baptists couldn’t get along, so we split into groups. And even in local congregations, this sectarianism can destroy fellowship. A word from a pulpit or one exchanged at a business meeting can have such a devastating effect that people are pushed away from each other rather than being drawn to one another.
But with all that noted, I think the beatitude today is much more personal. Where is it that I need to go to actually make the peace? With whom do I need to visit to make the peace? This beatitude is not in the least bit easy, and yet it is very much necessary. Jesus didn’t ask us to keep the peace; he called on us to make the peace. This verse is a prime example of spiritual activism.
The parable we call the “Prodigal Son” is a good example of this. Can we not see the father’s intent, on being love, making peace with both of his sons? I love the way moviemaker Franco Zeffirelli uses this parable in his epic, Jesus of Nazareth. He has Jesus tell the story at a gathering of the disciples, where Matthew and Peter have been at odds with one another. As the story unfolds, both characters come to the realization that the Kingdom is far greater than themselves or the partisan ways that they see things.
I remember an exhibit in President Carter’s Museum in Atlanta that relates some of the events of the peace accord hammered out between Israel’s Menachim Begin and Egypt’s Anwar Sadat. One powerful piece of information that I learned was that at one point in the negotiations Begin had decided that it wasn’t going to work, and he and his entourage were packing to leave. Carter, upon hearing this, went to Begin’s cottage to plead with him to stay. Begin was adamant. No way. He would look like a fool. His people weren’t ready for that. Then, Carter pulled out a picture and showed it to Begin. The picture was of Begin’s grandchildren. Carter said, “Menachim, you have to stay, not for your peace as much as the peace for your grandchildren and other grandchildren.” It was the pivotal moment that turned everything toward an eventual peace agreement.
Brené Brown, in one of her latest books, Braving the Wilderness, writes about the power of peacemaking. She talks about noting the difference between conflict resolution and conflict transformation. Conflict resolution goes back to a previous state of affairs, and has a connotation that there will most probably be a winner and a loser. Someone is right, and someone is wrong, and going back to the resolution may not make things peaceful. Dr. Brown suggests that conflict transformation sees things in a different way, a way where the emphasis isn’t on the rightness or wrongness of the past, but the opportunity of navigating the landscape of differences and disagreements by looking for a new way.
Today’s beatitude calls us to the difficult challenge of making peace. And it is in our efforts to make the peace that we understand that we are indeed children of God.
A Time of Reflection and Prayer:
- Today, take a few moments to consider someone with whom you need to make the peace. Who is it that makes your blood boil? What is it that makes your blood boil? What can you do to make things right in the eyes of God?
- Consider our church family. Is there anything or anyone who needs to be addressed in order for peace to come? Ask for God’s guidance to make that happen.
A Poem to Guide our Prayer: Maya Angelou’s “A Brave and Startling Truth,” (Dedicated to the hope for peace, which lies, sometimes hidden, in every heart.)
We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth
And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms…
We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines…
When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.