The Illumination of Peace

Scripture Text: Micah 5:2-5a (Advent 4C)

2But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. 3Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. 4And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; 5and he shall be the one of peace.

The time in which Micah prophesied was a time of great turmoil and violence.  The Assyrians had already invaded the region, had captured Samaria (capital of the northern kingdom), and had attacked several towns in Judah.  Corruption was at its height among the rulers and the people were reaching a point of despair.  Their expectations more than likely would have been for God to send a great warrior, a ruler who would quash the growing threat and instill a sense of safety for all against their enemies. But, instead, the prophet promises a ruler who will bring peace.

Yeah, I know…we all went there. But keep in mind that the original prophecy and the current-day Jewish interpretation does not associate this promise with the coming of Jesus.  The Old Testament should stand within the context in which it was written.  This was the promise of a king that would bring a time of peace against the Assyrians and for the time thereafter.  But for the Gospel writers, this understanding was illumined through Jesus Christ.  Know that neither is the “right way” or the “wrong way” to understand it.  Either way, God offers hope and promise of new life.  

So, who is this “one of peace”?  I mean, as near as I can tell, the world has never experienced peace.  For as long as history has been written, the earth has rocked on its axis with threats or acts of war and violence and intentional ways to divide us.  Rulers came and went.  Jesus was born.  Great theologians and spiritual thinkers have written of the peaceful time to come.  And peace still seems to be elusive for us.  Could it be that the promise of peace is elusive because we’re waiting for someone else to do something?  Jesus did not bring peace as if it could be manifest with some sort of magic earthly pill. Instead, Jesus showed us a different Way, a radical Way, the Way of Peace. Jesus did not bring peace; Jesus brought the love of peace.  What Jesus showed us was indeed radical.  It was a different Way than the one to which the world was and is accustomed.  This Way of Peace is not merely an absence of war.  It has to do with so much more, a pervasive and radical re-imagining of the way we live in this world. 

Peace cannot be until we respect one another, whether or not we agree.  Peace cannot be until we honor one another’s life, until food and housing and safety is available for all.  Peace cannot be until we realize that this earth in which we live, all of its creatures, all of its resources, and all of its beauty are entrusted to us not for our consumption but for our care.  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  The “one of peace” has indeed come but peace itself is up to us as children of God.  Each of us has a part. Our journey toward the Light is a Way of Peace.

Peace does not come rolling in on the wheels of inevitability.  We can’t just wish for peace.  We have to will it, fight for it, suffer for it, demand it from our governments as if peace were God’s most cherished hope for humanity, as indeed it is.  (William Sloan Coffin) 

Grace and Peace,


What’s In the Light

Scripture Text: Philippians 4:4-9 (Advent 3C)

4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

We’re used to language like this during Advent, wishes for joy and peace.  But sometimes they seem to be a little elusive.  I mean, how in the world do you rejoice always?  Sometimes things are just not worthy of rejoicing, right?  Our problem is that we often confuse happiness with joy.  Happiness is fleeting.  But joy is deep and abiding.  Joy is different.  Joy is what is in the Light.  Peace is what is in the Light.  They are part of that different Way.

The Philippians are dear to Paul.  They have been generous in supporting his ministry.  But there are numerous challenges to their faith.  Paul is concerned that the church might divide in the face of these conflicts.  There is also concern that the people are being subjected to alternative teachings that might pull them away from the teachings of Jesus.  So, Paul reminds them of the presence of Christ, reminds them of what they are a part.  It’s not a sappy, utopian call to be happy regardless of bad things are going for you.  Bad things happen.  It’s ok to be sad, melancholy, even angry.  Go ahead, throw a fit!  This is not a call to be happy; it is a call to rejoice.  Joy is what comes from knowing that indeed God is here with you, guiding you toward the Light.  It is a peace that surpasses any understanding that the world may have of what fills one’s life and makes it whole.

As we talked about before, God, the Light, is not “out there”.  It is here.  And this eternal peace and this peace that goes beyond all worldly understanding is IN that Light.  Could it be that when we actually embrace joy, actually live in peace, actually act in pure love, it is one of those flashes of Light we talked about before, bringing us closer to seeing the way we are called to see?  The Light is here.  Embracing joy, living in peace, acting in love is the way we know that.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  

Faith transforms the earth into a paradise.  By it our hearts are raised with the joy of our nearness to heaven.  Every moment reveals God to us.  Faith is our light in this life.   (Jean Pierre de Caussade) 

Grace and Peace,


Made Flesh

Scripture Passage:  John 1: 1-14

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

The Word became flesh.  Think about it.  God’s Spirit, God’s breath, the Hebrew language refers to it as ruah, the very essence and being of God was suddenly given flesh and bone and cartilage and hands and feet and all those very human things that we humans require to be here on earth.  In other words, the Divine became human, if only for a while.  That tells us that God does not desire a partner, or a relative, or a close friend.  God desires to live with each of us as one of us.  The miracle of Christmas is not just that God came, although that would be miracle enough.  The miracle of Christmas is that God takes on flesh. 

In The Message paraphrase of the Bible, Eugene Peterson says that “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.”  That’s actually a little disconcerting when you think about it.  That means that you’ll see God when you’re out walking your dog or getting your mail.  It means that you’ll run into God in the grocery store when you’re in a terrible hurry and don’t have time. It means that God will show up at your door when the house is a wreck and you are least expecting visitors.

As the Scripture says, in the beginning was God and in the end will be God and in between?  In between, God is with us.  In between, God is one of us.  In between, is us.  That is the very mystery of Christmas.  So what do we do then with a God who is with us?  God is not limited to this sanctuary or to the places in our lives where we’ve sort of cleaned up a bit.  God comes into place of darkness and places of light.  God comes into profound poverty and into gated communities.  God is with us every step of our lives.  God is one of us in our flesh and our bone.  God has moved in.

So, now it’s our move.  I suppose we could just pick up the Christmas decorations and put them back in the box for another year.  I suppose we could just go back to whatever we define as our normal lives.  But the problem is that God is with us.  God lives with us, here, in the neighborhood.  Everywhere we turn, we will meet God—over and over and over again.  And once you’ve met God, you can’t go back to the way it was before.

The problem with God is not that God comes at times that might be a little inconvenient for us; the problem with God is that God never goes away.  God is all over us.  That first Christmas was God’s unveiling, God’s coming out of the darkness and the shadows and showing us what we could not see before.  God poured the Divine into the lowliest of humanity, into a dirty animal stall, and began to pick us up so we could walk with God. 

And we are asked to follow.  We are asked to become something new.  We are asked to now become the very reflection of the God that is here everywhere.  Thomas Merton once said that “the Advent mystery is the beginning of the end in all of us that is not yet Christ.”  It’s Christmas.  Now is the time.  Let us go see this thing that has happened.

God is closer to me than I am to myself. (Meister Eckhart)

Thank you for joining me on this Advent journey!  I hope it gave you some hope and some light in this very-hard time in which we live right now.  Now I’m going to take just a small break.  BUT…I’m back in  practice, so I’m going to try to continue (but not every day!).  I’ll continue to post at least once a week around the Lectionary passages and maybe sometimes you’ll get an extra post in a week if I just have something else to say! SO, look for a post Sunday morning or earlier for the Sunday after Christmas and then a post for Epiphany Sunday early next week and that will be our plan for now.  Thanks again for joining me! Have a wonderful Christmas! 

Merry Christmas!


The Moment of Peace

2016-12-04-peace(Advent 2A) 1Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. 2May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. 3May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness. 4May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor. 5May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations. 6May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth. 7In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

18Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. 19Blessed be his glorious name forever; may his glory fill the whole earth. Amen and Amen. (Psalm 72: 1-7, 18-19)

 So, are you awake yet?  Our first week of Advent has been filled with visions of what can be, visions of what God is calling us to be.  And it has awakened us to its possibility if we will only pay attention.  So as the rising light begins to illuminate us, we begin to look around at what needs to change.  And today, we light the candle of peace.  We all dream of peace.  But it seems that we have quit talking about it.  Our talk of peace has become talk of policy and self-preservation.  Our discussions have dwindled to what is best for us rather than prayers for peace for the world.  Have we forgotten peace?  Or have we given up on its possibility?  Or are we so desperately afraid of losing what we have that it is easier to build our walls and secure our borders and wait for someone else to make it happen?

Peace has always been a little elusive.  Maybe it’s because we don’t understand it.  Maybe we are waiting for someone to put their weapons down first so that we will feel safe enough to disarm.  But that’s not peace.  That’s just putting weapons down.  They are still there.  They can still be picked up yet again.  Peace is not just the absence of war; peace is recognition that we are fighting ourselves.  Until we realize that we are all one, until we realize that the “other” is our brother or sister, until we realize that shutting each other out of our lives does not mean that we are at peace, we will still live lives of dis-ease and distrust and disunity.

Peace will not come to be because we sign an arms agreement or because we successfully disarm our enemies or even ourselves.  Peace cannot be sanctioned or governed or even agreed upon.  There is no policy on global relations that will produce peace.  Peace will not be between nations or tribes or even peoples.  Peace will come when each of us is at peace, when each of us feels the reverence of looking at a world that is not ours but one over which we have dominion, responsibility.  Peace will not come because one person thinks he or she can save us or fix us or put us back together again but rather when we realize that none of us are alone and that God is calling a Kingdom into being rather than each individual at a time.  Peace will come when we realize that we are so incredibly interconnected that hurting another is hurting ourself.  Peace will come when we finally see God’s very presence in each others’ lives.

Peace lives in each of us.  But we have to be at peace with ourselves to find it.  So, as we light the second candle today, be at peace.  Today.  In this moment.  Walk in peace.  Reach out in peace.  Sleep in heavenly peace…


Our true home is in the present moment.  The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment. Peace is all around us–in the world and in nature–and within us–in our bodies and our spirits. Once we learn to touch this peace, we will be healed and transformed. (Thich Nhat Hanh)


Grace and Peace,