A young rabbi found a serious problem in his new congregation. During the Friday Sabbath service, half the congregation stood for the prayers and half remained seated, and each side shouted at the other, insisting that theirs was the true tradition. Nothing the young rabbi said or did helped solve the impasse. Finally, in desperation, the young rabbi went to visit the synagogue's 99-year-old distinguished founder.
He met the old rabbi in the nursing home and poured out his
troubles. "So tell me was it the tradition for the congregation to stand
during the prayers?"
"No," answered the old rabbi.
"Ah," responded the younger man, "then it was the
tradition to sit during the prayers." "No," answered the old
"Well," the young rabbi responded, “I don't understand, what we have is complete
chaos! Half the people stand and shout and the other half sit and
scream." "Ah," said the
old rabbi, "that was the tradition."
Blessed are the peacemakers!
On this World Communion Sunday, we celebrate our membership as
Presbyterians in the world-wide Christian family. Today we affirm our unity with our brothers
and sisters in Christ around the globe.
Yes, we acknowledge our differences, but we recognize that we have so
much more in common. We have a common
faith in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and one Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ, and one church, the body of Christ, and one baptism, the sign of
forgiveness and admission into the church and one mission to love our neighbors
and reach unbelievers for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
A central theme of World Communion Sunday is Jesus’ call to
his followers to be peacemakers. Jesus
declares: “Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.”
It is a high calling, a holy calling, a sacred calling, it is God’s
calling upon those who follow Jesus.
Without question it’s not an easy calling in a world filled
with conflict. We see it in partisan politics, where
Republicans and Democrats are polarized and instead of cooperating and working
together to solve the nation's problems continue to blame each other for the
ills of our economy and everything else which has led now to our current
government shut-down. We see it in
violence in our society, shootings in schools,
in movie theaters, and on our city streets. We see examples of conflict in families, in
business, in our jobs, and in the church.
We have the perception from what we hear daily in the media
that strife and violence is on the rise and rules the day. But the facts speak differently. According to the Crime in the United States
2011 report, the estimated number of violent crimes reported by law enforcement
decreased for the fifth year in a row, while the estimated number of property
crimes reported by law enforcement, decreased for the ninth year in a row.
The new preliminary Uniform Crime Reporting statistics for
2012 indicate that when compared to data for 2011, the number of violent crimes
reported by law enforcement agencies around the country increased 1.2 percent
during 2012, while the number of property crimes decreased 0.8 percent. So it appears, that last year broke a five year decline of
violent crime in
The last time the crime rate for serious crime – murder,
rape, robbery, assault – fell to these current levels, gasoline cost 29 cents a
gallon and the average income for a working American was $5,807. That was
1963. The Christian Science Monitor
reports that the
And yet, in the midst of all this, Jesus, the Prince of
Peace, whom God sent to make peace with humanity, to be the atoning sacrifice
for our sins, to reconcile humanity to God, whose peacemaking work led to a
cross, calls us to the holy work of peacemaking – to build bridges between
people, to bring healing, to seek reconciliation, to work for unity, to labor
for justice and fairness in His name and in His Spirit.
What do you do when you find yourself entangled in conflict? We are faced with two options – fight or
flight and sometimes we flee, we avoid it, we run away, we look for an escape
route, and in certain situations that is the sensible thing to do. Another response is denial. “What problem?” “I don’t see a problem?” “Do you see a problem.” That might be the first clue that you are in
denial. We pretend that nothing is
wrong. We don’t admit it to ourselves or
to others. It’s the elephant in the
room. At other times we decide to break
off the relationship, to cut off contact, and stop communication. The saddest and most tragic flight response
is suicide. People lose all hope of
resolving a conflict and succumb to despair.
I have personally ministered to families where this has occurred.
The other reaction is to fight. The situation quickly escalates and becomes
adversarial. Our goal is to defeat the
opponent and win the battle at any cost.
One may engage in verbal attacks, threats, gossip, slander, and attempts
to ruin a person’s reputation or destroy a person financially or
professionally. Litigation, lawsuits,
is a common weapon today. And of course
by far the most extreme fight response is murder.
We read in the letter of Romans that Christ summons us as
His followers to a new attitude and behavior. “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with
all.” A peacemaker is one who
strives to live peaceably with everyone.
The famous Scottish theologian Dr. William Barclay puts it succinctly: “He who divides is doing the devil's work,
he who unites is doing God's work.”
I wish I would have said it.
If you follow Jesus then peacemaking is your work and it’s
my work. It's not an option. And its some of the most difficult work Jesus
calls us to. The circumstances are usually
overflowing with intense feelings. We
must listen carefully and balance striving for peace and reconciliation with
principles of truth and right and justice and fairness. Making peace doesn't mean peace at any
price. Making peace doesn't mean making
everybody happy. It means finding the
way to do the right thing. It is finding
common ground. It doesn't mean
abdicating your principles. We must
speak out for justice and not be silent.
It doesn't mean tolerating unjust and bad behavior in order to keep the
Peacemaking also acknowledges that there are situations
where no matter what you do or how hard you try reconciling with someone and
finding a peaceful solution it just doesn’t work. Despite our prayers, despite our attempts,
and the time we invest there are situations that are beyond our power and
ability. And we must give it over to
Is there someone you are striving to make peace with
today? The first step always is to go to
God in prayer and ask God for wisdom and guidance and inspiration and
courage. I read an article about the
persecution going on in
Jesus says: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” What does Jesus mean in these words? You of course must ultimately decide and apply them to your own life. It might mean overlooking some small offense instead of making a big production about it. Some things are just not worth bringing up. It might mean taking the initiative as a reconciler. Scripture says, “If your brother has something against you, go and be reconciled.” First, go to the person directly and talk about the situation and try to reach a resolution, rather than talking to everyone else about it. It might mean finding a mediator if after you have talked to the person you find that you can't reach an agreement. Secure a trained mediator to meet with the two of you to help resolve your issues. You also might want to enroll in a course on mediation training.
It might also mean securing an arbitrator. When you and another person cannot come to a
voluntary agreement, you may appoint an arbitrator and give that arbitrator the
authority to render a binding decision to settle the issue.
The challenge of peacemaking. Peacemaking is indeed a high calling, a holy
work, it is your work and it is my work.
Trust that God's Spirit will be with you in this work. Where is God calling you to be a
I close with the Prayer of Saint Francis of