Monday Morning in the Preacher’s Study
First thoughts about next Sunday’s sermon
(13th Sunday after Pentecost, August 18, 2013)
The King of Peace tells us this coming Sunday, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!”
As I consider these words, I recall Hymn 661 in the Hymnal 1982, “They Cast Their Nets in Galilee” which warns that “The peace of God, it is no peace, but strife closed in the sod.” That text was written by the Mississippi poet-lawyer, William Alexander Percy, who served in the infantry in World War I, earning the French Croix de Guerre and a silver star. When he returned to Mississippi and opposed the rise the Ku Klux Klan, angry neighbors dismissed him as a “sissy”. This is when he wrote the poem “His Peace” which provides the text for the hymn. Percy ends the poem with the words, “Yet let us pray for but one thing—the marvelous peace of God.”
This paradox of praying for a peace that brings division is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching. I am southerner, born in Alabama and raised in Georgia. I recall a kind of racial peace that was a lesser peace at best. The peace was maintained by blacks who sat in the back of the bus and knew better than to enter white restaurants. The promise of God’s peace called people black and white to stand up for their own rights and the rights of others and led them to refuse to settle for any lesser peace.
The peace of God brings an end to the false peace and, as Jesus says, pits family members against each other. Jesus saw his mother and brothers turn against him. Reconciliation did come for Jesus and his family, but first came division. Jesus did come to bring God’s peace to the earth, a true and lasting peace, but to bring this about, any lesser peace must go.
Living into your baptismal identity can and will change your behavior and your attitude over time if you take it seriously. Yet, this is in tension with a desire to avoid conflict and so to preserve a lesser peace. The cost of accepting these accommodations and compromises is that this prevents our breaking through to the deeper peace waiting for us. Shalom, God’s true and lasting peace, calls us to stand against injustice. Any time we preserve the peace at someone or some group’s expense, we trade God’s Shalom for a poor imitation. This week, I will be praying through why the faith that is in me isn’t more disturbing to others.
Note: For congregations unfamiliar with the tune, Hymn 661 can be sung to Amazing Grace or any other familiar common meter tune.
Frank Logue is a member of the APLM Council having served previously as its secretary. He is the Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese of Georgia and blogs on congregational development at http://loosecanon.georgiaepiscopal.org
Photo by Frank Logue.