Keeping the peace is something we do in communities, particularly in church.
We do this out of love.
We want people to continue to feel connected, comfortable and like they belong. Often this means that those of us who like to imagine, create and experiment need to be very patient in the way that we introduce change. We also need to be very gentle as we are extra careful not to upset anyone with our suggestions. Sometimes it means that we don’t ‘speak out in love’ (Ephesians 4.15) as our small way of maintaining the peaceful status quo. This becomes our contribution to ‘the unity of Spirit and the bond of peace.’ (Ephesians 4.3).
Sadly, there is a great danger in this. When we do not allow ourselves and others who have gifts as ‘apostles’, ‘prophets,’ ‘evangelists,’ ‘pastors’ and ‘teachers’ (Ephesians 4.15) to ‘speak out in love,’ we often lose the opportunity to grow in Christ. We lose the opportunity for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4.12). Sadly, ultimately, this will break down our unity as those people loss faith in themselves or look to use their gifts elsewhere. How can you encourage those with gifts in your community to ‘speak out in love’ (Ephesians 4.15)?
When I preside at communion my favorite thing is breaking one big loaf of bread into many pieces. As I do I remind my community that in consuming the bread we become connected, not just to each other but to all of creation. One loaf of bread is made up of many things (wheat, water, salt, yeast), and these things grew from the ground, and were nourished through the wind and the rain. They were then put together through the loving care of those who ground the wheat, mixed the dough, and finally baked the loaf. This combination of many things to create that final loaf is then broken apart, given to each of us and somehow put back together by Christ through us.
Is it any surprise that Jesus says in this text that he is the ‘living bread that came down from heaven?’ ( John 6. 51)
Christ is the one that connects us, not just to each other but to all that is. Through Christ we are drawn together into one bread, Through Christ we are broken. Through Christ we have the opportunity the be created anew into something new.
Often in a new situation we feel unsure. Particularly when we find ourselves following in the footsteps of some else. Solomon’s prayer is a beautiful one. You can almost feel both his fear and his humility, but also his deep desire to do the right thing by those entrusted to his care.
But above the deep desire that I hear in this prayer I notice another thing.
In his prayer Solomon doesn’t ask God to fix everything. This is not a prayer that asks for an answer, or a solution. It doesn’t ask God to make Solomon a ‘King.’
Instead, it simply asks God for the ability understand and to discern what is best for the people he serves. This is a prayer not for Solomon, but deeply rooted in the hopes and dreams of those he serves. May we all pray like this when we are lost, and in serving each other, find ourselves.
As I child I was taught that different activities required different clothes. I had to wear a uniform to school and a swimming costume to the beach. When I played in the mud in the backyard I was only allowed to wear old clothes that had been passed down to me from my older cousins or my brother. As I grew, I would learn that it was expected that different clothing was essential in my professional life if I wanted to create the ‘right’ impression. In that scenario suits and jackets became my amour. They made me look as if I belonged, even when I didn’t quite feel it.
In Ephesians we are asked to put on the armour of God. Armour of course is a defensive dress. It is designed to protect the wearer just as, in their own way, my business suits were worn to protect me.
But here is the interesting thing.
This is a very different type of armour. It is not designed to protect at all. Instead it is designed to assist the wearer to love. This amour is not designed to protect us at all, but instead to love others through truth, righteousness and most importantly perhaps, any kind of shoes that will allow us to walk in peace. This armour is designed to show the world who we are. It is not something to hide behind.
Faith is not something to hide behind, but something to be lived and shown. How we do this? What are the things we need to help us walk in peace?
This is a love song. The author sings a deep and sensual love song to his or her lover in the hope of re-kindling passion and yes it is, in my opinion, THAT type of passion. But that is beside the point.
What matters here is that love has fizzled a little after a dark time. Perhaps it was a cold winter as it says, but perhaps it was also just a really difficult time. Love has fizzled and one of the lovers has decided to seek the deep spark of love again in the hope of beginning again.
This beautiful poem reminds us that love does happen spontaneously. It happens without warning and without intent. But if we really want love to reach its full possibility we can’t just rely on these spontaneous sparks- we need to do more, particularly after times of sadness and pain. We need to reach out, see the one we love and tell them how much we love them.
Why? Well, why not.
Love is too good to let burn cold, and it feels really good to be told we are loved by those who love us.
Love creates things. Incredible things. It is the foundation of all life both metaphorically and literally. It builds community and family. It is the opportunity for new beginnings and new futures, not just when it first begins, but always and continuously. Love, in its own way, creates continuous new beginnings, even after the darkest of winters. That is the beauty of the love that God has created in you. That is the beauty of the love of God who created all and continues to create through each of us.
Rev. Danielle Hemsworth-Smith