Praying for Peace

I’ve been thinking a lot about peace lately.

I’ve been praying a lot FOR peace lately.

While this isn’t a family that is facing conflict – many of you know that there is conflict in my family. I am wrestling with the distractions that it brings and must admit that there are days it is all I think about. I wish that there could be some kind of reconciliation or forgiveness between family members, but at the same time I deal with my own hurts and betrayals and wonder if I can forgive. My desire for my grace and healing and yet my holding of grudges and pain are incompatible. They war within me. And all I can do right now is pray for peace.
And then there is another struggle between war and peace that is a reality for us all.

A couple of weeks ago, our president spoke before the nation and an audience at West Point to announce a surge in military personnel in Afghanistan. This on the heels of being named the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

The two are in so many ways incompatible. From his acceptance speech in Oslo, Obama himself stated:

Still, we are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict – filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.
Some in this congregation have relatives who are serving our country right now in other nations. Others of you have friends and neighbors that they have said goodbye to far too many times. Many of you have lived through wars and have the memories of sacrifice and bloodshed ingrained deep within your souls.

The reflections of Steve Goodier have been very helpful to me this week and he includes the letter of a man who was serving on a ship anchored in Tokyo Bay in September 1945. Navy chief radioman Walter G. Germann was writing to his son to tell him that the formal surrender of Japan would soon be signed. “When you get a little older you may think war to be a great adventure take it from me, its the most horrible thing ever done by (humans),” he wrote. “Ill be home this Christmas…”

That man knew – as so many of you do – that peace is hard to come by. And even though he would be coming home for Christmas to a world at peace – he wasn’t at all sure if the ends justified the means. He, like many who serve our nation, probably came home broken on the inside – at war with himself as he tried to justify his actions in battle and the horrors he had seen.

I think of the letter of that man, who saw the day of peace dimming brightly in his future, and then I think of the faces of all of the young men and women who were in the audience for President Obama’s speech at West Point – men and women for whom the future is cloudy.

There is not one among us who doesn’t long for peace. And we are unsure whether what we are doing as a nation will get us there. We pray it will. We hope that peace and stability will come quickly in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We want our sons and daughters and sisters and brothers and fathers and mothers and neighbors to come home. We watch another Christmas come and go without peace.

As Eleanor Roosevelt wrote at Christmas in 1942, “I could no more say to you a Merry Christmas without feeling a catch in my throat than I could fly to the moon!” We look around us at families with a loved one missing and we recognize that as long as there is war – there will not be peace.

This week, I read from Luke’s gospel the story of Mary going to greet her cousin. I was amazed with how Elizabeth recognized that the child in her cousin’s womb was the longing of all Israel. She was absolutely overjoyed…. and in her joy and in Mary’s song they recognized that the promise from Micah – the promise of the one of peace – was being fulfilled.

Our hearts in contrast… are jaded and worn and disappointed.

The strange counterpoint of the Nobel Peace Prize and our current wars that tells us we cannot look for peace to come from any national leader.

There was no triumphant singing after Obama’s West Point speech… and while there may have been music in Oslo at the Nobel ceremonies, Obama’s own speech tempered any bit of joy and celebration. It has been a sobering reminder that they are not our saviors and that true peace only comes through Christ. No matter the obeisance paid to our president, he is not the one we are waiting for. He, nor any other leader within our world, is not our savior. He is not the Prince of Peace.

No, We are waiting for another.

The prophet Micah describes this one in this way:

And 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; and he shall be the one of peace. (Micah 5:4-5)

Mary and Elizabeth and the child in Elizabeth’s womb cannot contain their joy as they encounter this promise of God – yet unborn. They have been longing and waiting and hoping for so long.

As Elizabeth greets and praises her cousin, she exclaims: Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.

Blessed is she who not only believed in a miraculous birth… but blessed is she who believes that this child is the fulfillment of what God has promised.

Blessed are we who hope and pray and wait and believe in what God has promised.

I know that it is hard to do. We live in a world of cynicism and violence, a world of confusion and hatred.

And yet, we come together as people of faith and we light the fourth candle on the advent wreath because we dare to believe that the Prince of Peace will reign.

We dare to hope that there will be day when nation will not rise up against nation.

We dare to wait for the day when the powerful are brought down from their thrones and the lowly are lifted up.

Steve Goodier, also tells the story of a monument in Hiroshimas Peace Park. This particular monument is in memory of a young girl who died from radiation-induced lukemia after the dropping of the bomb. After hearing a legend that a person who makes 1000 cranes will have their wish granted, she tried to fold 1000 paper cranes. As Steve tells it, “with each crane she wished that she would recover from her illness. She folded 644 cranes before she left this life.” The monument in memory of this young girl named Sadako reads: This is our cry, This is our prayer, Peace in the world.

Now as much as ever, our cry is for peace in the world.

That might be peace in Afghanistan, or peace between you and your neighbors. It might be peace among loved ones, or peace between you and your inner thoughts.
In this season of Advent, we stand in the face of war and suffering and distress and we look for the coming of peace. We stand like Elizabeth, pregnant with hope, that God’s promises are real.
The reality that we long for this and every Advent – The miracle that we wait for this and every Christmas – is that we might wake up one morning and run outside to discover that God is with us – Emmanuel – and that the Prince of Peace rules the earth.

No Comments

Leave a Reply