Where Are All The Peacemakers?
Indianapolis First Friends
Pastor Bob Henry
November 12, 2017
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. 6 I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love.
[Let us pray]
With all that has transpired since the last time we gathered in this Meetinghouse, I have done a lot of reflecting on the concept of being a peacemaker in our world, today. I know I am not personally going to change what happened at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas last week, yet it causes me to ask some deeper questions of how I am personally being a peacemaker in my area of influence.
What has become more and more apparent to me as I watch the news, or read social media, or even in conversations in my communities is how not much is being said about peace or peace making – and not much is being done to seek peace -- only after the fact.
Much of what I see or hear being discussed is revenge, gossip, payback, or people looking for groups or individuals to blame, all while often disregarding what others are saying or feeling. One recent example of this would be the NFL football player taking a knee during the national anthem and being told his protest is a disgrace to the flag, the military, and unpatriotic - missing the entire point of why he is kneeling.
Too often we are simply closing our ears and secluding ourselves from our neighbors. And our lack of listening and understanding is leading to violence in many and various ways.
I actually started processing these ideas last summer on our way back from dropping our son off at college. On that trip our family visited Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument in southeast Montana. There we heard of a vision given to the First Nations Chief Sitting Bull that the white man who was taking their land had “no ears” to hear the desires of natives.
Sadly, I believe our country was founded by many who had “no ears” to see the bigger picture of life together with people different than themselves. We too often closed our ears and moved forward – not listening, not waiting, and not working out of love. And the sins of our past have trickled down to our present time creating immense amounts of violence in our world.
We are constantly looking to pass the blame to specific groups of people - political parties, religions, and yes cultures and races - because, let’s be honest, it is how we control or conquer for our own benefits. This is the opposite of being a peacemaker - actually when this happens peace is lost.
When we don’t listen carefully, don’t seek to really understand, and quickly pass judgements, we perpetuate violence in our world.
This week, I was shocked as I read a post by Relevant Magazine titled, “Correcting the Misinformation Being Spread About the Texas Shooting.” In the article it explained how internet trolls faked the gunman’s Facebook page (the one we all saw), as well they faked his name, political affiliation, religion, and status with the military.
And why...because they wanted to control who was blamed.
Now, I have to be honest. I admit and apologize for the many times I have not listened, when I too have had closed ears to people, their views or ideas, and have created more conflict or a communication barrier.
Seeking peace and being a peacemaker has never been easy, but it is a venture I believe our world is craving. We don’t need more trolls or people without ears, we are in need of peacemakers that will actually live out the change!
I believe it is time for us to return to and embrace our Quaker distinctives - especially in the area of peacemaking.
A few months ago, I had a conversation with a former colleague who recently became part of a Friends Church in Indiana. As we talked he shared of his frustrations with the meeting he attends. The biggest frustration being their lack of any visible “peace testimony.” What really hit me though was when he said, “It is like Friends are ashamed of being part of a peace tradition and now more than ever they should be embracing it.”
Honestly, the Quaker “Peace Testimony” has been a controversial part of who we are throughout history. I believe this is mainly because it is much easier to close our ears and point a finger than it is to listen. Just maybe, we don’t embrace a peace testimony because it is simply hard work.
Our Christian culture has dumbed down Christianity so much. We have talked too long about “Peace with God” only to ignore peace with our neighbors (near and far), our families, or colleagues, etc…
So to start we may need a refresher course – and that means we will need to return to our own historic roots – let me read what it states in our Faith and Practice about our Foundations of Peace:
FRIENDS emphasize the fact that the most effective way to end war is to remove its causes, such as misunderstanding, the desire for revenge, the spirit of aggression, and economic, racial, and territorial rivalries. This calls for the utmost endeavor to demonstrate the working power of fair dealing, universal equity, friendliness, and sympathy. The intricate network of modern life demands that Friends use every legitimate means to influence the attitudes of their government toward other nations, that all may conform to the highest standards of justice and good will as taught by Jesus. They should equip themselves with knowledge of the needs and opportunities for whatever ministries of Christian friendship exist in the world family of nations. They should cultivate the personal skills and abilities that will enable them to become interpreters of the Christian way of life which alone is the sure foundation for enduring peace.
Folks, this is our heritage, this is one of our distinctives, and this is not new for us as Quakers, but it may be new for some of us…or maybe because of the way of American Christianity it has become hard to understand – especially since many Christians in America have embraced, even welcomed a more violent spirit, tied to patriotism or a specific political party’s beliefs.
And that violent spirit is not just in military campaigns or politics, Quaker Parker Palmer shows us that violence is permeating not only our churches, but our culture, our families, our own minds, he says,
“Violence is done when parents insult children, when teachers demean students, when supervisors treat employees as disposable means to economic ends, when physicians treat patients as objects, when people condemn gays and lesbians “in the name of God,” when racists live by the belief that people with a different skin color are less than human. And just as physical violence may lead to bodily death, spiritual violence causes death in other guises – the death of a sense of self, of trust in others, of risk taking on behalf of creativity, of commitment to the common good. If obituaries were written for deaths of this kind, every daily newspaper would be a tome.”
Folks, our voices for peace and nonviolence are desperately needed once again. This is supposed to be our nature as Quakers – but we have lost our edge, we are no longer disciplined, we have gotten lazy and fat when it comes to peacemaking.
We should not be ashamed or reticent of stickers that read “War is not the Answer” or signs that read “No matter where you are from, we are glad you are our neighbor” (in one, three of fifteen languages).
In the intro to the book “Practicing Peace: A Devotional Walk Through of the Quaker Tradition” by Catherine Whitmire she writes,
Quakers have been practicing peace as a spiritual discipline since the 1650’s. Their well-worn path to peace begins in prayer and worship, leads to recognizing God in all people, includes practicing nonviolence, and endeavors to make love the guiding force in all they do. This path which is available to everyone, celebrates life’s highest joys and witnesses life’s deepest tragedies amidst the beauty, uncertainty, and violence surrounding us. While practicing peace is not always easy, it is a spiritual discipline that expands love, generates hope, and satisfies our soul’s deep longing for peace.
That is what I want – and I hope that is the same for you this morning.
Back in October of 2001, Friends in the northwest participated in a Peace Conference held in Newberg, OR. They created a set of 7 queries to help us process how we can be better peacemakers in our world. Let these be our challenge this week. (You can find them in your bulletin).
1. Do you find ways to live peacefully in your daily relationships? Do you encourage others to do so by education and example?
2. Do you recognize, express, and dwell in God as your ultimate source of security?
3. In a spirit of repentance, confession, and forgiveness, are you willing to leave vengeance to God and pray for your enemies?
4. Are you active in a community that supports one another in following God’s call to peace?
5. Are you proactive in praying, speaking, and acting against the injustice that may bring on the occasion for terrorism and war?
6. Do you find ways to learn about and understand the Friends peace testimony?
7. Do you act in loving and respectful ways toward those who disagree with the Quaker peace testimony?