Dimensions of Peace

My impressions regarding our Sunday morning (9/19) worship service are varied. I was pleased to be hosting two Chinese professors who are visiting scholars at George Fox University. Alice and Catherine are professors of English at a University of Post and Telecommunications. They had expressed an interest in learning American culture by attending church. I thought the Sunday morning service was a good one to have them participating in as we were commemorating the International Day of Peace and having a service that was a little out of the ordinary. By hosting Alice and Catherine, and answering a number of questions that they posed about our meeting for worship and our barbecue afterward, I was able to think about the meeting and the meaning I make of it.

I tried to draw a word picture of sorts out of the raw material that came from the meeting. From the introductory comments that one of our worship leaders brought, I learned that the concept of peace is a multilayered one. From personal peace, to peace in the family, the community, the nation and in the world, each of us can focus on a different layer. I reflected on what was said, that we can get stuck if we exclusively focus on personal peace, looking to enhance our own well being and relationship with God; of if we are solely concerned with international peace. At either end of the spectrum, we could become so focused that we lose opportunity to truly reflect peace as God intends.

I found it hard to find a way of tying all the ideas together, but I reflected on the structure of the worship meeting, from the songs that helped us focus on the work of God in our lives to the specific activities that we were invited to participate in as part of the meeting. We had the choice to walk the path, to use the labyrinth, to make a peace flag or to read and reflect on quotes there were displayed in the sanctuary. During the story that my wife, Debbie read to the children I was challenged to reflect on what peace is like and how I experience it. I also realized that certain boys’ inappropriate words during the response time were probably inhibiting other kid’s participation, and I did not like that.

I invited Alice and Catherine to walk on the path which extends around our property with me. We were blessed with lovely weather and the walk was slow and lovely. We talked about church, worship, the property and the beauty that surrounded us. We also visited the labyrinth that had been set up in the gym and both Alice and Catherine walked it as I conversed with others. I recognized that I was in the presence of two persons who may have never been in a worship experience before this time. I did my best to be open and sensitive to their lack of connections with what we were doing. How is my commitment and outreach a “peace making” activity.

I reflect back on Stan’s sermon of the previous week regarding holy dissatisfaction. In my mind there is a distinction to be made between standing up to injustice or in carrying out peacemaking from an ethical sense of doing the right thing or challenging wrong doing and acting out of a transformed heart which is compelled to respond to God. However, do I dare speak against ethical stands for justice and peace? Should I only act on God’s clear direction? And how is my heart transformed anyway? Do my actions in doing good themselves cause a transformation?

These thoughts lead me to some of the reflections shared by others at the conclusion of this Sunday’s worship service. Again, I tried hard to find themes to categorize these thoughts, but could not easily group them. I heard that a need for Jesus is important and that stillness and a release of my need to control are needed to be at peace. I was challenged to think about how my brokenness itself becomes a venue for sharing light (a thought that Parker Palmer shares in his book; A Hidden Wholeness). This thought is actually one that will form a foundation for a webinar I am doing next Tuesday on balancing work and life. The audience will be educators who work in Christian schools and I have been thinking about maintaining a peaceful life related to our professional roles and responsibilities.

Regarding a peaceful life, we were challenged during the service to find peace inside so that we would be able to influence others. In order to find this peace, we need to give up our own rights and see that God may be investing us into something bigger than we realize. Spiritual renewal is hard work, in a sense; we are not passive in seeking or maintaining peace, but actively working toward achieving peace on the many dimensions from personal to international. One person made the point that strong and clear messages of peace can come from secular voices, and those are not to be ignored.

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