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Daniel Schultz @pastordan
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I filled in for a colleague this morning. Knowing it was the anniversary of the Armistice, I decided to preach on peace. Some thoughts to follow.
1. I started by reminding the congregation of the anniversary and recalling that when I was young, I knew some WWI vets, even into the 1980's.
2. (I actually also knew a veteran of the *Spanish-American* War, but that's another story.)
3. Anyway, the point was that with the disappearance of the doughboys, the memory of the Great War has receded in our culture, and it ought not. The prosecution of the war was horrific, as were the casualties.
4. But for most Americans today, World War I is most remembered for setting the stage for the even worse World War II.
5. So I knew I needed to take the opportunity to preach on peace and the Christian vocation of peacemaking, so I chose as my text Matthew's version of the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God."
6. It's not difficult to understand that passage. At the start of his ministry, Jesus gathers a crowd and gives what we know as the Sermon on the Mount, laying out his vision of a world characterized by peace, justice, and plenty for all.
7. I didn't go into this part, but the "peace" part is of course a Greek translation of the Hebrew shalom, a wonderfully complex word that defies exact translation.
8. Shalom can mean "peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility," according to Wikipedia. It can mean good health or reconciliation. I like to think of it as being restored to the state of Eden before the fall.
9. Christians are called to build that peace, that shalom, in the world. "Blessed are the peacemakers," Jesus says: holy are they, happy are they - or happier.
10. When we live in God's way, Jesus says, we improve our lives. Poor people who depend on God don't have to worry about losing their money. Humble people don't have to be concerned with losing status or power.
11. And they all find more favor with God than the rich, the powerful, the military hawks seeking to keep their nation strong.
12. Very well. We will be happier if we work toward creating peace in the world. So how do we do that?
13. I think there are three levels to be concerned with: interpersonal, community, and global.
14. The interpersonal level is the simplest and probably therefore the most popular. Don't be a jerk. Don't be a jerk. Commit yourself to a thoroughgoing program of listening and understanding others without judgment.
15. Some people commit themselves to "non-violent communication." I personally try to stay away from violent metaphors, and to take a pass on outrage.
16. (I get hacked off like anyone else, but you'd be amazed at how much easier the latest atrocity is to deal with if you try to shift from HOW DARE THEY to Why did they do that?
17. On a community level, you can support anti-violence programs. Or simply make it clear that you do not and will not tolerate hatred, bigotry, racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia.
18. Seriously. You want to make a dent in the world? Put up one of those lawn signs declaring that you don't care where people are from, you're glad they're your neighbor.
19. Or get together with your local faith community to take out an ad or even a billboard putting yourself on record as opposing any kind of hate or bigotry in your area.
20. You'd be amazed how much just doing that much signals to the creepy-crawlies that their views are not acceptable. It keeps them slithering around under the rocks, where they should be.
21. At the same time, if you are someone who is threatened by blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, or other foreigners or immigrants, ask yourself why. Is it justified? What would Jesus tell you about responding to them?
22. And if you're threatened by someone who's threatened by those people, do the same thing. What's at stake? What do you have to lose? How should you respond in a way consistent with the gospels?
23. Please note that's not a call to turn the other cheek (that's another sermon), or in any way to soften your stance or let others off the hook. Just slowing down to think things through in itself makes peace.
24. On the global level, you can support sensible gun control legislation. Defeating the NRA and its minions *is* building peace.
25. You can also notice the divisions in our society - and who sponsors them. Refuse to be divided one from another, and don't be afraid to name who's doing the dividing. (Coff coff Donald Trump.)
26. And you can pressure your leaders to bring to an end the Forever War in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have been at war since 2003, and we still have no clear objectives or exit plans.
27. To say that is not to disrespect the troops or veterans, but I think to honor them by making sure their lives aren't thrown away needlessly.
28. Most of all, though, we can be the people God-in-Christ imagines we can be in the Beatitudes:

- We can be the people who recognize that we are incomplete and needful.
- The people who grieve both the loss of their own dead and the loss of the world's death...
28a. ...The people who refuse to become hardened to the grief and horror of just another mass shooting or just another black boy dead or just another atrocious policy in Yemen.
29. We can be the merciful, the people with their minds stayed on Jesus, the people who don't mind taking a lot of shit for believing and doing the right thing.
30. Is any of this easy, or immediately effective? Of course not! It's a very long term project.
31. But our lives will be happier for engaging the work, and the anniversary of what ended 100 years ago today serves as a reminder of what the alternative is.
32. The end. Go make a little peace tonight, and think about poppies.
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