We know it better by its absence. On the days, in which you can not win, you have stepped in every puddle, hit every red light, and just can not catch a break, you might be looking for it. When the mailbox is filled with bills, the inbox is overflowing, and the schedule has no white space, you might be searching it out. When you are waiting for results, need a friend to fix their side of the broken divide, and the pain does not let up, you could almost touch it.
Peace could be the absence of war, but peace is also the presence of something even better! Today, we share “Peace” as the last of our songs, in the summer Gospel in Music series. “Peace”, this song was written last year by the contemporary church and group, HillSong. Ben Hastings, the primary songwriter, wrote it for his wife, Jessie. He wanted her to have a song to sing when she experienced a panic attack as she navigates multiple anxiety disorders. He wanted her to have hope in the darkest moments and blessings to hang onto, when peace seemed fleeing. This is not intended to replace the essential work of psychotherapy, rather to supplement her resources work towards peace.
Let’s take a look for a moment at that word, peace. It makes a strong appearance in both of this morning’s readings. From Numbers, in Hebrew, the word is shalom. From Matthew, in Greek, the word is Eirene. The word means wholeness or completeness, referring to a stone, that is without cracks, or a wall that has no missing bricks or gaps. Shalom refers to something that is complex with lots of parts. Job says that his tents are in shalom, because he has counted his flocks and no animals are missing (Job 5:24). We can wish one another shalom or ask about another’s wellbeing with question of shalom ?
Shalom reminds us that life is complex and moving parts. When anyone of these breaks down, is missing or needs to be restored, we shalom it. Bringing shalom is the act of making complete or to restore. Solomon gets the distinction of bringing shalom to the unfinished temple, by completing it (1 Kings 9:25). If your animal has gotten out and wreaked havoc, you bring shalom by giving a complete repayment. You take what’s missing and restore it to wholeness. This is the same principle in relationships; reconciling is bringing shalom. Shalom is not just when rival kingdoms stop fighting, but rather, when they actually start working together.
Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen tells this story about her family: My grandmother — my grandfather’s wife, the rebbetzin — in Russia they were quite poor, and they often fed members of the community. Being the rabbi’s home, people came there. So, my grandmother was used to making things stretch and go a long way. And in this country, her icebox was filled with food, when they came over to America, because she had been hungry in Russia. The kitchen was the center of the house. The icebox was filled with food. Every nook and cranny was full to the brim. And it was told, in my family, that if someone opened the door of the icebox without caution, an egg might fall out and break on the kitchen floor. And my grandmother’s response to these accidents was always the same. Apparently, she would look at the broken egg with satisfaction and say, “Aha. Today, we have a sponge cake.”
The response is everything. The response cultivates shalom. And in case, a delicious sponge cake! This state of shalom was the role of every one of Israel’s kings to cultivate. No king was fully effective; some kings were more successful than others. Others failed miserably seeking peace elsewhere from foreign Gods. However, it was the birth of the Prince of Shalom, Jesus the Christ, that fulfilled the prophets’ call for a Prince of Shalom who would usher in a reign of shalom that would never end. This time would make right all wrongs and heal all broken heartedness. Jesus fulfills this vision, restoring to wholeness the broken relationship between God and humanity. We, who are called to be Jesus followers, know Jesus as peace and work for peace. Now, peace takes lots of work as together, we restore brokenness to wholeness.
In Hebrew, the phrase used is Tikkun ollam, we are called to work on the restoration of the world by repairing and restoring relationships as where there are breaches or breaks in creation. All people who have been born, previously been born, and will yet to be to be born are all healers of the world. We heal the world together. This is not done in one fell swoop, one large activity, and it is accomplished. It begins and grows. We do so with touches and over time until the fullness of the Kingdom of God is realized.
On Wednesday, about thirty people from seven different churches representing the Avon Grove Ministerium gathered to pray for our schools. This tradition began decades ago with the vision and faithfulness of late Marge Pickel, who died this year. A laywoman from Avondale Presbyterian Church, Marge brought her vision of prayer walking the schools to the Ministerium and remained committed to praying for peace and wholeness in our schools and community. Five years ago, I was humbled as Marge passed the torch to me to continue how we might share peace and prayer in our schools and community.
Seeds continue to grow. Two women from Church of the Vineyard have been praying for the prayer walk all year long. They prayed for God to use them to restore brokenness in their communities. One woman, from Maryland, and another woman, from Delaware. The Holy Spirit is working within them to develop a prayer walk within their home districts to pray with and for their schools, teachers and students. When we seek peace and wholeness for our communities, God shows us a path.
This year, we were scheduled to start at 9:30am in the High School Lobby, and by 9:10am, we already had an excited and eager group of pray-ers. Prayer partners, pastors, youth workers, parents and children, youth, and grandparents all came in seeking peace and wholeness for our children and teachers.
Whenever there is a ministerium gathering, there is an opportunity for people who have not yet met to meet. I was helping one family sign up for schools to pray in, when I heard the words: “full healing and wholeness”. Four women, who just met were gathered in a circle holding hands. Their heads were bowed, and a single voice was speaking. Some heads began to nod along, and I heard “Yes, Jesus.” As these women introduced themselves, a need for prayer arose. They began to pray. Shalom is the wholeness and completeness, so there is nothing missing. Not physical health or emotional compassion or love for one another, not a single sheep from the fold of God. As the priestly blessing in Numbers reminds us, we bless one another.
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace
Even as we gathered to pray for the schools, touches of shalom were offered to each other as they prepared to pray for teachers.
Like the disciples were given from Jesus in Matthew 10, we offered practical advice on for prayer walk. As you pray with those in the schools, bless the room. Many will receive this blessing and even offering blessing in return. There were teachers who asked us to come and pray in their rooms. Others who put up this year’s blessing card next to last year’s card. Even those who told us classroom preparations would not be complete without prayer. And for those whom you offer blessing and it does not resonate, let the peace return to you.
For shalom and Eirene are both personal and communal. We see glimpses of our soul at peace within Christ, even as we work for a world, we ache to know peace when God’s kingdom fully known both here and now as well as then and there. Whether you are going back to school, have children or grandchildren going to school, or you primarily notice the change in the bussing on the roads, we all seek God’s enduring and complete wholeness, peace, especially in times of change, uncertainty, and anxiety for our community. God calls us to co-laborers in shalom and reminds us that Jesus the Christ, Prince of Eirene leads us.
Do not be afraid!
And when life hands you a broken egg, make a sponge cake!
This is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen!
The Bible Project: Word Study: Shalom: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLYORLZOaZE.
Referenced in books My Grandfather’s Blessings and Kitchen Table Wisdom https://onbeing.org/programs/rachel-naomi-remen-the-difference-between-fixing-and-healing-nov2018/#transcript
Old Testament Lesson: Numbers 6:22-26
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 10:5-13
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, August 25~ Saturday, August 31
” The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them” Numbers 6: 22-23. Blessings are opportunities to offer God’s best to others. Who are you blessing?
” The Lord bless you and keep you” Numbers 6: 24. Shalom, peace and wholeness in relationship, begins to return to earth, when we seek blessing for those with whom we have broken relationships. Pray today this blessing, The Lord bless you and keep you, over the name of one with whom you have had a broken relationship.
” The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you” Numbers 6:25. Consider that God’s grace shows in our faces, when we know peace.
“The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” Numbers 6: 26. Complete peace is wholeness. Where are you praying for peace today? Ask a friend to join you in that prayer. Then offer to be in prayer for their complete peace as well.
” As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’” Matthew 10: 7. As you go, reminds us that there is no wrong place to share that God’s kingdom is already coming near us. Wherever you are, share about seeking God’s peace for all people. As you go, share God’s call to reconciliation and wholeness.
“As you enter the house, greet it.” Matthew 10:12. Pray for those in each place you enter. Pray for the peace of Christ to be in their home.
” If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.” Matthew 10: 13. Consider that peace and shalom are the complete wholeness of who God made us each to be. When the world lives in shalom, we reflect the fullness of God’s image. Pray for how you might share repair relationships with others in working towards God’s shalom.