It’s been way too long since I’ve written anything. And, I’m learning it’s true. Use it or loose it. But here goes….
As one year closes and another begins there is no denying there is much violence in the world today. We have experienced a loss in our collective sense of security in this country, and the world. The last few months I have pondered, worried, fretted, and wallowed the hair off the world situation and where my place might be in all of the hatred and violence. What can I possible be do to make one positive iota of difference. Some people, I observe, buy guns. Big guns, small guns, tasers, shotguns, semi-automatic guns. Maybe to them, being prepared for possible violence is the way to maintain a measure of peace in a world gone ballistic. This is frightening to me. To think that people are walking around with guns in purses and cars seems like moving backwards. Others, I observe, say that gun control is the only answer to the madness. If no one has a gun, no one can shoot innocent victims. This seems unrealistic to me. People who want to do violence are going to find ways to be violent. People who want to do violence do not care about the rules. I keep wondering why people want to do violence to others in the first place. What is the pain and cause behind the anger? The problem is complicated so I can’t expect my little brain to have the answer to the violence of the world.
The only thing I can do is to try to find some way to assimilate the fear of the “what ifs” into my life in such a way that I can maintain my peace. To find a way to digest the inevitable worry that I feel from the news reports so I can appreciate the beauty and joy of this amazing gift we know as life. To find a way to be peaceful….and to be peace…in spite of the chaos of the times. I’m thinking of a picture I saw years ago of a bird, a tiny bird in a nest perched on a twig growing out of the rock of a waterfall, the water rushing all around the twig while the bird sat securely in the nest. The caption was “peace”. I saw it years ago and only thought of it recently. Isn’t it amazing how our brains file things away for later use. So, I’ve been hanging on (pun intended) to this image as of late in an effort to discern where I am to be in the world today.
In a contemplative Bible study I’m in there has been much discussion of how we, as followers of Christ, are to be peace in a world that is polarized in so many ways. From the Gospels I continue to “hear” violence is never the solution to violence. Only peace can bring about true peace. But that seems naive and scary. And weak. Counter to everything that seems logical. But then, isn’t that the scandal of Christ, turning all our preconceived notions upside down of who’s right and who’s wrong, who’s in and who is out.
Recently I officiated the wedding of a young couple. They are like many young couples today. They have been together a long time and they came to this decision to get married intentionally and unhurried. (Unlike Tom and I who were 21, barely formed embryos!) The bride was raised as a Christian protestant and the groom’s immediate family heritage is Persian, Islamic. The couple is not particularly religious but wanted to get married by a Christian pastor and to honor both of their family heritages. When we met to discuss the service they told me his family wanted his uncle wanted to do a traditional Persian blessing and said they thought maybe it could happen as an add on after the Christian service. The more we talked the more I realized the opportunity before us. This needed to be one wedding service in which both cultures and faith traditions could be recognized, honored, and celebrated. I really sensed this was important but I wasn’t sure how it was all going to work. Walking in to the rehearsal the day before the wedding I worried how this would go. Would the uncle resent a Christian woman officiating the service? How did the groom’s family feel about this as well? Would the bride’s family think the way I would handle the service be Christian ENOUGH? I shouldn’t have worried so much.
A gracious partnership developed as we prepared the service together and, as a result, all present had an opportunity to experience love of God and love of neighbor. During this wedding service passages from the Bible were read. Passages from the Koran were read. Christian prayers were offered and Persian blessings were offered. Each faith tradition was celebrated with integrity and each was respected by the other. It was a little chaotic in places, maybe even a little awkward in moments. But Love was present. Peace was present. And it seemed, from the response of many there, it was a welcome moment of connection at a time in history when there is so much disconnect. Connection in our joy for these two as they pledged their lives to one another. People of the world may have many differences, polarizing differences, but we share a bond in our common humanity and our desire to understand what that means in the larger picture. If that can be celebrated in peace and in love….well, it’s a start. A baby tiny pebble of a start, but a start. We were all just like that little bird, held in the moment of unity amidst a world of rushing polarity. And it felt great! At least to me it did. And to others, I think.
The Bible records Jesus’ first miracle as being when he changed water into wine at a wedding. His mother noticed the host had run out of wine and prodded Jesus to do something about it. He told her it wasn’t his time yet but, being like most mothers who “know” our children’s gifts better than they do, she wouldn’t take no for an answer and told the servers to do everything Jesus told them to do. So, he told them to fill up the large jars that had earlier been used for ritual cleaning and were now set aside with water. They did as he said. He then told them to take some of the water to the wine steward for tasting. They did as he said. The wine steward was blown away by the quality and flavor of the “wine” and remarked that normally the host would serve the best wine first and then the inferior wine after the guests were all wined up, but this wine he was tasting was so much better than what had been served earlier. This was a pivotal message for the world, much larger than the taste of the wine. In transforming a sterile ritual vessel into a source of true communion and hospitality, Jesus was calling the people then, and us today to a new way of being in relationship with God and with one another. A way that moves past rituals and rules to true community. And in true community peace can grow. At this recent wedding I felt that Jesus had performed such a miracle in my own heart as I did my best to follow his commandment to love God and love neighbor. Maybe it is as simple (and difficult) as that. To offer up our ordinary selves in trust and let God, who is Love, turn us into peace. It’s a start. A tiny twig of a start but, a worthy perch don’t you think?
Something to chew on….