The Drumbeat of Peace

March 12, 2014

China is “boosting its defense budget by 12.2 percent” in the coming year. So says the budget report released at the annual meeting of the People’s Congress last week. Scott Pelley of CBS News talked about how it has been ten years since a western reporter has been allowed to ask a question to the Party Leader at the Congress. Seth Doane asked about the increase in defense funding. What is the reason? Tuesday, March 4, 2014. Fu Ling, Party Chair, responds to Doane’s question: “It takes power to maintain and preserve peace.” And so it is with the world’s superpowers. And so it has been throughout history. As long as we have the guns and the manpower and the nuclear weapons and the nuclear submarines and so on and so forth, peace is possible. So what happens when the power wanes?  The Ancient Greeks and Romans know what happens. Power rises and falls in the world. As long as there is power to maintain borders, a country stands; when that is gone, the game ends. The world turns round and round; the players may change but the story does not. Truthfully, neither do the outcomes. Over 20 years ago, I was leading a brief worship service at Methodist College to open the Annual Meeting of United Methodist Women in North Carolina. It was October just after the war in Iraq had begun. I designed the worship as a Vigil for Peace. A dear friend came to me after the worship. Her husband served a church in Fayetteville where there were many members who were part of the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg. She said something to me that I have never forgotten, “You know, members of the 82nd Airborne think they ARE the peacemakers.”  I understand, and since that time have worked to carefully walk the tightrope between what I know and what I believe. What I know is that there are noble and brave men and women who throughout history have given themselves to the work of freedom and security. Many have made ultimate sacrifices of their lives, limbs, mental health and more on my behalf. I am a beneficiary of their sacrifice and I give thanks for them. What I believe is that we humans have never tried the ways of peace spoken by the prophet Isaiah long ago: "Come, let us go up to the house of the Lord… that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths… He shall judge between the nations and decide for many peoples and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”  (From Isaiah 2) When Jesus is telling his disciples farewell, he tells them that the Advocate will come among them, teaching them. Jesus gives them peace as a parting gift. “Peace I leave with you, my peace, not as the world gives, but as I give to you.” Then he calls them to be unafraid. What does evil do in the face of fearlessness, the way of peace? Does it sulk away into shadow? Can it even look at itself in the face of righteousness? Or like Javert in Les Miserables, in the face of a good and righteous Jean Valjean, give itself to death?  The blood of the martyrs tell part of the story of peace. Is the peace of God even possible as long as human pride exists? Throughout these 40 Days of Lent, find a place of peace in your own spirit and reflect on your notions of peace. Hear the drumbeat of peace through out all of history. To what is it calling you?      

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