August 8, 2019
On Wednesday morning I was praying Morning Prayer as part of my personal prayer practice, and I had one of the moments when the discipline of the pre-set readings for the Daily Office intersected with what was going on around me in an unexpected way. One of the canticles assigned for Wednesdays is the Benedictus Dominus Deus - the Song of Zechariah. These are the words of the prophet Zechariah after his son, John the Baptist, was born. He says that John will be the one who prepares the way for the Messiah by proclaiming a message of salvation and forgiveness. And it ends by saying:
"by the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace."
I often fall into the trap of thinking that peace is a destination. That someday, we will get there. That we will arrive at that moment in our nation and in our world and we will know peace.
But the Song of Zechariah called me back from that trap. Peace is not a destination. It is not a state we will achieve and then effortlessly remain in. Zechariah does not prophecy that our feet will be guided into peace, but rather, our feet will be guided into the way of peace.
Peace. Shalom (which is so much more than the absence of conflict, but rather the presence of harmony, wholeness, and welfare), is not a state we achieve. It is a way we choose to live. It is not a journey that ends, but rather our responses to the choices that we are presented with each day. Are we choosing harmony, wholeness, and welfare? Not just for ourselves and our own, but are we making the choices that lead to harmony, wholeness, and welfare for others too?
And furthermore, Zechariah does not prophecy that we are on the way of peace, but rather that our feet will be guided there. This, too, sounds right to me...because when I look around our world, it is clear to me that we are not already on the way of shalom, that we still need our feet need to be guided to that way.
It has been a brutal week in the news. Again.
Mass shootings have ripped through the heart of our nation. Again.
Xenophobia and white nationalism were motives for one of the crimes. Again.
As a nation, we sit in darkness and the shadow of death. Again.
We pray for those who have died. We pray for those who mourn. We pray for those who fear that their ethnicity or religion make them targets of this violence.
I've heard from many of you that you are angry. I've heard from some of you that you feel uncomfortably numb. From others that you have a sense of helplessness at the scope of the problem of gun violence in America. There are a multitude of reactions that we might have to this news, and all of them are real.
But we must know that peace is not a destination. Shalom is not something that will passively happen to us some day. If we want to achieve harmony, wholeness, and welfare for ourselves and others, then we will have to work for it. We will have to walk toward it. We will have to make hard choices, faithful choices, if we want to walk the way of peace. And then we will have to keep making hard and faithful choices if we want to stay on the way of peace.
May God give us the will to do so.
See you on Sunday, Kelly