Peace is an Action
In the Gospel this week, Jesus has “set his face toward Jerusalem.” He is sending messengers ahead of him to prepare the way. Yet one Samaritan community refuses to receive him. The disciples are quick to want to bring violence upon them: John and James want to set the town ablaze!
Their reaction is striking. Even the closest of disciples are susceptible to their own reactive and violent tendencies when others do not accept them/nor their message. This passage is a helpful reminder for us. Our defensive and destructive habits are difficult to break even as we journey in faith.
-At this point in their journey the twelve have already been spreading the good news and curing diseases.
-They have already been told “if someone does not receive you, shake the dust off your feet.”
-They have already fed the 5000.
-They have already heard the Beatitudes.
In the Gospel of Luke, Peace is emphasized as coming through the Spirit and it is also associated with God’s Glory. Peace and Glory. From the very beginning of the Gospel we hear: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
While we understand that Love is an action, We often don’t consider Peace as an action. Many understand the definition of Peace as lack of violence - or the absence of war.
How do you understand Peace? It is not simply doing nothing. It’s an activity. Sometimes it is choosing to do nothing which is not indifference. Peace has intention behind it. Peace needs to be created.
Jesus’ message is about just that. Peace is used fourteen times in Luke. He is building bridges between those who do not get along. The parable of the Good Samaritan comes from this Gospel.
When the disciples respond reactively to the Samaritan community, Jesus rebukes them. The passage says they simply continue on their way to the next village. Jesus does not have to stop to consider his response. He keeps moving forward. In fact, he has to turn to John and James in his reprimand, suggesting he is in continual motion. He has set his face forward.
Not only have the disciples missed the mark. They seem particularly dense at times (not unlike us). They are called to Jesus’ message (the greater message of God) but get misdirected by their own predispositions.
Do you Remember the Beatitudes: What he says about out enemies?
But to those of you who will listen, I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.
Remember what he says about Judgment and Forgiveness?
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38Give, and it will be given to you.
1Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye? 42How can you say, ‘Brother,c let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while you yourself fail to see the beam in your own eye?
Finally he ends with: Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I say? 47I will show you what he is like who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them: 48He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid his foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the torrent crashed against that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.
This is what comes from finding peace within ourselves. People will mistreat us. People will judge and condemn us. People will disagree with us. But if we have a good foundation it will not completely shake us.
As Author and Franciscan Brother, Richard Rohr, states:
“Many of us think we are converted to Christ, but without the conversion of our emotional reactions, we remain much like everyone else…
He goes on to say:
…The next time you are offended, consider it a “teachable moment.” Ask yourself what part of you is actually upset. It’s normally the smaller or ego self [which isn’t your converted self]. If we can move back to the big picture of who we are in God, our True Self, we’ll find that what upset us usually doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in objective reality! But we can waste a whole day (or longer) feeding that hurt until it seems to have a life of its own and, in fact, “possesses” us. At that point, it becomes what Eckhart Tolle rightly calls our “pain-body.”
Predispositions that hurt us and “take on a life of their own” were known to the desert mothers and fathers as “the passions.” Paul refers to them as things “of the flesh” the things that contribute to the pain body: “enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, adultery…It is a list of things that literally cause the “pain body.”
That is what Paul means when he says you will not inherit the Kingdom of God. It is not an arbitrary list that makes someone a bad person therefore we will be punished. It is a list of things that we are prone to - and that have the potential to cause pain to ourselves in a cascading domino effect… then there is no peace for ourselves or others - or for the Kingdom of God.
But if we all (literally all) were to spend time becoming awake to the passions that dominate us personally; that create such reactive emotions; we would start to uncover our true foundation.
The Gospel today is also a reminder that Jesus is not just "on the way" but Jesus "is the way.”
As we journey in our own spiritual development with him we learn to shake the dust off of our feet.
We learn to let slights slough off of us, we learn to forgive, we stop holding up a target for insults (real or imagined). We strive to keep our Spirits alive, healthy and moving forward toward a Peaceable Kingdom.
After this incident (or non incident with the Samaritans) in the Gospel there is a distinct separate piece. Our passage transitions into a portion that includes three statements from Jesus about what is necessary to follow the way. Essentially, they all boil down to one thing: your willingness is required immediately. We are moving in a direction and we cannot rest from it.
What’s interesting about this trio of statements is that they sound harsh and like an impossible feat. Yet, in the very next passage Jesus has commissioned 72 of his followers to go out and heal. (And they do.)
He tells them: 5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.”
From here on out we hear the gift of Peace is ours.
Jesus’ final words before his ascension is that he is offering us the promise from the Father. We will be clothed with the power from on high. We are to be clothed in Peace. This is our inheritance: The Gift of Peace.
There is a lot of turmoil and division in our society right now. Not simply divisions among those who are different from ourselves. We are facing divisions among community members, friends, and family. War, vaccines, the recent Supreme Court decisions… We are facing into these important issues in what feels like a never ending stream of exhaustion.
And as followers of Christ, we have one questions to ask ourselves. Am I going to be drawn into something reactive that is destructive… or am I going to keep moving forward building an environment of peace?
I’ll end with Paul’s words:
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control….If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
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The Rev. Heather K. Sisk