PEACE AND RECONCILIATION

PEACE IS CENTRAL TO FOLLOWING JESUS

Peace Day 5

I was saddened by a phone call with Fr Martin Magill this morning. I mentioned how I thought he would be up to his neck in International Peace Day and he replied, "Oh it is good to know that someone knows about it."

International Peace Day is September 21st every year and that followers of Jesus have not taken such a day to their hearts is a sign of wrong priorities. Peace seems to have been demoted to lovely wee idea at the edges of Christian faith when it should up right and centre.

It was a few lines on Over The Rhine’s third Christmas record Blood Oranges In the Snow that torpedoed its way into my soul and shuddered me into reassessing this word, peace. As they sang…

 

“I hope that we can still believe

The Christ child holds a gift for us

Are we able to receive

Peace on earth this Christmas”

 

… something clicked for the first time. It is not a new line. I have been living with this line most of my life. I cannot remember a time in my childhood when I didn’t hear it at Christmas time. I heard it for years before I even believed that what it was talking about was any kind of reality. For the last thirty years I have worked the phrase annually. One of my other favourite bands U2 even had a song called this and I have written about that song.

However, this year, as my country’s peace process is unravelling and some of our politicians seem intent in speeding up its coming apart that near over familiar line, “Peace on earth this Christmas”,struck a chord as loud as any Jimmy Page strum and as spiritually powerful as an Old Testament prophet or actually a New Testament angel on the night God came to earth! 

“Peace, Steve, Peace” is what my soul kept repeating. It is not about justice or vengeance, it is not about proving who was right or wrong. It is not about us and them and us winning. The point of this mission that God had in coming to earth was peace. That peace was not just for my soul. It was about peace on earth. Anyone following this Jesus whose birth is heralded in this angel’s song should be all about peace. 

This of course is not an out of the blue declaration of a God reaching for some Plan B or C. The Old Testament was all about this peace; shalom is how the Jewish people said it. Shalom was God’s intention in the law given, for the King’s to achieve and for the prophets to critique the lack of. A favourite verse on the subject that I have blogged often is Jeremiah 29:7 “And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.” (NKJV)

Those who claim to follow the baby born when the angels sang need to find that priority of peace. That God’s people would seek shalom wherever they were was a way of being God’s holy nation, a people set apart, different, in all the right ways, from the other nations. We need to not blend in to the world’s intuitive response to seek to be proven right, in control and avenging all who would come against us. We need to be about that ministry of reconciliation that God told us we would be about just as we are connected to God himself through that same ministry of his peace making.

As my wee country’s politics drowns in political inertia. As we seem as intent on sectarian divisions and graceless soundbites and tweets as we ever have, we need, on International Peace Day, to see afresh this Gospel priority and commit to it with renewed courage, hope and all that grace that is intrinsic to the baby born and lacking in our current political climate. Peace. Let's haul it back from the edges... and no better day!

 


QUEEN ELIZABETH II - A TRIBUTE

Queen 4

I was so sorry this afternoon to hear that Queen Elizabeth II was gravely ill and that the family were gathering at her bedside. I gathered at my own dad’s bedside back in April. It was a tough few days and I prayed that the Royal Family would not a sense of the presence of God that I did back then. I am surprised at how emotional I am tonight hearing that she has passed away.

I am no monarchist. I struggle with entitlement, titles by birth, the decadent wealth of palaces and all the pomp and ceremony. I struggle with conquering Empires. I am sure someone could tell me that all of the investment in the Royal Family brand has a big return in Tourism so I will not surmise that now.

I did however really like Queen Elizabeth II. She’s been a constant in my 60 years on earth. During her recent Platinum Jubilee I marvelled at someone who has so committed to their vocation for 70 years. I mean most of us are looking forward to retirement heading towards 45 years in the workplace. Here is a woman still working, and serving for others, at 96. Fair play!

In her Christmas messages the Queen always went back to Jesus. She would always quote some Bible phrase and share some Christian wisdom. In the modern world where she was still Queen this was courageous and a sign of her own faith.

I most admired Queen Elizabeth II for her contribution to the Irish peace process. We could talk about that handshake with Martin McGuinness but I’d like to surmise her 2011 visit to Ireland. 

I had looked at it as a nice anaemic trip that would be a security nightmare. To my surprise it turned into a bombardment of iconic moments.

Suddenly the Queen of England is walking onto the pitch at Croke Park, home of the GAA and the place where the first Bloody Sunday took place in 1920; the British army murdering 13 fans and a player in brutal reprisal for their own agents and servicemen killed that morning. 

Then the Queen was opening her speech in Irish before getting as close to apology as any monarch can in her, “"things we wish had been done differently or not at all", and “we can bow to the past but we don’t need to be bound by it.” 

This was the ushering in of a new Ireland, still divided by a border but more united in its feelings and atmosphere than maybe anywhere else in its history. In her speech she also reminded us that she wasn’t on some safe throne away from the subjective pain of the Troubles but that she too has suffered, alluding to the death of her cousin Lord Louis Mountbatten at the hands of the IRA.

Queen Elizabeth and President McAleese were Heads of State and in some ways get little chance to change anything; that is the job of their Prime Ministers, Taoiseachs and governments. On this occasion, however, they seem to have outdone the powerful ones. 

Like me, but on the other side of our border, songwriter Luke Bloom watched on. Like me he expected little of significance. Like me he was suddenly engaged and moved by one simple moment when two women, significant in position but rarely potent with power sowed a seed that could change our island forever. 

For Luka as a Queen and a President remembered their dead together something happened. It was not dramatic but it was significant. Luka wrote the beautiful A Seed Was Sown:

A seed was sown

With a simple bow

Where we remembered our heroes

She said the time has come now

She laid her wreath

With dignity and grace

An eloquent silence

And softness in her face

She lowered her head down

And held the pose

My tears flowed freely

God only knows

She remembered our losses

She remembered her own

And in that moment

A seed was sown…..

Death is a sacred time. Part of it is the remembering of a life, the stories that we share. Some stories are new to us or come from a different angle. Some are funny, some warm hearted and some real lessons for life. 

As we watch and read obituaries this week, as we watch documentaries I pray that in our reflections we will be moved, particularly those in Northern Ireland who claim loyalty to her, by these brave, grace filled and prophetic actions of Queen Elizabeth II. 

Tonight I pray for the Royal Family in their grieving. We all know that heartache. I pray for a nation that cherished Queen Elizabeth II. God be with all who grieve. I pray also that we all might follow our now late Queen into the forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation that she has modelled for us all.


SURMISING THE RESPONSE TO MY TWEET OF MAGEEAN & MUIR

Muir Mageean

It all happened so quickly. Suddenly the image on my TV was athletes Laura Muir and Ciara Mageean lying on the track exhausted side by side after winning gold and silver in the 1500m at the European Championships. Ciara reaches out and they hold hands in success, friendship and respect.

It was a beautiful photograph of two elite athletes showing friendship and respect after going head to head for a coveted gold medal. 

I saw more. The Irish vest alongside a British vest, holding hands in joy and respect. It was an image of togetherness across nations and in this case two nations that have been fighting each other for centuries. An image that suggested how we might respect each other as we continue to seek peace and reconciliation after our most recent Troubles. 

I was immediately delighted at how the image resonated with so many friends on Facebook as well as Twitter buddies. Although the vast majority still like my Tweet, within hours it had turned a little confrontational. Be careful what you wish for with Retweets because the more the Retweets and therefore the further out from my own circles my Tweet went the more divisive the opinions.

Now, some of the comments I have understood. Laura Muir is obviously Scottish so many pointed that out. I even think that the Scottish nationalism debate was also being fuelled. Some from here in Ireland took vicious aim with all kinds of opinions, suggesting that I shouldn’t be politicising two athletes and giving me grief in other ways.

It is really the first time I have experienced such thoughtless animosity. I started to understand the abusive use of Twitter. From my light and instant Tweet people who have no idea who I am are lining up with opinions. What is it about us human beings of this generation that need to hurl angst and insults at neighbours who we don't even know.

A lot was being made of, and made up about, a Tweet that though I was intentional in Tweeting was not a deep major statement. “Here’s an image…” I stated. It wasn’t a story or even a blog like this one. It was a quick image. In that image Ciara from Northern Ireland is running for Ireland and Laura from Scotland is running for Great Britain.

The women are not so much my point as the vests. This was a Major Championships where one medaled for Ireland (wasn’t Ciara’s race tactics brilliant) and one medaled for Great Britain and Northern Ireland (what a burst of pace at the bell from Laura).

It was quick. It was simple. But I will not let those who obviously have issues that it, whom it would be difficult not to define as sectarian, to lose sight of the image. When we cannot get our politicians to sit in the Assembly they were elected to and we have bonfires with flags and effigies of people being burned on top of them then images like this one of Ciara and Laura are bright lights for a hopeful alternative. Indeed, an alternative to some of the Tweets my Tweet drew out.


SURMISING QUEEN ELIZABETH'S MOST PROPHETIC MOMENTS...

Liz and Mary

Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. Platinum! Wow? That is a big deal. Anyone who has committed to their vocation for 70 years deserves respect whoever they are or whatever they are doing. I mean most of us are looking forward to retirement heading towards 45 years in the workplace. Here is a woman still working at 96. Fair play!

I am no monarchist. I struggle with entitlement, titles by birth, the decadent wealth of palaces and all the pomp and ceremony. However, I am sure someone could tell me that all of the investment in the Royal Family brand has a big return in Tourism so I will not surmise that now.

I will surmise what I most admire about Queen Elizabeth II. I have come to most appreciate Queen Elizabeth’s contribution to the Irish peace process. 

In 2011 when the Queen visited Ireland, I had looked at it as a nice anaemic trip that would be a security nightmare. To my surprise it turned into a bombardment of iconic moments.

Suddenly the Queen of England is walking onto the pitch at Croke Park, home of the GAA and the place where the first Bloody Sunday took place in 1920; the British army murdering 13 fans and a player in brutal reprisal for their own agents and servicemen killed that morning. 

Then the Queen was opening her speech in Irish before getting as close to apology as any monarch can in her, “"things we wish had been done differently or not at all", and “we can bow to the past but we don’t need to be bound by it.” 

This was the ushering in of a new Ireland, still divided by a border but more united in its feelings and atmosphere than maybe anywhere else in its history. In her speech she also reminded us that she wasn’t on some safe throne away from the subjective pain of the Troubles but that she too has suffered, alluding to the death of her cousin Lord Louis Mountbatten at the hands of the IRA.

Queen Elizabeth and President McAleese were Heads of State and in some ways get little chance to change anything; that is the job of their Prime Ministers, Taoiseachs and governments. On this occasion, however, they seem to have outdone the powerful ones. 

Like me but on the other side of our border songwriter Luke Bloom watched on. Like me he expected little of significance. Like me he was suddenly engaged and moved by one simple moment when two women, significant in position but rarely potent with power sowed a seed that could change our island forever. 

For Luka as a Queen and a President remembered their dead together something happened. It was not dramatic but it was significant. Luka wrote the beautiful A Seed Was Sown:

 

A seed was sown

With a simple bow

Where we remembered our heroes

She said the time has come now

She laid her wreath

With dignity and grace

An eloquent silence

And softness in her face

She lowered her head down

And held the pose

My tears flowed freely

God only knows

She remembered our losses

She remembered her own

And in that moment

A seed was sown…..

 

So, on this week of Jubilee holiday and in many places celebration I pray for that seed sown. Over a decade later my hope is that those remembering Queen Elizabeth II this week, particularly those in Northern Ireland who claim loyalty to her, will remember these few brave, grace filled and prophetic days in 2011. I pray that they might follow Queen Elizabeth into the forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation that she has modelled for us all. 

In her Christmas messages the Queen always goes back to Jesus. Perhaps it was in Dublin in 2011 more than any other time in her 70 year reign, when she revealed her discipleship most. Respect! 


LIAM MCCLOSKEY: THE HUNGER STRIKER WHO INSPIRED ME TO PEACE

McCloskey

I was sorry to hear of the death this week of Liam McCloskey. McCloskey will probably be known in Irish history as one of the 1981 hunger strikers. For me he was an inspiration in forgiveness, understanding and reconciliation.

For the past decade I have found myself digging deep into my life as Fr Martin Magill and I have been quizzed about our reconciliation work together. We often say that at most of the events we end up learning something about each other… and about ourselves.

It therefore amazes me that I had missed a night at Queen’s University around 1983 or 84. I think it was probably and Outreach event. It was a seismic moment in the direction of my Jesus following for sure.

Basically two former paramilitaries Packy Hamilton formerly UVF and Liam McCloskey formerly INLA shared their stories of finding Jesus in prison. McCloskey’s story was particularly intriguing as he had been one of the Hunger Strikers, his mother bringing him off it after 55 days. These were powerful testimonies for sure.

Two things impacted me greatly. 

The first was something that shook me about Liam’s story. He told us that while he was on hunger strike he had read through the Bible. This amazed me at the time. A Catholic, Republican terrorist reading Scripture on hunger strike. I wondered about how we had considered the hunger striker? Did we think they were seeking God? Had we prayed for them?

That was a real humaniser for me. I started seeing hunger strikers as human. Republicans as human. Catholics as human… and that God was working away among humans that perhaps we had dismissed.

The second lasting image of the evening was the two men clearly reconciled. Both men admitted that just a few years earlier they would have killed each other BUT here they were now friends, brothers in Jesus. It was a strong symbol of reconciliation that lingered.

I remember the whole evening firing me up for peace and reconciliation. It broke down barriers. It built a foundation. 

I met Packy Hamilton a couple of times after that but I never saw Liam McCloskey again. I often wondered where he had ended up. On his death this week I watched an interview that he did with my friend Jonny Clark. I again found it inspirational.

Liam spoke of that reading through the Bible in the Maze prison and how he was struck by, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”. He also mentioned a line in St Francis of Assisi’s prayer, not so much “to be understood as to understand”. Forgiveness and understanding the British became very important for Liam. 

That is Liam McCloskey’s legacy for me. People can change. Jesus can be the centre of that change. We should rehumanise those we might have dehumanised and in forgiveness and understanding there can be a reconciled future for us all on this island.  


WAR IS OVER (DID WE WIN)

 

 

I wrote the lyric for this about World War 1. I was putting myself in the soldier's boots of the teenagers in Fitzroy who went off to war. From their unmarked graves they ask us what their sacrifice was worth? What kind of world did they give their lives for?

As Russia invaded Ukraine I had this sinking feeling that there would be more teenagers made to go through the hell of war. 

Surely we do not want this as the legacy won by our great grandparents and great uncles and aunts. The late twentieth century gave us some hope that another world war was beyond us. As we watch the horror of the Ukrainian invasion may our leaders hear the haunting voices of our beloved ghosts of the first two World Wars.

 

Thank you Jonny Fitch for an amazing co-write and performance...

 


FORGIVENESS? TOO TOUGH? TOO DEEP?

The_Railway_Man-144042116-large

It was almost as if the BBC were recognising that it was 4 Corners Festival Week. 

I was excited to see that the short film about Colin Davidson’s Silent Testimony Exhibit; Brendan Byrne’s Hear My Voice. It’s powerful and emotional

After it was over, I sat in silence and then a film started called The Railway Man. I was needing an early night but heard the word reconciliation so I watched on.

Colin Firth plays Eric Lomax who is a Railway enthusiast. On a train he meets Patricia, played by Nicole Kidman, and they fall in love and get married.

Lomax’s past haunts him. He was a Prisoner of War under the Japanese in Singapore, working on the Burma railway that also gave us the films The Bridge Over the River Kwai and To End All Wars.

In the camp, Lomax created a receiver to hear news about the war but was a accused of transmitting secrets too so he was tortured - beating, food deprivation and waterboarding. 

Thirty years later and Lomax is still dealing with psychological trauma. Watching him live out that trauma was harrowing for his wife and friends… and indeed us viewers. 

His best friend discovers that Lomax’s torturer, Takashi Nagase is still alive and working as a guide in a war museum in the very same place.

His wife encourages him to return to the scene of his trauma to deal with his past. When he arrives he confronts Nagase and interrogates him as he was. He lays out Nagase’s arm to break it… but cannot. He puts him in a cage and prepares to waterboard him… but cannot. 

He returns home and receives a letter of apology from Nagase and returns a second time with Patricia. In the very last scene, the torturer and the tortured meet. One says sorry. The other forgives. They actually become friends. Hollywood doesn’t like happy endings but this is a true ending.

I was drawn to Jesus words in the prayer he taught his disciples, “Forgive those trespass against us as we forgive those who trespass against us”.

Forgiveness is a tough word. A deep word. When are 4 Corners Festival used the theme Scandalous Forgiveness one year people asked us to change the word. In Northern Ireland we don’t like the idea. Too tough. Too deep.

I am convinced that it is Jesus way. Tough… deep… but Jesus way. Some have suggested that asking people to forgive can be like a second sentence. When people are going through the trauma of loss then we add the guilt of having to forgive. 

Jesus intention is the opposite. Jesus believes what Eric Lomax proved. Forgiveness is not about adding trauma. Forgiveness about releasing trauma. Once he forgave Lomax was healed. It was tough. It was more than tough. It was very deep. Yet, after he forgave Lomax had no more trauma.

In Northern Ireland we struggle that forgiveness might happen without justice… or repentance. That final scene had the tough and deep word forgive sitting alongside the tough deep word sorry.

On 4 Corners Festival week. That was a double whammy of TV programmes.


FOR THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF BLOODY SUNDAY - LET THE TRUTH STING

Bloody Sunday pic

 

For the people of Derry on the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday... and for ALL who were lost... and ALL who still feel the trauma...

 

"You are the salt of the earth"

- Jesus

 

"We lament the violent deaths of Bloody Sunday today. The very possibility of reconciliation in light of such deeds, might seem to be beyond us. Yet the gospel calls us to live beyond ourselves. Bless these and all grieving families, to whom we send love in Christ's name today."

Rev Dr David Bruce, Presbyterian Moderator by Tweet

 

"There are various attitudes that can be employed. There are those prefer to stoke the flames of rage, believing that the fire of anger will cleanse the wound r promote a modern agenda. There are others who want to let sleeping dogs lie and prefer not to grapple with uncomfortable truths that might disturb our comfort in the present.  But there is another way. It seeks to acknowledge the past but to have compassion and forgiveness for those who were caught up in systems and situations that they can now look at with other eyes. There is a grace-filled art in forgiving and remembering. It takes a wise heart to look at the rubble of what has been shattered in the past and to make it into a foundation for the future. If all we do with the past is to use it as a heap of angry stones to throw at other people, then we cannot build. Either we process the rubbish of the past and make it into life-giving compost - or it lies in the corner and benefits no-one. I hope that our celebrations this weekend will help us all to build a future full of hope for our young people and not nourish them on bitter anger that can only kills and destroy. A new society on the island needs big hearts. It will not be created by small minds."

from Bishop Donal McKeown’s homily at the 50th anniversary Mass of Remembrance for the Victims of Bloody Sunday

 

"And here watching the night

As it opens like a flower

And the day starts to rust

Feeling time pound

Like a silent hammer

On this empire of dust

And I'm thinking bout the bullet

And the TV screen, the dollar, and the clenched fist

And if we're searching for peace

How come we still believe 

In hatred as the catalyst

Oh through the borderline

In front and behind

One pain ending

While another begins

Lies, ruin, disease

Into wounds like these

Let the truth sing

Yeah 

Let the truth sting"

- from David Gray's song Let The Truth Sting

 

LET THE TRUTH STING

Lord in this 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday

We stop to remember the wounds of Derry today

The bullets of that day and the lives lost

The bullets that have continued to fly through these 50 years

The bullets still travelling in hearts, minds and souls

We pray for Derry today

And we pray for every other murderous event of our Troubles

And for all who were lost

And for all who have grieved

And fore all who continue to grieve

May the Holy Spirit be their comforter

God show us the wounds of our world

Show us the wounds of our society

Lord show us the wounds of our communities

Lord show us the wounds of our Churches

Lord show us the wounds of our friends

Lord show us our own wounds

Show us the lies, The ruin, The disease

Lord into wounds like these

Let the truth sting with healing and challenge

The truth of your love

The truth of your mercy

The truth of your justice

The truth of your cross and resurrection

The truth of your alternative Kingdom

Your will on earth as it is in heaven

Lord may I be the one who let’s the truth sting

May I live to let it sting

May I live to release it from leather pages

And lovely songs

And Church buildings

May I be the salt of the earth

To let the truth sting 

From my life

In my love

In my joy

In my peace

In my patience

In my kindness

In my goodness

In my faithfulness

In my gentleness 

And in my self control

Lord make the truth come alive in my flesh and blood

So, into lies, ruin, disease

Into wounds like these

Let the truth sting.


MY PERSONAL TRIBUTE TO FW DE KLERK

De Klerk

I was so sorry to hear about the death of FW de Klerk, former President of South Africa. Not only have I a deep love and connection with South Africa but one afternoon in 2002 I actually had the privilege of meeting him.

Between 2000 and 2008 I took University students to Cape Town. We were primarily building houses with habitat For Humanity but over the years added other prongs to the trip; HIV/AIDS, Fair Trade and Peacemaking. 

On the Peacemaking we invited David Smith from the PCI Youth Board to do sessions with the team before the trip and then to come with us to do some study in the field, so to speak. David pushed his luck. Being from Northern Ireland seems to give you access to some very influential people when it comes to peace and reconciliation. 

Somehow David pulled off the most amazing meeting with 

FW de Klerk, the former President of South Africa who released Nelson Mandela from prison and negotiated the democracy that came to that rainbow nation in 1994. 

Mr. de Klerk came and met us in a little Church hostel on Bree Street in Cape Town. The staff could hardly believe what was happening and who was walking through their little modest hostel.

There will be different opinions on FW de Klerk, perhaps even in obituaries written this week. In the end, whatever his failings de Klerk was the leader brave enough to end apartheid, free Nelson Mandela and set South Africa on a road towards democracy. Even when he came into power it would have been almost unfathomable. 

In my meeting with him I was nothing but impressed. Yes, afterwards we questioned a far from flawless political life BUT he was quite honest with us in the mistake that apartheid was and how the Bible has been so helpful in coming to terms with that. 

Reflecting his words back into 2002 N. Ireland, four years after the Good Friday Agreement and still bickering over power sharing and weapons decommissioning we were taken by the courage of de Klerk's leadership and his ability to bring his people with him in such a turnaround. We were discouraged that we saw no leaders back home with such gifts.

I picked up something from what he shared with us that has travelled with me down my work in reconciliation that I had no idea would even happen back then. 

He gave us various steps towards peace. It was the first two that grabbed my attention. 

The first step was to search yourself to the very marrow in order to make sure your motives were pure, in your attitude towards the other in your reconciliation and the ambitions that drive you. The second, he went on, was to check again in case you were bluffing yourself with how well you searched yourself! Clever preaching!

As I surmised the visit and what FW de Klerk shared I wrote this. I thank him for coming to meet us and for sharing his story of transforming his country from apartheid to democracy alongside Nelson Mandela. 

 

Search me oh God

Down to the very marrow of my soul

Take every selfish part of me away

That would stop me from being whole

Help me peer inside my prejudice

To see the incentive of all my actions

Make kind the reflexes of my heart

Make gentle the strength of my reactions

Help me squint at every weakness

That comes from family and neighbourhood

To smash all idols of destruction

And create the art of all that is good

Search me oh God

Down to the very marrow of my soul

Take every selfish part of me away

That would stop me from being whole

And when I’ve let you search oh God

Believing to be in Your Spirit’s collusion

Let me look just one more time

For any remnants of my own delusion.


PEACE - GOD'S PRIORITY, COMMAND AND COMMITMENT

Peace day 21

 

The first time I heard Over The Rhine sing Another Christmas... 

“I hope that we can still believe

The Christ child holds a gift for us

Are we able to receive

Peace on earth this Christmas”

… something went off deep within me. It is not a new line. I have been living with this line most of my life. I cannot remember a time in my childhood when I didn’t hear it at Christmas time. I heard it for years before I even believed that what it was talking about was any kind of reality. For the last thirty years I have worked the phrase annually. One of my other favourite bands U2 even had a song called Peace On Earth and I have written about that song.

However, it was during one of Stormont’s far too many crises and I was surmising that peace was not high on some of our politicians’ agendas that that near over familiar line, “Peace on earth this Christmas”, struck a chord as loud as any Jimmy Page strum and as spiritually powerful as an Old Testament prophet or actually a New Testament angel on the night God came to earth! 

“Peace, Steve, Peace” is what my soul kept repeating. It is not about justice or vengeance, it is not about proving who was right or wrong. It is not about us and them and us winning. The point of this mission that God had in coming to earth was peace. That peace was not just for my soul. It was about peace on earth. Anyone following this Jesus whose birth is heralded in this angel’s song should be all about peace. 

This of course is not an out of the blue declaration of a God reaching for some Plan B or C. The Old Testament was all about this peace; shalom is how the Jewish people said it. Shalom was God’s intention in the law given, for the King’s to achieve and for the prophets to critique the lack of. A favourite verse on the subject that I have blogged often is Jeremiah 29:7 “And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.” (NKJV)

Those who claim to follow the baby born when the angels sang need to find that priority of peace. That God’s people would seek shalom wherever they were was a way of being God’s holy nation, a people set apart, different, in all the right ways, from the other nations. We need to not blend in to the world’s intuitive response to seek to be proven right, in control and avenging all who would come against us. We need to be about that ministry of reconciliation that God told us we would be about just as we are connected to God himself through that same ministry of his peace making.

On this International Day Of Peace, I am wearing my John Lennon War Is Over t-shirt. The strap line is “if we want it”.  The love, the reaching out across our divides, the scandalous forgiveness, the imagination to find ways to compromise. We need to want it.

God demands that we want it. Peace is high on God's agenda. He declares it. He commands it. He seeks that we would be committed to it. We need to see afresh this Gospel priority and commit to it with renewed courage, hope and all that grace that is intrinsic to the baby laid in the manger.

Ephesians 2 - 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Peace.