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John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (NRSV)
Jesus told His disciples that there would be wars and rumours of wars, and that nation would rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. He spoke these words as they stood in awe of the magnificent buildings and stone structures of Jerusalem, especially the temple that seemed so vast and solid that it would stand forever. "Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down," Jesus said. (Mark 13:2b NRSV)
Less than 50 years after Jesus uttered these words, the temple lay in ruins, destroyed by the Roman invaders, and the prophecy of Jesus came true.
Since the coming of the Prince of Peace, Whose birth was heralded by an angelic chorus singing, "Peace on earth, goodwill to all people", there have been wars and rumours of wars. Impressive buildings, from cathedrals to skyscrapers, have toppled to the ground. Bombs have levelled city blocks and entire cities. Precious lives have been lost or scarred forever.
During the first great world war, once called "the war to end all wars", trench warfare and mustard gas poisoning were added to the list of horrors endured by those sent forth to battle. It was followed by a peace that lasted about twenty years.
On Remembrance Day or Veterans' Day, we will remember, with gratitude, those who went to war for peace, seeking to halt the spread of evil and contain aggressors. Yet, we also remember, with sadness and regret, our own failure to live in the peace that God intended.
My mother once told me her story of what happened in Muirkirk, a little town in Scotland, in 1918, the year "the war to end all wars" ended. My mother and her four-year-old twin sister were having a tea party on the old gravestones that dotted the churchyard. Her father was the church beadle — the caretaker — the one who held the keys to the church and graveyard and carried in the Scriptures before worship.
As the little girls drank their pretend tea, my mom heard a commotion in the street. When she turned around, she saw Mr. Henderson, the minister, running through the town shouting, "I need the keys! I need the keys! Open the church! The bells have got to ring! The war is over. The bells have got to ring!" Mr. Henderson had just received the news by telegram at the local post office.
As the bells rang, a plane flew overhead dropping white discs that floated from the heavens like tiny snowflakes. On each disc there was a message: "Peace". It was 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
The story that my mother told me about the end of "the war to end all wars" points to the truth about the peace that begins all peace: peace is God's gift to us, and it falls gently from the heavens.
Lasting peace comes from God through the ministry of the Prince of Peace, Who breaks down the dividing wall of hostility that separates us from God and from one another. He gives us the grace to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us and to pray for those who wrong us. He enables us to become peacemakers.
What then is our task as peacemakers? Each day, peacemakers choose to love and serve God as heavenly Father, treating all people as brothers and sisters.
Let us choose to be peacemakers, for blessed are the peacemakers and blessed is the world that we are making as we choose to love and serve God by loving and serving others.
Prayer: Loving God, help us always to seek the way of peace, to work for the good of others, and to pray for those who govern the nations of the world, that all Your people may dwell in unity and harmony. Amen.