If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
We've been working on "norm engineering" in our church lately, together learning that our "normals" are each unique and different. That helps us walk in humility, value different expressions, and constantly learn from each other as we follow Jesus together. There is so much to learn from the world and people around us. As I was thinking about this, a story came to mind from the First Nations people outside of Toronto a few years ago while working on my masters.
My cohort toured a residential school that has become a museum and cultural center. We learned that Canada, like the United States, has a deep scar in their past due to forced assimilation of indigenous people into western culture. Native children were taken from their families and land and forced into English speaking schools that stripped them of their language, cultural traditions, and stories. They were terribly abused and mistreated. It was heartbreaking to hear the stories of a survivor who remembered this as a child. However, in the wake of this terrible sin, an effort is being made by the Hodinohshoni people to reclaim their beautiful culture and give the world a glimpse of who they are.
As a new generation of Hodinohshoni shared their stories, I was captivated by one of their traditions. When a peace treaty was made between tribes, a gift called a Wampum Belt was offered from one clan to another. Wampum are white and purple tubular beads made from the inside of Conch shells. They are very small, and even a skilled worker can only make about four per hour. The beads are then woven together and presented as a symbol of living in peace together. Each design tells a unique story.
Here's the thing. There are a ton of beads in a Wampum Belt. I did the math. The one I was looking at took about 900 hours to make! Nine. Hundred. Hours.
And you thought my last sermon was long.
If you only made beads straight for 40 hours a week, that would take almost 23 weeks. The labor intensive process made a wampum belt very special, and it symbolized a timeless reality...
It takes hard work to make peace.
(moment of silence to sit with a challenging truth) Repairing broken relationships requires immense time and energy. Seeking understanding with others is incredibly time consuming. Choosing love over winning an argument isn't just something that happens. It can only occur if we are working for hours, days, and weeks to let Jesus soften our hearts enough to be formed in a new way. We must sit with Jesus, inviting him to chip away a lot of stone.
Thankfully, this is what Jesus does best. Central to the good news of Jesus is the understanding of making peace in every meaning of the word. Jesus, through entering into humanity, revealing what God is truly like, and absorbing the sin and violence of the world, makes peace with us by extending radical forgiveness and love. From there, we are also called to make peace with one another, to seek to live in unity and gentleness, moving beyond our labels, assumptions and selfishness and into a life of everyday reconciliation. Spoiler alert: That's going to take even more than 900 hours. That's going to take all of the hours. So let's get to it. Thank goodness we're not doing it without the Holy Spirit.
May we trust the work of Jesus in us, and carve out time in our lives and spirits to be peacemakers. May we weave our internal moments together with external expressions of mercy, compassion, and reconciliation. And may our work tell a story to the world that peace and understanding are more valuable than dominance and competition.
Jesus, you gave everything to make peace with us. May we commit to the long term work of weaving your love into something beautiful in the world.
Peace to you today,