United for Peace
Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
November 4, 2007
Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
November 4, 2007
Let us pray: Like Zacchaeus, help us, O God, to lose our fear of stepping outside our place, of doing things differently, of seeking Christ in our lives. Christ’s invitation awaits us to start anew, to make amends, to live in Christ’s way. God of change and renewal, we give thanks for your love that makes this possible for each one of us. Amen.
My image of God is firmly rooted in the idea that everything is connected. I once voiced this imagination by making reference to something like a popcorn garland, you know, the homemade tree decoration that involves sewing popped kernels of corn together. Imagine a garland where each part of creation is one of those kernels, connected by the thread which ties the garland together, the ends of which extend out into the universe. We know the thread forms a loop, but just where that loop goes we cannot see, but how it is connected is an important sign of the transcendence of God’s presence in our lives. God is both the thread and the garland. In other words, we are all, every piece of creation, connected as part of the divine presence, but also left to wonder just how that connection occurs beyond the limits of our imagination. Faith consists of the trust that the thread indeed is a loop, the two ends are connected, even though we can’t see how or where.
It takes another plane of imagination to add in the past and the future. This is not a vision which exists only in the present. That garland ties everyone and everything together from the past and into the future.
I invite you to keep that vision in mind, as I describe the connection we are called and challenged to imagine on this day. We heard the story of Zacchaeus, a story of acceptance and transformation. We heard the encouragement of Paul for a young community of Christians, we heard the heartfelt cries of anguish and faithful assurance of Habakkuk. We are challenged to imagine ourselves as stewards - people who live what we believe and dedicate the resources with which we’ve been blessed to the cause of faithful living. Stewardship includes a generosity of spirit which blesses and offers radical inclusion instead of curse and condemnation. How did Jesus spend those resources in his encounter with the tax collector Zacchaeus? He could have been like the rest of the crowd and at best ignored this curious onlooker and at worst heaped condemnation and exclusion upon him. Instead he tapped a well of acceptance of inclusion - a well which exists within each of us - and offered a new kind of relationship to Zacchaeus. Of course it was a relationship, a two way connection, so Zacchaeus also showed a generosity of spirit which demonstrated a willingness to transform his life and work. Stewardship is about the way we spend all the resources we’ve been given - the resources of compassion, acceptance, willingness to learn, and willingness to change.
Today is peace sabbath - and the day designated by the United Church of Canada as the launch of the United for Peace campaign. You may have seen the bulletin boards that Sharon Veitch has put together to illustrate this event in our life together as a community of people connected to other congregation members across our denomination and our connection with people whose lives are affected by violence all around the world. The campaign has a threefold aim - learn, act and give. It stems from a commitment made by commissioners at the 39th General Council in the summer 2006 out of grave concern for the situation in Israel and Palestine. The scope of the campaign has been broadened by the General Council Executive to also address violence and the need to work toward just peace in Canada and in other parts of the world. The campaign encourages congregations to learn, act, and give to address gender violence, children affected by violence, conflicts over resources, religion, and ethnicity, and small arms/gun violence.
Real peace cannot exist without justice. Resources must be distributed equitably for peace to be a way of life for all people. Peace cannot come about by simply ridding our minds or our hearts of all concern about injustice. Peace cannot come about if a privileged few tell the needy many to stop their fighting for justice. This is also about stewardship, the way we invest the resources we’ve been given - resources of ingenuity, resources of freedom, resources of opportunity and yes, resources of money, to bring justice to every facet of our lives.
Jesus’ response to Zacchaeus was a peacemaking response. Zacchaeus’ interest in Jesus was a peacemaking gesture. Paul’s encouragement to the Christian community in Thessalonica was peacemaking and Habakkuk’s lament was a cry for justice, followed by a large print assurance that justice would be served, a promise of peace to the soul crying out for justice. United are we all - connected as parts of God by the thread which is also God. United are we called to be - justice seekers and peace makers, gracious stewards of the resources we’ve been given by God. There is a well of compassion and acceptance within us, that has only begun to be discovered. Amen.