Waiting with Peace
Second Sunday of Advent - Year A
December 9, 2007
Second Sunday of Advent - Year A
December 9, 2007
Let us pray: We dare to hope in the advent of you, O God, that all you have created in us to help us love each other; that our work and our prayers are your light in the world; that, like wolf and lamb, we exist together in your unity; and this picture is born from a living hope in you. So we dedicate ourselves to your peaceable realm,
daring to hope in your presence among us. Amen.
†† †I know a woman whose name was Peace. I canít begin this reflection without telling you about her. Her name was Peace Robinson - the name Robinson was hers by marriage, but the name Peace came from her parents by virtue of the fact that she was born in Peace River. The children of Peace - and wouldnít it be interesting to be known by that name - were well known in the community of Jasper. Peace died a few years ago, and I was asked to lead the funeral service. The service completed, a cortege of cars left the church to go to the Jasper cemetery for the interment. The cemetery was a little ways out of town, in a peaceful widening of the Athabasca valley, in the shadow of the Pyramid Bench which rose above it. I was sitting in the funeral coach, the first vehicle to drive the semi-circular driveway which gave access to the places where past citizens of Jasper were resting in peace. As we reached a point near the back fence of the cemetery, a black bear bounded away. It was a beautiful, dare I say even peaceful, moment of connection with the natural world, another part of which we were about to enact with the committal service. At the reception following the graveside service, I mentioned to Sandy - one of the sons of Peace, the sighting of the bear right near where his momís body was to be buried. Because it bounded away, those of us in the first vehicle were the only ones to see it. Sandy was obviously touched by my story, and right away he concluded that the spirit of his mother, Peace had taken up residence in that bear. The memory of that ďpeace bearĒ will always be with me, a moment of grace and a reminder of the ďpeace that passes understandingĒ.
†† †Last week, we waited with Hope - a thirty-something woman who despite her name, despaired for the world as it was being affected by climate change, but who placed her hope in God and the message of advent, with a resolve as well to make her waiting a time of action as well as reflection.
†† †Peace sat listening to the scripture readings on this second Sunday of Advent. The reading was from Isaiah and it told of Isaiahís own vision of peace - a topsy-turvy, natural order altering vision of the lamb lying down with the lion. While she, like many artists who had depicted the scene in one way or another, appreciated the idea, it never really sat well with her. It seemed a bit much in her scientific mind to expect carnivores to change their diet so that peace could reign. Yet even as those thoughts passed by her mindís eye, she winced at the apparent contradiction with scripture that she was pondering and she winced also at the way in which such thoughts seemed to betray the statement she proclaimed to the world whenever she was introduced as Peace. Peace was both burdened and honoured by the name her parents had given her. She was sure that the name had influenced the way she had chosen to live her life. After all, one would never expect someone named Peace to be a testy, hard to get along with child. As a result she had always been fascinated by the nature versus nurture debate - wondering how her life would have been different if she had been saddled with a different Christian name - one that would have given her a bit more freedom to challenge her parents, teachers and others she had met along the way. Whatís in a name indeed, was a question that she had considered on more than one occasion. Yet, here she was, sitting at worship, apparently in disagreement with that utopian vision from the book of Isaiah. When it came to writings of that particular prophet, it was much easier for her to imagine the reading from last week, where Isaiah had talked about beating swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks. She liked that one much better because it was both possible and active. She had even heard of public art projects where firearms were disabled and turned into works of beauty by welding them together as a statement to the world that there were other ways of dealing with conflict and other non-violent ways of addressing differences between alternate points of view.
†† †Peaceís not quite so peaceful reverie was interrupted by a reconnection with the scripture reader. The next passage was being read - a passage from Matthew about John called the Baptiser. Now thatís a different image - not exactly one of peace, she never could quite imagine John as a peace bringer. If anything he stirred things up - you donít expect peace makers to be crying out - at least she didnít, and his alternative lifestyle, as described by Matthew, painted a different picture for her. She liked the image - perhaps because it appealed to the side of her that had been repressed because of the name she bore. She liked people like that, people who were not shy about saying what was wrong with society, and calling people to account. It wasnít for her, and she was okay with that, but she appreciated those who could and did. Itís not that she didnít see a need for people like herself. She knew that despite her current musings and ponderings, her presence and personality were greatly appreciated by people around her. She had enough self-awareness to know that she not only was known as Peace because it was her name, but because she had taken it on - regardless of whether it was by nature or nurture, by virtue of name or simply who she was and what she had chosen to be - she had taken it upon herself to be a calming presence, a gentle but firm spirit of peace. Her outward appearance belied the kind of reflection that was going on inside her head, but she knew that such reflection resulted in a creative balance . Despite her own busy musings and thoughts, she knew that people appreciated her for her centred, balanced, and deep spiritual presence. That was a gift God had given her, and she experienced it as her own blessing as much or more as others experienced her as a blessing for them in their lives.
†† †And so, as the reader concluded the readings for this second Sunday in advent, Peace settled into these final thoughts. God had, by plan or circumstance, given her the responsibility to be a peaceful presence in the world, a role she was happy to fulfil, and for which she was always thankful. It did not diminish or alter her respect for the people like John who were not shy about telling it like it is. Many gifts, one spirit, and if her spirit could be one which helped others to engage in advent waiting with just a bit less anxiety and a bit more perspective, then she felt that she was doing the work that God had given her. It was time to clear her mind just a little bit from all this busyness, and she if she could be for herself, what she was for others. She took a deep breath, and let the calm settle around her. Amen.†