We gather tonight to mark the thirteenth year since the attacks of nine-eleven. On this date every year since that horrific event, I have used this day to reflect and ask how much closer a we, as a country and as a global society, have come to finding peace. Sadly, it seems peace, however you define it, has been allusive.
Since 9/11, the United States has been fighting wars on two fronts. Just this past year war has again broken out in Israel, the Ukraine, in Syria and Iraq. In this country, we may as well be at war as the issues of racism continue to get worse instead of better. As I look at all the issues facing our world today, I have to ask, is peace possible.
Our gathering tonight, however, assuages my concerns. Just the fact that there are people here at St. Luke’s concerned enough to want to have this service tells me there is hope, there is possibility. In the beginning of John’s Gospel, the writer declares, “the light has entered into the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. As I look out, into this room, I am assured the light of God continues to shine on this earth, because it is the light of God that has brought you here tonight.
So what is the peace we are praying for? So often when we pray for peace, what we are really praying for is the absence of violence. In Jesus day, there was peace, there was no war, it was the peace of Rome. A peace that was brought about by force, occupation, and intimidation. Yes there it was a form of peace, but it was a peace that came with a horrible human price.
The peace we pray for tonight sees through the peace of Rome and works towards the peace of God.
The peace of God is a totally different type of peace than what is discussed in politics. It begins by accepting our enemy as fellow children of God. God’s peace begins by taking the risk and asking how we/I have offended the other. God’s peace begins with repentance and the willingness to forgive.
As I have reflected on the news media’s coverage of 9/11, Ferguson, Missouri and the conflicts throughout this world, what the media has been good at is covering the what, the facts of the event, who attacked who, but rarely, if ever, have they reported on the why. My brothers and sisters, violence never happens in a vacuum. No one wakes up one morning and out of the blue and decides to commit heinous acts against humanity. No, violence is the result of years of frustration, years of being dehumanized, years of being exploited and years of feeling powerless to bring about positive change.
I believe this may be why Jesus proclaims blessings on the peacemakers and declares them the children of God. To be a peace maker takes courage, courage to see the world through God’s eyes; the courage to face our enemy and ask how have I/we have offended our enemy and to ask for their forgiveness. It takes the courage to be able love our enemy as ourselves, the courage to turn the other cheek and the courage to forgive, even when everyone around you seeks revenge.
To be the children God has created us to be, we must seek peace and find the courage to do so. No one ever said being a child of God was easy, least of all Jesus. According to Jesus to be a follower, we must be willing to lose our lives in order to gain it, and as we heard tonight, we must be prepared to be reviled and persecuted because darkness cannot exist in the presence of light and it will do anything to extinguish the light. But as those who desire and pray for peace, it is we who must have the courage to stare down darkness with the light of God.
In Native American religions, there is something called the Windigo, it is a spirit of evil and darkness. It announces its presence by calling its victims name and confronting the individual with what he or she fears most. There is only one way to defeat a Windigo and that is by confronting it with courage and most of all the truth. Because the darkness of evil has no defense against the light of truth.
On September 11, 2001, I believe the Windigo was released by the flames of the aircraft used to destroy the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; a Windigo that has shrouded this world in a veil of darkness and deceit that very few have been willing to confront. My prayer tonight for those who gather to pray for peace and an end to violence is to find the courage to confront fear with Truth in order for the peace of God to spread throughout the world.