Category Archives: peace

Sorrow #Advent

Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky 01

It can seem at times so hard to find any hope in the world, any glimmer of a different future, perhaps especially today, of a time when war and troubles are over, when sorrow has ended.

One thing the Old Testament show us is that Twas Ever Thus.  Humanity has always done a good job of causing trouble for one another – mistreating, making enemies, creating disaster – generally trying to prove who is bigger, stronger and making the life of the weak and vulnerable even more precarious.

Into this God spoke.  Into this God continues to speak.  The Advent message of hope is as needed today as it was when the prophets first spoke it.  God promises that this will end.

Why hasn’t he yet?  Perhaps we haven’t given him chance, allowed him to.  God is trying to stop wars and we keep starting them.  We are still intent on proving who is better, more right – and we fail to live with one another, with tensions and different opinions.  We struggle to do it over even small things, so no wonder we can’t do it over international conflict.  And when weapons get involved, there will only be one end – more hurt, more destruction, more suffering for those who didn’t start anything.

Yet still God continues to stand with us, weep with and for us, and promise an end – just as soon as we let him.  Sorrow will end.  We will be safely home.

God will lead us home and we will be safely blessed – that is our Advent hope.

What am I doing to work with him?

O Lord,
I know you weep over humanity,
you are distraught
at the things we do to one another.

You promise to bring us home
to a place of safety
and joy,
but we carry on the fighting,
discrimination,
injustice
and wonder why you aren’t doing something.

Forgive me Lord
for the part I play
in keeping anger and oppression going.

Today
and tomorrow
may I work with you
to bring an end
that we may be able
to come home to you.

The theme of the first week in Advent is The Day of the Lord.  We look forward to the coming of that day.

Zephaniah 3:14-20

(CEV)

A Song of Celebration

14 Everyone in Jerusalem and Judah,
celebrate and shout
    with all your heart!
15 Zion, your punishment is over.
The Lord has forced your enemies
    to turn and retreat.
Your Lord is King of Israel
    and stands at your side;
you don’t have to worry
    about any more troubles.

16 Jerusalem, the time is coming,
    when it will be said to you:
“Don’t be discouraged
    or grow weak from fear!
17 The Lord your God
wins victory after victory
    and is always with you.
He celebrates and sings
    because of you,
and he will refresh your life
    with his love.”

The Lord’s Promise to His People

18 The Lord has promised:
Your sorrow has ended,
    and you can celebrate.
19 I will punish those
    who mistreat you.
I will bring together the lame
    and the outcasts,
then they will be praised,
instead of despised,
    in every country on earth.
20 I will lead you home,
    and with your own eyes
you will see me bless you
    with all you once owned.
Then you will be famous
    everywhere on this earth.
I, the Lord, have spoken!

O Lord the Clouds are Gathering

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Weapons of Mass Peace

Do we want to make
peace or war?
Bring hope
or destruction?
Build for the future
or destroy all that’s past?

Shall I be a grower
or a killer?
A cultivator
or a destroyer?
A settler of disputes
or a creator of them?
Do I want my community to flourish
or to take everything away?
To feed
or to poison?

What tools will I use
in my life?

What is God
asking of me?
Which of my tools,
that I use as weapons.
does he want me to put down,
to turn into
something more useful,
to use for a good purpose
not bad.

Where is he asking me to make love
not war?

Where is he asking me
in my life
to turn Killing Fields
to Growing Fields?

Will I lay down arms
and pick up tools?

That we may live in peace

The Sunday before 11th November in the UK is Remembrance Sunday.  The true value of our remembering is how it changes our future actions.

What am I going to do to make the world a better place – starting with my corner of it? How will I live in peace?

Micah 4:1-8 (CEV)

Peace and Prosperity

In the future, the mountain
with the Lord’s temple
    will be the highest of all.
It will reach above the hills,
and every nation
    will rush to it.
People of many nations
    will come and say,
“Let’s go up to the mountain
of the Lord God of Jacob
    and worship in his temple.”

The Lord will teach us his Law
from Jerusalem,
    and we will obey him.
He will settle arguments
between distant
    and powerful nations.
They will pound their swords
and their spears
    into rakes and shovels;
they will never again make war
    or attack one another.
Everyone will find rest
beneath their own fig trees
    or grape vines,
and they will live in peace.
This is a solemn promise
    of the Lord All-Powerful.

Others may follow their gods,
but we will always follow
    the Lord our God.

The Lord Will Lead His People Home

The Lord said:
At that time
    I will gather my people—
the lame and the outcasts,
and all into whose lives
    I have brought sorrow.
Then the lame and the outcasts
will belong to my people
    and become a strong nation.
I, the Lord, will rule them
    from Mount Zion forever.
Mount Zion in Jerusalem,
guardian of my people,
    you will rule again.

A Happy Ending?

I see it now,
how wrong I have been,
how I thought I had the answers,
trotted out my glib assurances,
spoke
when really I had no idea.
I said to much
and listened to you
too little;
said things about you
rather than hearing from you

and now, here I am.
I see that you can do
what you will do,
you will do
what you need to,
it’s not me
in control.

Help me Lord,
to work with you,
not rile against you,
to speak with understanding,
not trot out
what I’ve heard.
May I speak as I hear you,
and say as I see you
in truth
and reality.

From my place of despair
take me to a place of hope
in you.

Job 42:1-6, 10-17 (CEV)

Job’s Reply to the Lord

No One Can Oppose You

42 Job said:

No one can oppose you,
because you have the power
    to do what you want.
You asked why I talk so much
    when I know so little.
I have talked about things
that are far beyond
    my understanding.
You told me to listen
    and answer your questions.
I heard about you from others;
now I have seen you
    with my own eyes.
That’s why I hate myself
and sit here in dust and ashes
    to show my sorrow.

A Happy Ending

10 After Job had prayed for his three friends, the Lord made Job twice as rich as he had been before. 11 Then Job gave a feast for his brothers and sisters and for his old friends. They expressed their sorrow for the suffering the Lord had brought on him, and they each gave Job some silver and a gold ring.

12 The Lord now blessed Job more than ever; he gave him fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand pair of oxen, and a thousand donkeys.

13 In addition to seven sons, Job had three daughters, 14 whose names were Jemimah, Keziah, and Keren Happuch. 15 They were the most beautiful women in that part of the world, and Job gave them shares of his property, along with their brothers.

16 Job lived for another one hundred forty years—long enough to see his great-grandchildren have children of their own— 17 and when he finally died, he was very old.

Two sides.  The place of abject despair, of realisation of rock bottom – and the place of hope. Does our journey end in sackcloth and ashes, in pain and anguish?  Will there be a happy ending for me and my story?

This apparent ‘happy ever after’ ending is an expression of hope and faith.  That everything will be OK, because God is in charge.  I’m not convinced our happy ending will always look like Jobs, in fact life has shown me that often it won’t – but in the world where Job lived, long life, wealth and happiness were the expression that God was happy with you, and we have to read this ending in that context.

Our happy ending may look very different.  It may not look so happy and rosy.  We may still be in a place of distress and pain.  But, from the place of sackcloth and ashes, we may come to a place of hope, of blessing, of knowledge and security of God’s love – and a place of peace.  It may not look like Job’s happy ending, but we can still find that place of rest and security that God is with us, and though we may not understand – he does.  There is our hope.