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This week will be a full one for me and for many of us in the Washington, DC, area. Friday and Saturday, I'll be leading the Everything Must Change gathering in Vienna, Virginia, but first, I'll be part of the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq this Friday, March 7.
On Friday at midday, there will be gatherings in several locations around DC for worship. And there will be gatherings around the country too - including ones you may be just the person to organize. After these times of worship, there will be prophetic action taken by many to express our shared desire to pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding rather than what makes for fear and mutual destruction.
The noon worship gathering at which I'll be speaking will be held in the historic New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Abraham Lincoln attended this church during the Civil War. One can only imagine what he felt as he brought the pain of war before God during those hours in worship. Perhaps those hours in worship played some part in the theological and emotional depth of his second inaugural address, which you can read standing in the Lincoln Memorial.
It has been said that nobody hates war more than a veteran who has experienced it firsthand; the same could be said about parents, spouses, and children who have lost someone dear to them in war. They know the cost of war in a way the rest of us can only try to imagine. I know that there will be many veterans, fathers, mothers, and other family members among the witnesses for peace this Friday.
In recent years, I've come to feel more than ever the potential of worship to form us as agents of peace - and as witnesses for peace. When we gather for worship, we pray for peace. We sing of God's passion for reconciliation. We celebrate forgiveness and peace, not revenge and division. We preach about the Prince of Peace. We pass the peace of Christ to one another. We celebrate a holy meal which dramatically enacts peace with God and peace with one another. In our benediction, we often say, "Go in God's peace." Sadly, we are often numbed to the power of this word "peace" that flows from our lips so easily. But this Friday, I think all of us will be more aware of what a profound and revolutionary thing it is to come together in the peace of God and to be sent in the world once again as instruments of God's peace.
It is possible that as we gather in public on Friday as witnesses for peace, leaders of various nations and militant groups will be meeting in secret, hatching new plans for war. If that's the case - and it probably will be - how much more important our gathering will be. And since too many people are plotting violence in all its forms, how important it is for all people of faith to gather regularly, Sunday by Sunday or whatever day it may be, to encourage one another and stimulate one another toward love and good deeds. Perhaps this is how we should see all our gatherings for worship, fellowship, teaching, and prayer - as peace groups meeting to plot goodness and prayerfully conspire for the common good and contagious peace in our homes, neighborhoods, nations, and world.
As I look ahead on this week, I feel in a new way that peace can never be reduced to political arguments and partisan debates: peace is a spiritual practice, a holy thing, a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
If you can't be with us this Friday, I hope this simple and powerful word "peace" will be in your thoughts and prayers this week. May the peace of Christ be with us all, and may the Lord make us all instruments of peace.
If you would like to take a few minutes for a simple meditation on peace, check out this YouTube video.