The following meditation was written and edited by Jim Parks, Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Shickshinny, PA and a member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Wilkes-Barre, PA. Jim is the Financial Secretary of Good Shepherd and also serves on the Executive Committee. The original is being presented at First Church in lieu of not having worship services on June 7, 2020 due to Covid-19.
“The Peace that Heals Hurts”
The Readings: (The New Revised Standard Version)
Genesis 1:27a, 31-—“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them…God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”
2 Corinthians 13:11-13—“Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”
Matthew 28:16-20—“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The Meditation: (Inspired by the multi-cultural band students, Tucker High School, Tucker, Georgia and my 2020 graduate Grandson, Eli Winterscheidt, THS baritone horn player.)
Nelson Mandela once wrote the following words: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
And the poet Warsan Shire wrote in her poem, “what they did yesterday afternoon,” that pain is everywhere. She wrote:
later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
I wonder what their words bring to your mind today. What hurts your heart today? What are the tender spots of your life? What’s festering deep inside that you don’t want anyone to see? Where do you see another hurting? Can you hold his or her gaze, or do you look away because you just don’t want to see? In what ways have you and I added to the pain of another?
The TV pictures and commentary over the past several days breaks my heart. I see fear. I see death. I see protests. I see anger. I see violence. I see prejudice and racism. I see arrogance. I see privilege. I see unemployment. I see poverty and economic hardship. Those are the open hurts of our country and we’re hemorrhaging. We’re bleeding out and some can’t breathe.
America appears to be in a hard place these days, and I feel we have been for quite a while. Over the last few months of the coronavirus, many have said that we’re all in this together. Yes, but we’re not all together in this. We are not “all together in one place” today or this past week or so. Our country is divided, fragmented, and hurting. And so is my heart. Maybe yours is too.
It’s not easy to talk about our hurts; whether it’s our individual hurts or our national hurts, whether it’s the hurts we’ve received or the ones we’ve inflicted. To talk about our hurts requires us to look at what we’ve done and left undone. It means we each have to look within ourselves. It means taking responsibility for our lives. It means valuing the life and hurts of another as much as our own.
We might need to confess and we might need to forgive. We might need to reach out to another and we might need to open ourselves to another’s reaching toward us. We might need to offer the ointment of healing to another and we might need to receive another’s ointment for our healing.
We know all that in our heads and it makes sense. But most of the time we don’t want to face or deal with our hurts. It’s too painful. It’s a vulnerable and risky place to be. And maybe we all feel like that too. More often than not, we just want to deny that we hurt. We want to ignore or forget our hurts, relegate them to the past. We want to cover up and hide our hurts so another person can’t see them. Sometimes we make judgments about and blame others. Other times we want to use our hurts, revel in them, and play the victim so we can get some attention or sympathy. And maybe worst of all is when we use them as a justification for hurting someone else.
But God doesn’t do any of those things. Instead, he said that we are all created in his image. And Paul didn’t do any of these things. Instead, he said “Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” And Jesus didn’t do any of those things. Instead, in our reading last week, he showed up behind the locked doors, stood among the disciples in the midst of their fear, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he showed them his hands and his side. He showed them his hurts and then he said again, “Peace be with you.” And in this week’s reading, Jesus instructed his disciples to “Go therefore, and make disciples of ALL nations…”
Jesus’ hurts sit in the middle of the peace he offers. Peace bookends both sides of his hurts. And what if that’s true for us? What if we all live with a hurtful peace? What if the only real peace we can offer comes out of the hurts we’ve suffered?
“Peace be with you,” Jesus said. What does that mean when you’re afraid and you’ve locked the doors of your house, your heart, your life? What does that mean when you’ve locked out another because of their race, their nationality, their economic status, their age, their sexual orientation, their religion, or just their name? What does that mean?
“Peace be with you,” Jesus said. What does that mean as we continue reopening the country and economy in the midst of COVID-19? What does that mean for the friends and family of the more than 100,000 people who have died from COVID-19? What does that peace mean when we continue to draw lines between those who wear masks and those who don’t, between politicians and scientists, between those who are able to stay home and those who have to get out and work? What does that mean?
“Peace be with you,” Jesus said. What does that mean for George Floyd and his family and friends? What does mean in light of America’s racism? What does that mean for the cities that are burning and the businesses that have been looted? What does that mean for those who protest silently and peacefully and those whose message advocates violence? What does that mean for those law enforcement officers who took a knee in support of the protestors and those who shot rubber bullets and tear-gas into a peaceful crowd? What does that mean?
“Peace be with you,” Jesus said. What does that mean for you and me today? What is this peace Jesus offers? What does it look like, feel like? What does it mean?
I don’t have a lot of answers to the questions I’ve asked. Each one of us must figure out how to be peace in his or her community, county, country, and world. I can’t tell you how to do that but I can tell you this. The peace Jesus offers doesn’t mean serenity or lack of conflict. And it doesn’t mean that we necessarily get our way. And I think it’s more than a truce, an agreement to disagree, or the resignation to go along in order to get along.
The peace Jesus offers changes hearts. It sends people downtown and into the community. It heals lives and let’s all people breathe. The peace Jesus offers will be found next to our hurts. It’s a peace that heals hurts.
“Peace be with you,” Jesus said. What will you do today with your peace that heals hurts? To whom will you offer it? And how will you let it make a difference in your community, in your school, in your job, in your church and in the life of another? What will your peace that heals hurts mean? Amen.
The Prayer: (Based on “Worship Resources for Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015 of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.”)
Gracious God, we thank you for the human family filled with all the peoples of the earth. We are thankful that you have created such an amazing and wonderful diversity of people and cultures. We pray that you will enrich our lives with ever-widening circles of fellowship, so that we may discover your presence in those who differ from us. Deliver us from the bondage of racism that denies the humanity of some people, and deprives all people of the blessings of the diversity you have created; deliver us from assumptions that we make without thinking, and presumptions that we take without asking. Bless and strengthen each effort we make as individuals when we seek to understand ourselves and others as well as the ways we benefit from personal privilege and power, so that we may be allies who challenge bias and prejudice within ourselves and others. Bless and strengthen each effort we make to change the systems and structures of our schools and educational institutions; our politics and civic policies; and our economic institutions’ methods and models; so that the roots of racism may be recognized and purged from among us. O God of unconditional love, look with compassion on our nation. Break down the walls that separate us from one another. Cast out the spirit of violence that afflicts so many. Cleanse us of malicious ideas and ideologies. Unite us in bonds of love like unto your own. And through all our struggle for justice, work within us to accomplish your purpose and establish your kingdom vision. O Lord, open our hearts to respect and uplift the dignity of every person. Open our eyes to see the injustices within church and society. Open our ears to listen and learn from the experiences of people of color. Open our mouths to speak out against prejudice and injustice. We commit ourselves to work for justice and peace, and to pursue a deeper relationship to you, Lord, so that we truly may be the body of Christ on earth, your church for the sake of the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.