by Rev. Garrett Rocha
This week we remember the events of 9/11 and the lives lost in the course of that struggle since then. I was in eighth grade when the towers were attacked, and I can remember seeing the massive plumes of smoke that billowed into the sky that afternoon. Where I lived in New Jersey in certain parts of the town, and on some of the walking trails you could see the Twin Towers if you squinted just right on a clear day. The sky was crystal clear that day. It was unmistakable where the towers were. Thinking back, my aunt took me into the city not too long before to visit some of the museums and we were blocks away from them. It is surreal that I have good friends who witnessed the events at a much closer distance. Likewise, there are church members who remember fleeing the World Trade Center after the towers were hit.
This post is not about calling righteous anger down upon our enemies, nor is it a post for me to process my experience. Instead, I ask you to consider what all comes to mind when you ask for peace, especially world peace? What comes to mind when you think on the end of war and violence.
Scripture provides for us many examples of a world torn asunder. All throughout the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament describe apocalyptic events complete with fire, destruction, weeping, and suffering. It is a common theme across religious literature that human brokenness leads to the larger destruction of the earth. Wesley, as well as many others, warns his followers about the deceitfulness of the human heart (Jeremiah 17:9).
In the Beatitudes Jesus blesses the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). Not those who keep peace, not those who are peaceful, not those who avoid conflict. But He states those who make peace are blessed. He does not describe the process that peace is established, leaving it open to the fact that peacemaking is not necessarily peaceful. One must work to reconcile wrongs, be merciful to one another, strive for justice beyond our personal experience of the world, and accept the fact that in all of this work we may fall short ourselves.
There is a stirring visual example of this in the 46th Psalm. Many people will recall the “Be still and know that I am God” portion of the poem, but leading up to that line the world is in chaos. The people of God are surrounded by the nations of the world and they are at war with each other. Keep in mind, the chosen people of God are also in a tussle with everyone else. Then like the divine parent descending the stairs to figure out what the ruckus is about, the earth shakes and the seas swell. Everything around the people of the earth, chosen people included, falls into rubble. God breaks the spears and quenches the fiery arrows and delivers that memorable line. God takes away all the things that lead to strife. All that is left is the city of God, God’s people, and the rest of the nations before God’s presence.
If we are chosen to bring about God’s Kingdom of peace in the world today, what must we sacrifice to move beyond strife? What are you willing to consider as unnecessary to bring God glory as God desires it, not as we fashion.
Receive this prayer from Fr. James Martin:
In times of pain, give us comfort. In times of despair, give us hope. In times of hatred, provide us with love. In times of doubt, provide us with trust. And even when we feel far from you, be close to us, Loving God.