Readings from Scripture from the Messiah (KJV) Recit and Air (Numbers 2 and 3 – Comfort Ye/Every Valley)
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
Peace is not the absence… Rev. Chris Fickling
Right now…outside the church window there’s kids playing in the snow. And you might pick up a little of their voices, their laughter, their fun that they’re having …but I have to be honest. It’s taking everything in my being to not go out there to check and see if they’re masked. And that saddens me. It saddens me because we’re living in a time that things aren’t right. I’m preaching to an empty church…you’re listening from maybe empty homes. And we’re talking about a time when things are about to change.
Advent is all about our world changing.
Last week we talked about the power of hope. And yet if you’ve been able to catch the show called Ted Lasso, it’s only on apple tv so not a lot of people have seen it. But in that show it talked about a powerful reality – it was in the last episode that said “it’s the hope that kills you.” I’ll let that sit with you, because it sat with me and it sat with the lead character in such a powerfully negative way. In the show they argued that as they were gearing up for a final game (it’s all about soccer – football in British terms) they were just hoping that they would win, hoping that they would succeed, hoping that their wildest dreams would come to fruition. And it was that hope…grinding, again and again, hope (failure) disappointment…That was wearing them down. And killing them. Yet the main character talked about how it’s our belief: our belief in miracles, our belief in the extraordinary, our belief in the surprising presence of all that is – that wakes us up to new realities. That belief that sustains us. That belief in hope that sustains us. Because (and if you’ve never heard it) the actual translation of the word belief is “that which you give your heart to.”
So what are you giving your heart to, in this time? We can’t meet as we would want to, family gatherings are all but shutdown, churches and our community are looking like they’re going into lockdown…so that which you’ve given your heart to in the past might not be happening. And it’s why that we as a society are struggling the more. Because of all that love, all that hope, peace, joy – those candles that we talk about during Advent – those are gifts meant to be shared and when we can’t share them – how do we do this?
How do we survive? Because we as human beings, as a species have defined our lives by doing. We love being busy. We love making a list (and checking it twice), and checking things off of it. To keep ourselves busy because in the busyness we feel that we have accomplished something. And yet, we’re not called ‘human doings,’ we are human beings. Our mere existence, our sense of being present in this moment, is enough.
As we speak about peace, as we talk about the image of peace, do you feel it? Right now? Cause I know I don’t. I’m struggling with the needs and demands of home life, and work life, and communal life, and all the things that I can’t do. But I can ‘be.’ I can work on the self inside and the peace inside so that when the world opens up again, the person that greets each and every other is going to be one of wholeness and peace.
We’re running ourselves ragged by doing nothing. We’re turning on the tv and fretting. We are stressing over Old Order Mennonites, and outbreaks to the east, we are worrying about all that’s going on in the South of Us, but right in the centre of us, we’re neglecting the peace of heart and mind and soul that makes us whole. There’s often been a quote (similar to the one on the front of the bulletin) that we don’t have to have our world right, things don’t have to be calm and peaceful around us, in order for that peace to dwell within us. It’s a little bit of cognitive dissonance: that sometimes our words and beliefs don’t match up to our actions. And we find many examples in our everyday lives. But I invite you into that dissonant moment right now. What matters most is your peace. And what leads you to peace is prayer, practicing an awareness of God’s presence, looking for simple joys like kids playing in snow (trying to tuck to the back of your brain all those things that they probably should be doing)…but allowing the moment itself to bring you wholeness. There’s a lot externally that weighs upon us – there’s a lot internally too. The only way forward is dealing with this internal stuff before we can deal with the external. The only way we can find peace in the world, is by finding peace in ourselves.
There’s an old proverb…the proverb has had different lives and different rewordings but each speak to the same truth:
“If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.” Lao-Tsu
Things are tough: inside and out. Peace is often fleeting. I know I’ve yelled at my kids “Will you just give me one moment of peace” as they skulk away. But that yelling has come from a place of me not tending the peace in my own heart. In me feeling like this mountain of covid work is all mine alone. In the way that I’ve tried to figure out or convince myself that all of this rests on me alone. And it’s just not true. We like to convince ourselves that we need to be in control of everything. But the truer peace is when we offer to God our control over the situation. When we give over moments to God, when we give to God our hearts, our belief, when we trust in God as a co-Creator of the peace in our hearts and homes and neighbours and cities and nations and world…if we take God seriously the work of peace isn’t ours alone. It’s something that demands all of us. Together.
I see you. I see all of you struggling, to the best of your ability, to find a way through this. I see your frustrations and sorrows. I see your broken hearts at cancelled family opportunities and gatherings and celebrations. I see all that. I see the sorrow and the grief and the turmoil that has robbed you of peace. Know that you’re not alone. Please. Know that together as we cultivate the gardens of peace within our souls, as we grow flowers of hope and beauty, as we aspire to goodness in our own lives, this will grow and spread. It’s no mistake that our second candle that we light is peace because it’s so often overlooked in our lives.
May you find strength and the courage enough, to work on your own peace of heart, mind, or soul. To find moments of stillness where you might come closer to God. Where you might develop an awareness of God’s presence.
And may that peace radiate from you so that others may bask in the light.
May peace be yours.