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A Letter from Pastor Anita: Seeking the Peace

Speak the truth in love…
Ephesians 4:15

How are we doing these days?

Sunday, August 2nd hundreds of protesters descended on Doylestown.  At times, the sound was deafening as two protests clashed- each intent on being heard.  Signs were brandished, hands raised, emotions on edge.  Thankfully, most of the protesters stayed to their side of the street, using megaphones to project their voices across the short expanse.  When protesters crossed the street to get up close and personal in front of Starbucks, the police were able to defuse the situation, keeping the peace in the midst of all the noise.  Lenape Valley had a personal stake in the events that day as two of our own were serving in blue to keep the peace, and one of our own manages a restaurant located at the apex of the clash.  But we also have a stake in the events that day, because our freedom exists only if all are free to speak truth; so we prayed for a peaceful moment when people could express their first amendment rights safely, as neighbors not enemies.

That peaceful voice is harder to find these days.  Have you begun to wonder what happened to our civility?  When was the last time our politicians showed any semblance of decorum, offering respect for those across the aisle?  How many of our leaders have forgotten how to see past their disagreements long enough to work together for the common good?  Unfortunately, that lack of civility is not just a challenge in the political world.  How many of us have received an email that would have been better left unsent?  How many of us have pressed ‘send’ on an email when we should have pressed ‘delete’?  Civility is not the silencing of truth, but the discipline to speak that truth in love.

Paul writes to the Ephesians about how we should speak to one another:
Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,
but only what is helpful for building others up according 
to their needs…. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger … 
be kind and compassionate.”
Ephesians 4:29
The call to speak the truth in love rises out of Christ’s love for us.  “As dearly loved children, live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself as a sacrifice…” (Ephesians 5:2)  In Paul’s letter, God is calling us to a deep meaning of ‘civil.’  Civil come from the word ‘civitas’ that means ‘learning to live together in the city.’  That ‘living together’ means more than just co-existing in proximate space.  God’s ‘civitas’ calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves, to care about the need of our neighbor, even to work to build up our neighbor.  In our modern society, we have much to learn about how to truly live together.

In Jeremiah 29, God sends a letter to the exiles who are living in Babylon.  The exiles do not like their neighbors.  The Babylonians are the people who destroyed their nation and left their beloved city in ruins.  The Babylonians are the ones who dragged them off into exile, so the Jews have no love for their neighbors, no compassion for the city where they are forced to live. Until God sends this letter recorded in Jeremiah 29:
This is what the Lord Almighty says to the exiles:  Build houses
and settle down; plant gardens… and marry… Seek the peace and
prosperity of the city… Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers,
you too will prosper
.
” Jeremiah 29:4-7
God is pointing out a practical reality to the exiles- if Babylon prospers, they, too, will benefit.  How we love our neighbor does have a direct impact on the quality of our neighborhood and our own lives.  God’s word in Ephesians deepens this message, reminding us to love our neighbor not just because it serves our good, but because that neighbor is also a child of God.  That neighbor, even the one we hate, is loved by God.  Notice that God’s word through Jeremiah and God’s word through Paul does not come as a suggestion, but rather as a command.  We are God’s ambassadors of peace in this very contentious world.

I love the Hebrew word that God uses for peace- Shalom.  The peace that God calls us to seek means wholeness not just the cessation of hostilities.  Imagine a city that is whole, where all her residents have food on their table tonight, and all her children are safe and well educated.  Imagine a city where all the residents are equal and respected, where all have opportunity to thrive, where all are welcome.  Imagine a city where love is the ethic that defines decisions, where love shapes the expression of truth.  Imagine a city whose light shines God’s grace for all to see.  How can we be part of building that city here and now?

With you in love, Anita
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