Speaking Peace, July 10.2012

Psalm 85:8-11 (CEB)
Let me hear what the Lord God says,
 because God speaks peace to God’s people and to God’s faithful ones. 
Don’t let them return to foolish ways.
 God’s salvation is very close to those who honor God 
so that God’s glory can live in our land. 
Faithful love and truth have met;
 righteousness and peace have kissed. 
Truth springs up from the ground; 
righteousness gazes down from heaven.
I am intrigued with the image of God speaking peace. Often times when we think of the word peace we think it is the opposite of conflict, that it is synonymous with calm and quiet, placid even. But here the Psalmist sings of a peace that comes through honoring God—one that is born out by the speaking of the truth. The Psalmist declares, “Righteousness and peace have kissed.”

Peace is not born of a lack of conflict but is intimately tied to righteousness or in other words, to justice.

If this song about God the Psalmist sings is true, then we cannot experience peace without justice. How do we understand this word, justice? Sometimes we think of justice as what’s achieved in a courtroom or when someone “gets what they deserve” in terms of a consequence or punishment.

Another way of understanding justice, is when those who have been routinely and systematically overlooked or oppressed by social, political or religious systems are lifted up, when they are treated with honor or are empowered to tell their story. When voices that have been marginalized, ignored or abused are encouraged to speak with authority and are celebrated and given positions of power in the system that once alienated or ignored them, this is justice.

Our gospel story, the ministry of Jesus and the God the Psalmist sings of is more often a reflection of the latter. They are the story of radical welcome, unlimited forgiveness and unselfish love. How do our communities reflect the Psalmist’s image of peace and justice that are intertwined together, interconnect, even interdependent? How often, instead, do we sacrifice one for the other?

How do we listen for where God speaks peace in the midst of our own communities and political, social and religious systems? How do we speak peace that isn’t simply avoiding conflict but speaks lovingly and directly to power, insisting that only where there is true justice will there truly be peace? Are there ways we ignore injustice in order to keep the peace? Or become self-righteous in our justice work so that God’s words of peace cannot be heard?

May you listen for God’s words of peace in your own heart and communities,
May you speak words of peace and work for justice together,
May justice and peace dance together in the life of your community,
May the complexity and challenge of working for justice be met with grace and humility in your own heart and in the heart of your communities.