September 6, 2020

“Looking for Peace”

 Psalm 34:14

 

The second half of today’s passage is one of those passages I call a touchstone for my faith. I have memorized, and It comes to mind whenever my life feels far from peace - SEEK PEACE & PURSUE IT. Right now, in the current world in which we live, it is difficult to find peace. I rarely find it on the evening news. I do not find any peace listening to the rhetoric going on between our presidential candidates, although I have some hope that at least one of them has concern for all Americans and compassion. I certainly don’t find much peace when out and about shopping- seeing most but not all people in masks, hoping folks will keep their social distance, etc. just makes me feel stressed and certainly not peaceful. Even going on vacation these days, peace can be elusive with those same issues of social distancing. Peace, especially now, can be so elusive.

 

That is why this passage is so profound. It says, SEEK peace. PURSUE it. On Saturday, I took that advice as literally as I could. After having breakfast with Paula at our favorite breakfast spot (Brothers), I took a drive to the Peace Flame. This was my first visit back to the flame since the great dedication ceremony in September of 2018. I sat in front of the flame, all by myself, considering the Peace Flame movement, begun in 1999, when flames from all 7 continents came together to make the first peace flame. I found moments of peace. I contemplated the quote from M.C. Patel above the flame. “May all beings be at peace. May all beings find the true peace that resides in their hearts.” The flame was mesmerizing. But then some dogs nearby began to bark. Someone turned on their air conditioner, and a couple of folks started working on the garden next door to Thalden Pavilion. So, my brief time of peace was over. Peace, even at the best of times can be an elusive target. We need to look for it and when we see it, go after it. So, in what ways can we seek and pursue peace?

  • First, I encourage you to find one of the many passages about peace in today’s service, learn it, and memorize it. Then you too can have a touchstone for your faith in those moments in life when peace is hard to find. Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Scripture can point our lives towards peace.
  • Pray. Paul tells us in Philippians 4 to pray about everything, to let our requests be made known to God so that the peace of God, which passes all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Make prayer a daily habit rather than an occasional one. List things you are thankful for as a way of remembering how blessed you are. Lift up those concerns to God and know you aren’t alone in your struggles in this world so that you can experience a peace that surpasses all understanding.
  • LIMIT your TV intake, ESPECIALLY as the election draws nearer. Be informed. Read the paper. Watch some news but keep it at arm’s length. More NPR…LESS CNN or FOX. Social Media Strategist and Life Coach Kimberly Banner wrote, “If it costs you your inner peace, it’s too expensive.” A friend of ours in the midst of the 2016 election suffered a heart attack and died while watching the last presidential debate. He was such a wonderful caring person and is dearly missed. His death illustrates it just is not worth it. If you find yourself yelling at the TV, turn it off (Preaching to myself as well here)
  • Look for peaceful activities to do in your life. I like to sit on our back porch and look at the sky and the mountains or going for a run without headphones and listening to my breathing, or singing and playing music, or going on a hike.
  • Consider the fact that we actually have a site DEDICATED to peace - the Peace Flame across the street from the Middle School. Feeling “peaceless”? What a gift that we have that site. True, there are noises all around it at times, but the flame is lovely and there is a sense of a global yearning for peace.
  • Finally, hopefully, all of you have by now received the fit of peace made by my wife- (an origami crane. She was making paper crane chains for folks in our neighborhood, and when this topic came up as a focus for worship, I asked her if she could make a bunch of cranes for our congregation as well.

 

I think Paula looks for peace in her life in many ways- through crocheting, gardening, taking the dog for walks, hiking, puzzling, and doing origami. There is a settling that comes to her spirit when she does these things, which I notice. I believe my wife finds seeks and pursues peace through doing such activities. A peace crane is of course a universal peace symbol in the world, made famous by a young Japanese girl, Sadako Sisaki, who was a hibashuka - a bomb affected person, who was a victim of the atomic bomb dropping on Hiroshima in 1945.  Sisaki was a girl of only 2 when the bomb dropped. Although most of her neighbors died in the bombing, Sadako had no effects from the bomb, at least, not at first. By the time she was in 7th grade, however, she felt tired and dizzy often, and was diagnosed with Leukemia, known then, in Japan, as the “bomb disease.” While in the hospital a friend of hers came with some origami paper, encouraging her to fold paper cranes in the hope of finding peace and healing. Her goal was to make 1000 cranes so that she might be cured of her cancer, for there was a legend in Japan that said if a crane lives for 100 years and a sick person makes 1000 paper cranes, the sick person would get well. Sadako only was able to make 644 cranes before she died at the age of 12. A paper crane club was formed at her school to honor her memory, and soon her story spread across the world. In 1958 enough money was raised to erect a statue in Hiroshima in her image, and it is a global symbol of peace known as the Children’s Peace Monument, located at the center of Hiroshima Peace Park, very close to the spot where the atomic bomb landed. Thanks to Sadako Sisaki, the paper crane has become a powerful global symbol of peace.

 

So, may this crane be a gentle reminder to seek peace and pursue it in your own life daily, because peace doesn’t seem to stay put. May the rest of this service, our time together at God’s welcoming table, our time in prayer, silence, and singing music provide you with an experience of extended peace. Shalom. Amen.

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