On this fourth Sunday after Epiphany Christ followers have traditionally prayed that the God of peace would grant “peace in our time.” How timely and wonderful would Heaven-granted peace be in our time! I suppose that would almost always be true, this side of full Kingdom-come.
But this week I learned of a remarkable instance of peace-coming, in answer to the prayers of God’s people that encourages me not only to keep praying but to do so confidently. I cannot spell out the details, but this situation involved governmental authorities not above suspicions of corruption, the fears and agenda of rival religious factions that could easily escalate toward violence, and the interest and well-being of millions of people pulled this way and that between these special interests. After days of strenuous, back and forth conversation, debate and negotiation, a way forward opened up, agreements were made, and there was peace! Clearly, the God of peace had worked.
But here are some features of this peace. Alignments were made that would have been impossible relationally and ideologically a week ago, indeed no one would have imagined them. Some kind of grace induced imagination was in play, in the hearts and minds of people who wouldn’t have welcomed it at all I suspect.
Enemies decided to act as though they were friends, because it worked common good that all recognized as precisely that—good. Incredibly, for once some considered what good they might bring above their usual considerations of who wins or increases advantages for their group.
All parties came to agreement, though in every case they accepted considerable risk in doing so because, on all sides, nay-sayers are waiting to say-so! On all sides there would be some who could charge their leaders with selling out for giving up some “sacred” ideological ground. In the end, however, the outcome was agreement with clear guidelines that offer a way forward that will be of benefit for all concerned. Perhaps most remarkably, there are clear signs of tentative “forgiveness,” between people violently at odds with each other.
Finally, on no side did the fervent faithful achieve “victory,” but they did receive space to bear witness to the truth they know. For true followers of the One who embodies truth I do not think it can get better than that, because in the end only the Spirit of Truth can (and will) convince.
We can easily think of many places around the world today, not least our own nation embroiled as it is in political and cultural drama, which make us feel both helpless and hopeless about the prospects for Shalom. But the prospects remain … So, we pray:
Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in
heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of
your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through
Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the
Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.