Being at peace

Published on: 1 September 2018

Peace – a word we use a lot in church. “Peace be with you”, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth”, “The peace of God which passes all understanding…”

But how often do we stop to ask ourselves what we mean? What is it we are wishing each other when we say: “The peace of the Lord be with you”? It’s rooted in our biblical tradition – the opening greeting of the risen Christ, not to mention the countless opening greetings and parting blessings in Paul’s letters.

While the Greek word we translate from the New Testament as ‘peace’ would have been strongly associated with ‘absence of war’, the Hebrew understanding in the Old Testament was of a much wider concept. Here, peace, shalom, has a more positive connotation, embracing not just absence of war but a positive well-being; a state of wholeness and prosperity that is holistic – material, spiritual, and relational.

It is this wider sense of peace that was being proclaimed when Jesus was born and is the lasting gift of God with us. Remembering this helps us to keep a balance between two false tendencies. One is to pursue ‘inner peace’, to concentrate only on our interior life for its own sake, forgetting the world outside. The other is to see peace-making as being all about ‘them out there’ – the global conflicts, the public disputes. Such a peacemaker might avoid looking too closely at their own lack of peace within.

The beauty of the Christian gospel is that it holds both these together; indeed, one enables the other. As St Paul puts it in his letter to the Ephesians, talking about the long-standing and bitter divisions between Jews and Gentiles, “For he [Christ] is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us … [that he] might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross.” (Eph 2:14,16)

In finding wholeness and forgiveness within the love of God, knowing ourselves to be loved, we are in a better position to be able to make peace with others. When Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God”, I don’t think this is a reward for being peacemakers. Rather, it is a recognition that it is their relationship with God that enables them to be peacemakers.

Peacemaking need not be about the public conflicts of the sort that feature in the news. Peacemaking might be a helpful listening ear to friend or family, an encouragement to get people talking to each other, an arranging of social opportunities. It might be going to talk to someone in church who is different from you, or who has different ideas, so that you can better understand them as a person and their perspective on church life.

And in times of trouble and turmoil, remember Jesus speaking into the storm on the Sea of Galilee, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was calm.

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Articles in this issue...

Time for change

Iain explores that remembering the Armistice is an opportunity for us to consider being the change we wish to see in the world.


Overstrand remembers World War One

Tim Bennet looks at how the parish in Overstrand is playing its part in remembering those from their community who lost their lives in WW1.


Outside the wire

Recently, it has been recognised that some active and veteran service personnel have been affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Biddy Collyer found out more about a local charity that offers support.


Harleston champions of peace

You may remember the occasion when St John’s Harleston had been invaded by cranes. Thankfully, it was a peaceful invasion of 1,000 paper origami cranes, each a folded message of peace from local school children. Rector Nigel Tufnell takes up the tale.


We will remember them

To mark the centenary of World War One, Revd Keith Dally, Priest-in-Charge of the United Benefice of Kings Beck, set out in 2014 to research the names on the Rolls of Honour of the six Churches of the Benefice – Banningham, Colby, Felmingham, Skeyton, Suffield and Tuttington.


Meeting Edith – peace and turmoil combine in Norwich Cathedral

As many will know, WW1 national heroine Matron Edith Cavell is buried in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral, a place she loved, having grown up in the village of Swardeston. Edith was born in the vicarage there in 1865. Janet Marshall, takes up the tale.


The Big Sing for Peace with Archbishop Justin

It was Saint Augustine who is reputed to have said: "Those who sing pray twice".


Reconciliation: The desire of my heart

Susanna Gunner shares Archbishop Justin's passion for reconciliation and offers an invitation to pray with him for peace in Norwich Cathedral this November.


A prophet for peace

Bishop Graham says: “I always get Sami to speak to our pilgrimage groups since he is engaged in peacemaking between Palestinians and Israeli Settlers. Scarcely anyone else is attempting such dialogue.” Sami shares his personal view of a Christ-centered peacemaking approach.


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