Tuesday, December 5, 2017

And on earth peace

Longing for Peace in South Sudan.

Early this morning, we opened a message from our partners living in South Sudan. It was news of another massacre. Along with horrific photos, there was a list of 42 names. We set the pictures aside but slowly read aloud each name. They are the women, men, and children that were killed just days ago in a village in Duk Payuel County. 

Our friend told us of other attacks a mere few kilometers from our partner churches in Narus. By all accounts, the situation is getting worse. As our friend wrote,
"Thank you very much for keeping us and South Sudan in your prayers and thoughts. The security and humanitarian situation shows no signs of improvement. Widespread insecurity is enveloping the country. Even areas/places that were relatively peaceful are gradually becoming insecure."
Over the past few months, we have spoken a lot about hope. We've reflected with Canadian congregations about how central hope is to the Gospel and mission of God's people in the world. We talked about what it means to embody hope in our lives. And we have shared stories demonstrating the powerful hope among the African Church.

Privately, for our own devotional times this Advent, we have been reading from a "Daily Advent Reader for Peacekeepers" curated by Michael T. McRay and Claire Brown. It is a wonderfully eclectic group of Christian contributors sharing a commitment to Christ's ministry of peace and reconciliation. Given the conflicts that we are witnessing around the world, it is an important forum for spiritual reflection.

As we pray today for South Sudan and for the Faith Evangelical Baptist Churches, who are carrying the hope and love of Jesus into the brokenness of their community, we are grateful for the broad people of faith that make up the Body of Christ in our world.  

May this short reflection from McRay, bless you as you seek to bless others this Advent. 
"Both Advent and peacemaking are experiences of hope, and hope is the stuff of survival. It’s little wonder people who live in places of suffering are often filled with great hope and joy. As one Palestinian friend said to me, “What choice do we have but to hope? The alternative is death.” 
We hope that something more beautiful is coming because we must, because the alternative is unbearable. And this work of hope is a muscular work, filled with sorrow, faith, perseverance, and resilience... 
... Part of the truth of our world is that it is broken and breaking more every day. But that is only part of the truth. Our world is also a place of beauty, love, and unfathomable generosity. There is kindness; there is laughter; there is healing. In a conversation with Bill Moyers, Thomas Cahill once said, “I have come to the conclusion that there are really only two movements in the world: one is kindness and the other is cruelty.”
I want to be part of the movement toward kindness, one where we might begin speaking to and about one another with something like love."
McRay's reflection also includes this gem from the Jewish ethical writing of the Pirkei Avot
"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."
Today as we pray for peace, healing, and comfort for the people of South Sudan, we also pray that God would work in all of our lives this Advent. May we be filled with the life and vitality of faith that drives us beyond our self-interest towards God's interest for the good of us all.

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace" 
Luke 2:14

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