In the 24th chapter of the gospel of Luke, the disciples are gathered in Jerusalem and are talking about the empty tomb, and about the encounter two of them had on a road to Emmaus with someone they only recognized as Jesus after he took bread, blessed and broke it. As they are talking, Jesus himself stands among them and says to them, “Peace be with you.”
The risen Jesus offers the frightened disciples peace. He also offers them his hands and feet, so that they might touch and see. Perhaps on this night as Jesus stands among them, the disciples understand what the scriptures say about him for the first time.
It is to us, as much as to these early disciples, that the risen Jesus utters the words: “Peace be with you.” As recipients of the peace of Christ, we are called to take up a new identity and a new calling. Having received the gift of peace we are to become peacemakers.
It is no easy thing to be a peacemaker, especially in a world that seems constantly to pit people against one another, to highlight our differences over our shared humanity. It is no easy thing to be a peacemaker in a world dominated by self-interest, power struggles, and a disregard for the environment.
To put it simply, being peacemakers means valuing others for who they are – children of God – and not looking upon anyone else as less than human just because they have views or values contrary to your own. Being peacemakers also means taking care of the earth, simplifying our lifestyles so as to use no more natural resources than we need, and protecting the ecosystems on which all life depends. All of this is making peace with the home God provides us.
We are all artists. Someone has explained this truth by saying that life is the medium and we are the canvas. Our task is to creatively work at making our lives a thing of beauty, molding and shaping the person we are becoming in the sight of God. That is our work, our calling as peacemakers.
Aimee, like other children of preschool age, would often come home with a drawing or other piece of art. Next to her own name she’d scrawl the name of someone she loved – usually Mommy or Daddy, sometimes baby brother Ben. As she presented her picture, she’d say proudly, “I did this for you.”
What if our lives bore the marks of the Prince of Peace?
What if, as we went about our daily lives, the words of the Beatitudes played quietly in the background: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, the gentle ones, the merciful, the pure in heart, the ones who work for peace?”
What if, at the end of the day, we were able to present our lives to God and say, “I did this for you?”
Perhaps then our lives would be worthy of the artist in each of us. Our lives would truly be things of beauty, a source of joy in the heart of God!
(This is a portion of today’s sermon, “Witnesses to Peace,” preached at the First United Methodist Church of Santa Maria, California.)