Peace Is A Gift and A Task
For five years or more, we have posted a large, colorful sign that reads "Peace, A Gift and A Task" in our front lawn. It's worth stressing, on a day dedicated to the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., that peacemaking really does make demands on us. Peacemaking is a task. And yet for the Christian, perhaps the first demand is to stay rooted in the gift. The gift is Jesus Christ. Dr. King rooted his exemplary commitment to nonviolence, and so much else, in Christ. Maybe he kept before him these words from The First Letter of Peter. Peter wrote this about Christ suffering unjustly: "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly."
Maybe it was Christ's concrete example--crystal clear in Dr. King's imagination--that kept Dr. King so steady and serene in a time of turbulence, so peaceful, and so resolutely non-violent. Christ left you an example. Images, exemplars, testimonies of real lives help us in a way that goes beyond abstract principles. Testimonies of real lives, under pressures of extreme circumstances, reinforce commitments to non-violence. That is one of the reasons we give thanks for Dr. King today.
And--no doubt--prayer must be our daily discipline in the pursuit of harmony. It was so for Jesus himself. In our tradition, we pray together for our leaders each week, not just in times of increased turmoil. Always. And we should pray daily, individually. One Anglican bishop, Lancelot Andrewes (1555--1626) prayed daily for the English kings of his time. One of his prayers was simply this: "Send good thoughts to his heart."
Well, we don't have kings in America. But anyone who prays regularly, faithfully, will learn that this prayer can be prayed for everyone, every leader, every follower, everyone bound up in unfreedom, everyone who has not embraced peacemaking, everyone in every age and in any condition. "Send good thoughts to the heart, O Lord, of those entrusted with leadership, of those suffering in the margins and shadows of life, or those contemplating harm, of those beleagured...." and on and on such a prayer can go. And if nations have something like a national essence, a soul or personality, let's pray today and always: "Send good to thoughts to our heart."