The Courage to Create Peace
This is the text of the peace lesson that I gave at the Toronto Community of Christ online congregation on August 30, 2020.
On Friday, March 13 of this year, my family was getting ready to go on our spring break vacation. We were getting packed in the evening to leave early in the morning for California. After I put my children to bed, we found out that our vacation plans were cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. In the following days, I began to understand that it wasn’t just our family vacation that was cancelled, but just about everything: school, the university, stores and restaurants, all gatherings of people, and meeting in person for church. I became very anxious and this rapid change was difficult to process emotionally. It felt like I was losing so many plans and feelings of being normal and safe. My fear was crushing. I reached out for help for my mental health, started going on walks with my family every day, and adjusted to a new and different routine.
Where I once enjoyed going to the supermarket and had easy and pleasant interactions with other people, other people suddenly felt like a threat to my safety. As I searched for onions and apples, I kept as much distance as possible between myself and others. I was used to seeing the people in the supermarket as my neighbors, but now it felt like those who did not wear masks might be my enemies. All of this only made my anxiety worse, which made me more fearful.
And the danger with my fear, with all of the fear and anxiety we might be experiencing about the pandemic, about jobs and income, about healthcare and elections, about housing and safety, is that our fear will lead us to away from our values, from the Enduring Principles, and point to groups in our communities and say “those people are to blame.” I have seen this tendency in myself and I see it in the people around me.
But we can resist this fear with courage, where we acknowledge our fears and then choose paths that fear does not suggest. If we wish to contribute to peace, we must hear this call to courage.
Doctrine and Covenants 162:8c says “Continue your journey, O people of the Restoration. You have been blessed thus far but there is so much yet to see, so much yet to do. Go forth with confidence and live prophetically as a people who have been loved, and who now courageously choose to love others in the name of the One you serve. Amen.”
The courage to create peace invites us to always remember the dignity and worth of our neighbors, to see our neighbors as beloved of God, worthy and whole just as we are.
The courage to create peace invites us to interrupt language, actions, and policies that try to diminish the worth of marginalized people. It invites us to engage in difficult conversations around these issues, where we might previously have been silent.
The courage to create peace calls us to hear what underrepresented groups are telling us about racism, transphobia, poverty, and incarceration in our communities.
The courage to create peace is the willingness to hear that the community that is a comfortable place for me is not a comfortable place for my neighbor, because peace isn’t about silencing voices we do not like, it is about hearing them fully.
Our Prayer for Peace today is one that is frequently used in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Pray with me.
O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.