Once upon a time, there lived a very wise Queen who ruled over a very large powerful country. The wise Queen was always doing things to teach her people to live in peace. One day the wise Queen announced that there would be a contest to see who could create the most beautiful painting that portrayed peace. Many great painters from all over the world sent the Queen their paintings. One of the many paintings was a masterpiece which depicted a magnificent calm lake, perfectly mirroring peacefully towering snow-capped mountains. Above the mountains was a clear blue sky with just a few fluffy clouds. The picture was perfect. Almost everyone who saw the painting was convinced that it was the best portrayal of peace and it was sure to be chosen by the wise Queen as the winner.
However, when the Queen announced the winner, everyone was shocked. The painting which won the prize had mountains too, but they were rugged and bare. The sky looked very angry, and lightening streaked through the ominous clouds. This scene did not look at all peaceful. It looked like the artist had made a mistake and painted a viscous storm instead of peace. But if anyone bothered to look closely at the painting, they would see a tiny bush growing in the cracks of the rugged mountain rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. In the midst of the rush of an angry storm, the bird sat calmly on her nest. The wise Queen understood that peace is born in places where you would least expect it. Peace is born in the midst of all the chaos. Peace calms the troubled heart. Peace, real peace is a state of mind, a way of being that breaks out in the midst of turmoil. A mother bird’s calm, despite her chaotic, dangerous surroundings is the embodiment of peace. Calmly, lovingly, caring for those around us in the midst of chaotic, tumultuous, times, despite the danger, or the apparent hopelessness, to love without fear is a way of being in the world that breaks out in the strangest of places.
Peace is a way of being in a world that appears to be bereft of the possibility of peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; but the kind of peace I give you is not like the world’s peace. Do not let your hearts be distressed; do not be fearful.” If you listen to the news or tune into the media you will hear of wars and rumours of wars.
Tomorrow, we will commemorate Remembrance Day and although our tone may be somber, our laments quickly fade into images of glory and celebration not of peace but of violence. Our moments of silence will linger for but a moment before the violence begins to move our hearts and minds towards what our chaotic world makes us believe is the inevitable and once again, the violence will rage.
“To you who hear me, I say: love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you.” Come on Jesus, get with the program! Is it any wonder that generation after generation have robbed Jesus of his non-violent stance? Surely, in the face of the chaotic turmoil of this world, we can be forgiven if we twist Jesus’ words in ways that make his insistence upon non-violent resistance sound like passive foolishness. For we are fair-weather friends of Jesus; happy enough to worship the baby Jesus while the adults in the room pay lip-service to the fully-grown Jesus who wanders around in the midst of a barbaric oppression encouraging his followers to “turn the other cheek.” Sure, we know, how very much courage such a radical act would have required. Standing your ground in the face of seemingly unyielding power, determined to demonstrate your own inherent worth is a defiant act of resistance that requires courage as well as wisdom. But come on Jesus, your street theatre cannot convince the multitudes, so please don’t expect us to go the extra mile, let alone love our enemies.
Leave us alone Jesus. Leave us to remember our failures to keep the peace. Leave us to celebrate the sacrifices, the millions and millions of sacrifices, generation after generation of violence requires but a moment to pause, so let us remember and we’ll even throw in a little regret and mourn our lack of wisdom.
If only we could hear or see the birds chirping away as they care for their nests? What would become of our violence if we noticed the beauty that continues to break out over and over again. We don’t have to look very far to see the power of non-violence to achieve peace. There are plenty of stories, lots of statistics. But the telling of these tales does not serve the needs of the over-lords we serve. The experts have tried to tell us that over the last century nonviolent campaigns are twice as like to achieve their goals as violent campaigns. The experts have determined that it only takes around 3.5% of a population actively participating in peaceful protests to ensure political change. But we can only see the storm-clouds of violence. Our ears are tuned to the beat of the drum. We are all too willing to march in lockstep to the call of the powerful who seek to feather their nests using violence. As long as the rich and powerful leave us with enough to feather our nests, we’re content to comply. Willing accomplices – collaborators if you will, just leave us enough distance from the immediate threats of violence so that we can isolate ourselves and our loved ones from the dangers.
Tell us again about your sacrifice Jesus and let us dress our god in the mantle of a violent parent so that we can justify our wars. Let us go on believing that achieving true justice through active, non-violent resistance is just a pipe dream; a lovely idea Jesus, but praise the Lord and pass the ammunition and do it only for us so that victory will be ours. We’re tired of hearing Dr. King insist that, “Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.” Gandhi’s words fail to impress us even if his objections make sense when he objects “to violence because when violence appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”
We’ll have no more talk of Gandhi or Dr. King, it’s onward Christian Soldiers for us! Let the storms’ violence rage and let us remember former glories. Lest we forget to tend our fear.
For we are afraid.
Afraid to put our faith in a radical non-violent resister like you Jesus.
For we are afraid.
Afraid of putting ourselves and what’s ours on the line.
Afraid to follow Jesus into our jerusalems.
Afraid to trust our own power to resist.
Afraid to say no to our overlords.
Afraid to abandon the powers that be.
Afraid to risk what’s ours.
Afraid of the storms that rage all around us.
Afraid to put our faith in a God who IS LOVE.
Afraid of the unfamiliar.
We know the contours of violence.
We’ve grown accustomed to the suffering.
We trust the untrustworthiness of the powerful.
We learned to live with the evils of our systems.
Better the devil we know than the devil we don’t. And yet, the image of that mother bird tending her nest among the rocks and ravages of the storm continues to compel us. The promise of peace breaking out in our chaos, continues to allure us. “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” continues to inspire us. The peace you have left us with dear Jesus, may not be the kind of peace the world gives, but surely it is the kind of peace that calms all fear? “Do not let your hearts be distressed; to not be fearful.” Peace the kind of peace that surpasses our understanding breaks out when together we find the courage to set aside all fear.
Jesus said, “Those who love me will be true to my word, and Abba God will love them; and we will come to them and make our dwelling place with them.”
Come oh GOD who IS LOVE.
Dwell with us.
Let the hopes and dreams of our ancestors live in, with, and through us.
Do not let our hearts be troubled.
Do not be afraid.
Let peace break out in the most unlikely of places.
Let us begin by loving our enemies.
LOVE in the name and for the sake of the ONE who IS LOVE. Amen.
 Erica Chenoweth, The 3.5% Rule – “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict” Columbia University Press, 2012