Do you remember Terry Waite? He was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s peace envoy who was captured by terrorists in 1987 and held captive in Beirut for nearly 5 years. He was on “Saturday Live” on Radio 4 yesterday morning introducing his inheritance tracks. This is a weekly slot when someone tells the story of the music that had been handed on to them, usually by parents, and the music that they would like to hand down to the next generation. The music that Terry Waite wants to pass on is Karl Jenkin’s ‘The Peacemakers’, which is a musical meditation on peace. Terry Waite himself wrote the words for one of the 17 tracks in that piece, and this is how it goes:
Peace is the fragile meeting of two souls in harmony.
Peace is an embrace that protects and heals.
Peace is a reconciling of opposites.
Peace is rooted in love.
It lies in the heart
Waiting to be nourished, blossom and flourish
Until it embraces the world.
May we know the harmony of peace,
May we sing the harmony of peace,
Until in the last of days
We rest in peace.
We talk a lot about peace in the church. But how seriously do we take it? And how can we live it?
Jesus appears amongst his disciples on the Day of Resurrection and says ‘Peace be with you!’ The disciples are in a state of fear. The doors are locked. Something really weird happened that morning. Peace be with you.
Jesus is offering Peace as a gift.
And that’s a story for us too when we live fearfully, when our inner doors are locked, when we can’t cope with life, when Jesus wants to engage with us – Peace be with you.
Accept the gift.
Another song in Karl Jenkin’s ‘The Peacemakers’ uses words by the Dalai Lama:
We can never have peace in the world if we neglect the inner world and don’t make peace with ourselves. World peace must develop out of inner peace.
Peace starts within each one of us. When we have inner peace we can be at peace with those around us.
For Jesus and for the Dalai Lama, peace is our responsibility. Peace starts with us.
That means we have to address the turmoil going on within us:
- Our fear – my own fear is ending up like my mother, living but not living. Your fear is probably different. It’s there, somewhere, hiding in the corners of our personality. It takes bravery to face our fears.
- our own deep anger, which we may not even recognise – my inner anger bubbles up when I feel discounted by people whose opinions I value;
- the things that irritate us – we blame them on other people or whatever is ‘out there’, but really, they are our own responsibility not someone else’s. We are responsible for our own responses to the things that happen.
- Our desire to hurt others, to point out their wrongdoings and to take pleasure in their discomfort;
- our failure to forgive;
- Our failure to let go of hurts – we hold on to them and cultivate them and they grow within us.
These are some of the things that undermine peace. When we bury them inside ourselves, they don’t go away, but emerge in our attitudes and behaviours which are not peaceful. We’re human – that’s what happens. We talk about peace, but so often, in the things we do and say, we undermine peace.
Peace be with you, Jesus says. Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God. We can only be peacemakers when we make peace in ourselves, when we make peace with ourselves, when we make peace with each other.
Thomas wasn’t there when Jesus turned up that night. How did he feel when he got back from whatever he had been doing and found that Jesus had been there? Maybe he was angry because he had missed seeing Jesus, and everyone was talking about the encounter, and he felt excluded. Maybe he felt he just couldn’t believe anything that was out of the ordinary. His doors were shut to the Risen Christ. But he protested that he was not going to believe the other disciples until he saw for himself.
A week later, the following Sunday, Jesus appeared again. Once again the doors were shut and suddenly Jesus was there among them. Whatever the resurrection body is, it doesn’t need doors. This time, Thomas saw him. Jesus says again: Peace be with you. This time, Thomas heard him. And Jesus insisted that Thomas touched the wounds of crucifixion. They were still there, the injuries of his dying taken into the resurrection. This time, Thomas touched him. Thomas responded: My Lord and my God! He opened his doors to the Risen Christ. And he accepted the peace.
Thomas stands for all of us when we struggle to believe, and then when we open our doors to let Jesus in.
Jesus comes here among us and says: Peace be with you. And he invites us to see him, to hear him, to touch him. He is here in the sacrament of bread and wine, and he is here in each person.
Every time we come together as a church, we say: Peace be with you. When you offer peace today, give each person your peace, your inner peace, the desire for harmony, for love and reconciliation and your promise to look out for the other person, to protect them and heal them, nourish them and help them flourish.
Another text in Karl Jenkin’s ‘The Peacemakers’ is from Mother Teresa:
Peace begins with a smile. If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.