The text from yesterday's sermon, preached on the Sunday of All Saints, came from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. "Blessed are the peace-makers," Jesus says, "for they shall be called the children of God." It set me thinking again about one of my favorite topics - love - and how we are called to pursue peace in order that we can live in love.
Earlier in the week I had picked up The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm. I was intrigued by this quote: "Man is confronted with the solution of one...question: the question of how to
overcome separateness, how to achieve union, how to transcend one's own individual life and find at-onement." In the past few months, atonement has been very much on my mind, but I'd never applied the word before to a desire to live at one with each other. And yet, that is indeed the implication of Christ's life, death and resurrection. It is found also in his summary of the law: loving God and loving others (and self).
Those who pursue making-peace come alongside of God in the same way that a son might join the father's auto repair business. The father not only values cars, but is able to do the necessary work to make sure they get back on the road. He invites the son to join him and the son accepts the invitation to partner with his father, and willingly becoming an apprentice. And so it is with us. We sign on because we agree that the family business is a valuable one, and that the end of the peace-making is desirable - reconciliation that allows us to freely love: giving, receiving, playing, creating, delighting with not only God, but others.
It was an appropriate sermon to give on All Saints, since the unity that comes from God extends throughout the ages. For thousands of years, there have been people who have embraced God's desires as their own. But our communion is not only with those who have died, it extends to all who seek to live in love. In John's epistle he tells us that loving God makes no sense without loving others.
Love is like blood, and it is meant to nurture and connect all the cells of the "body" of Christ. When doctrinal differences and misunderstandings arise in the church, they slow down the flow of love, much as happens when arteries harden, or become clogged. That is why the job of peace-making is so important. Peace-makers remind us that we are called to live in love first, and that nothing should hinder our openness to one another, our openness to God.
My dad, one of the most influential people in my life (now a member of the heavenly saints) gave me many gifts when I was growing up. One was his encouragement to develop and hold my own opinions, especially on matters of doctrine, but to be aware that many other good people would not agree. This openness is essential to staying connected with others of faith; it allows us to stay in digalogue, while encouraging our own mental engagement with our beliefs.
In Sunday's service, the Prayers of the People ended with a prayer for unity from the Book of Common Prayer.
"O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of
Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by
our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may
hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but on Body and one
Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and
Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one
holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and
one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen."
There is a danger in division, in not keeping the communion of all the saints. A danger that the body will be diminished in its ability to be Christ in this fragmented world. And a sadness, too, in the heart of God who desires us all to be of one heart and one soul.