Today ushers in the second Sunday of Advent. The lectionary readings this week focus on peace, introducing some of my favorite Old Testament imagery from Isaiah: “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6-9). This week’s readings also include a beautiful blessing from Paul’s letter to the Romans which always resonates deeply with me: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13).
So, not surprisingly, my reflections on my blog this week will focus on this idea of waiting for and experiencing peace. Peace may emerge in the transformation of the social order as we hear described in the passage from Isaiah. This recognition that higher level change is possible allows us to live and grow in newness of life, setting aside (or keeping in perspective) the fears which so often define our lives. This is the peace on earth we often await, which can feel so elusive in a large and sometimes chaotic world. But, peace can also be found when belief becomes palpable and real, abounding even in our daily lives and work, as we hear in the words from St. Paul. These personal echoes of divine peace enrich our human experience and immerse us in the hopeful expectation that peace is possible. Peace is real. Peace is possible not only in a yet-to-emerge future, but also in this very present moment.
This week, I caught glimpses of divine, socially transformative peace as I reflected on the life and works of Nelson Mandela. Through acts of radical advocacy, thriving amid imprisonment, and transformative political leadership he worked to change the very structure of the unjust world into which he was born. The life and work of Nelson Mandela restores my faith, my quest for justice, my sense of connection with those who work for change instead of passively accepting the status quo. But, this very day, I also experienced deep peace in the simplicity of stringing prayer beads together with members of my faith community during our advent prayer bead workshop and quiet day. I strung each bead with intention, saying a thought or prayer to sustain the people for whom I was making each set. This brought a very present, very real daily peace that took hold in my spirit. This daily peace restores my own belief that we are interconnected in our thoughts and in our community. The presence of the divine dwells in that peace that is found within our human connection, our genuine daily caring for one another.
May you experience peace in your present moments this week, as together we await the peace that surpasses our understanding and transforms this world in which we make our human home.