The Promise of God’s Kingdom of Peace
by Rev Jacky Quarmby 4 March 2022
Reading: Isaiah 65: 17 – 25
Today is the first Friday in Lent and throughout Lent, as we reflect on Jesus’ life, the conflicts that he faced and his final sacrifice on the cross, I would like to take as my theme, “The Way of Peace”.
But what do we mean by peace? Peace is a word, which like the word love, can often be seen in a very narrow sense. We might say, “I would like some peace and quiet”. Peace would then mean an absence of noise. Or we might say, “We have enjoyed peace in this country for over seventy years.” Peace would then mean an absence of war.
In the Bible, however, the word peace has a much broader and richer meaning. The word peace does not refer to the absence of something, but the presence of something. The Hebrew word for peace is Shalom, which means “Wholeness”. Shalom describes a state of living in which there is harmony in all our relationships, in our relationship with ourselves, in our relationships with other people, in our relationship with the Creation and in our relationship with God.
In this passage from Isaiah, God gives us a wonderful picture of the Kingdom that is to come, a kingdom where all people live in peace.
The picture is of a community in which children do not die young and adults live long and fulfilled lives. It is a community in which all people have homes and food to eat, not a society in which people work long and hard, building homes that other wealthier people live in, or growing food that other wealthier people eat. People do not toil in vain or bear children doomed to a miserable existence. There is peace in this community, because there is justice. The relationships between people are as God intended.
In this community, people have a close relationship with God. God says, “Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear them.” And people live peacefully with creation. We are told that lamb and wolf feed together and that nothing harms or destroys - even the carnivorous lion eats straw like an ox. This is life as God intended.
Peace is about the presence of good relationships with ourselves, with other people, with the Creation and with God. It’s about wholeness, it’s about justice, it’s about compassion, it’s about people enjoying and celebrating their lives together as children of God.
Today, as we see Russian tanks rolling into the Ukraine, Syrian refugees risking their lives to cross the English Channel and 1 in 8 Christians in the world enduring persecution and discrimination, it is easy to give into despair and feel that nothing we do will ever make any difference.
However, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which though a tiny seed, when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade. (Mark 4: 30-32) This means that any small action that we can take towards building the kind of communities that we see pictured in Isaiah, matters and can make a huge difference.
So when we give toiletries or clothes to support refugees at Susanna Wesley House, or when we help to buy school books for children in Honduras, or when we buy fairly traded products, or when we contribute to food parcels for those fleeing persecution, we are helping to create communities in which all people have homes to live and food to eat and where their children are not doomed to misfortune. And this has to be a good thing.
So as Paul reminds us in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people …”
Song: Beauty for Brokenness
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The World Peace Prayer
Lead me from death to life, from falsehood to truth.
Lead me from despair to hope, from fear to trust.
Lead me from hate to love, from war to peace.
Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe. Amen