Today is Peace Sunday in our church calendar and we will begin with a meditation from the Buddhist tradition calling us into our connectedness with the cosmos, with the earth and each other, and within ourselves.
The bell is an instrument for centring and also for re-membering (bring our members together again) in the Buddhist tradition.
We have a not dissimilar tradition about bells and re-remembering around death.
Today is the 75th anniversary of the atomic bomb being dropped on Nagasaki, and 3 days after the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
It is difficult to find words to express the horror, the magnitude, the deaths, the ongoing effects, the fear… felt then, and still.
And the thousands of nuclear weapons built since; and the trillions of dollars spent. In 2019 alone nine countries together spent $72.9 billion! That’s a lot of grocery shopping, a lot of job creation schemes, a lot of R&D into planet-saving strategies and technology. Actually, its just obscene that we humans could spend that much money on fear.
So today we will toll our bell 75 times remembering: remembering those who died, and who died since, in wars and conflicts, humans inflicting death and pain on other humans.
The spiritual traditions of peace-making are summed up in two phrases: “Letting go” and “Building connections”.
Children’s Talk: ‘The Hurt’ by Teddy Doleski.
This story is not just a children’s story. It’s a story about adults being hurt, feeding their hurt, and holding on to their hurt. It’s a story too about communities, countries even, being hurt, feeding their hurt, and holding on to their hurt.
And it’s a story too about alleviating hurt – listening, affirming, relating, travelling with the hurt one to a better place of mind and body.
This story is about peacebuilding, locally. And local can go global.
Quintessence (from the Latin fifth essence) refers to that which is separate from the elements of earth, fire, water, and air but connects them and life together. In ancient mythology it was the essence of that which was off the planet (the substance of the heavenly bodies), but latent in all things. It was introduced into philosophical theory by Aristotle. Of course, scientific knowledge has moved on since then. In religion and spirituality quintessence metaphorically referred to ‘spirit’, in which, in whom, we live and move and have our being - the connective tissue. And Christians call this quintessence/spirit the power of love.
So, here’s one diagram that seeks to express these five elements connectively:
[The wild Unknown - Five Element Spread – Spirit People]
And here’s another:
[Fivepointed Star Icon Element Stars Mobile Stock Vector (Royalty ...]
This imagery links the 4 elements of matter – earth, fire, water, and air – with the connecting fifth element which is the power of love. It is this power that works in the cosmos to animate, to heal, and to bring hope.
As I John 2:7 says, this call to love is not new. It’s old; and its ever new. And when we live in this love – allowing it to flow through to animate (think Prometheus) and heal us, and then healing our relationships – it becomes like a light, guiding us on through all the hurt and destruction of the past into a hope-filled future.
This sort of love is not then to be limited to romance. Nor to affection for one’s children or parents or friends. Nor to empathy for and solidarity with the suffering of others. This love can encompass all that, but it is a much bigger word, it is the lifegiving connective tissue between us, it is the quintessence of humanity.
The text today from John 20:7-11 transports us into a theatre:
Firstly, there is violence and fear outside the door. Violence and fear in 33 CE (with the capture and death of Jesus), violence and fear in the early 2nd century when the text was written and its first audience lived (the expulsion from the synagogues, the ongoing effects of the Roman-Jewish war), and violence and fear today. And the first task is the hardest: letting go of hurt and fear.
Secondly, there is fellowship and food inside the door. We know the early Jesus communities were largely constituted by people who didn’t have houses where they could meet. So, unless a wealthy person was part of their group, they would hire a room where a dozen or so, a supper club, would meet to talk, share, care, and break bread. Communion was a fellowship before it became a sacred ritual. And the second task is building fellowship, connection.
Thirdly, despite the locked doors, when they met for fellowship and food, they experienced God-in-Jesus among them. Fear and locked doors didn’t bother this god-presence. “Peace be with you” it said. Then it said, “I send you”. Then it breathed on them and said, “Receive the Spirit”.
The’ breathing idea is from Genesis 2, the earliest Creation story, and it is about God giving life. So, you could translate this saying Jesus resuscitated them and said: ‘Receive the Spirit’ (and breath and spirit in Hebrew are the same word)
I paraphrase these three statements like this:
“Be at peace in yourselves, and among yourselves, and do not be afraid. Let go of your hurts and fear.”
“I send you outside the doors to take your peace and mingle it with the peace-making works of others so that the hurt that can produce violence might be diminished and eventually be gone.”
“Receive the spirit, my spirit of love, it is physical and spiritual, and it will connect you not just with one another, not just with those you are afraid of, but with all life and all the elements of life.”
The spirit of peace, the spirit of compassion, is found in the weave of connection. And so, the third task is that we, along with others outside our doors, are to be revealers of the weave, repairers of the rips, and sewers and stitchers of hope.
Come quintessential Spirit, breath of life, weaver of connection,
and help us see that in these simple things -
food, fellowship, and friendship -
there are the ingredients of hope and healing for the world.