Last week’s Bible Study at St. James Mission was on John 14:23-29, which can be read by clicking here. Our discussion on the passage ended up following the contours of the Serenity Prayer, which we use in our weekly liturgy at the end of the Prayers of the People.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you… Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” This reminds one of the first line of the prayer where one asks for “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change”. Many things conspire to rob us of our serenity. Various stressors and crises impact our lives on a daily basis. In time, our souls begin to feel like the surface of the moon: pock-marked with craters, holes, and scars from the relentless beating of the cosmos.
Living in peace is a hard thing to do. The state of anarchy we witness on an international scale is a constant reminder of that fact. However, one need not look as far as the headlines to see the difficulty of living in peace, but only to the constant drama one finds in families, neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools. As Rodney King once said, “Why can’t we all just get along?”
Just as destructive is the internal violence people do to themselves every time they look in a mirror:
- “I’m not smart enough.”
- “I’m not good enough.”
- “I’m not pretty enough.”
Each one of us is our own worst critic. Multi-billion dollar industries are built on the backs of people who are unable to accept themselves. I believe that Christ, with his gift of peace, intends to liberate us from all forms of violence: international, interpersonal, and internal.
Embracing Christ’s blessing of peace does not constitute a quietistic escape from the harshness of reality. It empowers us to face reality with renewed conviction and vigor. The second line of the Serenity Prayer asks for the “courage to change the things I can.”
We can hold onto our serenity while acting courageously. Our faith can give us the strength to stand up against evil and injustice in this world because we are certain of victory. Christ has conquered sin and death, therefore any expression thereof is limited and temporary. The darkness can oppose the light, but cannot overcome it.
Living as people of peace changes how we act, not whether we act. We see the same facts as activists and analysts, but we see them differently. Faith is the yeast that leavens the bread of action. To borrow a phrase from a famous prayer, “Where there is hatred,” we are able to “sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.”
I am reminded of the mug-shots of the Freedom Riders from the 1960s. Many are scared but smiling. Their faces radiate with serenity and courage. They are among the most beautiful images I have ever seen.
I invite you to examine your self, community, and country for the changes that need to be made. I invite you to face those challenges with courage and serenity, believing in the certain victory of Christ’s peace over all forms of injustice and violence. Your action is only one small part of God’s greater action, and that action cannot fail.
Russell & Mary Jorgensen