Be At Peace With One Another

Mark 9:38-50

And Jesus said, “Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.” There is good reason why Jesus offered this important counsel to his friends. He recognized their ambition for power. As Jesus shares and gives his peace, it is a peace that goes beyond the needs of the individual. Jesus calls us, teaches us, and encourages us to share his peace with one another. The peace of Christ is not a commodity that is to be fenced in, protected or hoarded. It is to be practiced with others, given away for the sake of Christ and for the sake of the gospel.

The faith and theology of the Presbyterian Church remains closely linked to this passage. Theologians remind us of the constant temptation to operate and function out of self-interest. Our polity also teaches that without the discipline of self-examination we can so easily gravitate to expressions of power that often lead to intimidation and tyranny. We are always in need of more salt, the salt of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, “Be at peace with one another.” Kay and I were watching and listening to Pope Francis deliver his homily at a Vespers service Thursday night at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City when I turned and said, “I am glad Pope Francis is here in the United States and I also think it is good that the media is giving him so much attention.” As people are attracted to this humble Pope from Argentina they are introduced to the mercy and compassion of Jesus Christ, and the transformational power of the gospel.

Speaking to Congress, breaking bread with the poor, embracing and touching children everywhere he walked, visiting the United Nations, participating in an ecumenical service of remembrance at Ground Zero, making himself available to people in the street and mindful of tight and demanding schedules, it appeared that Pope Francis was never in a rush. His demeanor, the smile on his face, his easy-going accessibility, and his gracious words, give evidence of a person who knows, believes, lives, and advocates the peace of Jesus Christ. The teaching of Jesus about the work of peace is more than just a proposition. It is something that is to be lived and practiced.

We who live in the 21st century are facing some rather significant problems. Scientists, politicians, and church leaders are talking more and more about the danger of nuclear weapons, growing environmental concerns, different and clashing views about immigration, expanding needs of the poor, and violent religious fanaticism. Speaking to various groups of people, Pope Francis addressed the issue of our humanity and the need for working together for true peace, peace within the human heart, peace in our streets, and peace around the world.
In the name of Christ, Pope Francis speaks about a peace that is grounded and rooted in Christ, a peace that serves as an alternative to human conflict, a peace that overcomes hatred, a peace that seeks reconciliation, a peace that brings hope to people who live in poverty, to people who suffer, to people who are afraid, and to people who are divided because of overly strident and inflexible political and religious positions.

Our world and human environment in which we live. We are in desperate need of peace. And yet, so many people search for peace in the wrong places and because they look for peace in the wrong places they work harder and harder only to find peace more elusive than ever.

Jesus tells us there are so many different ways in which we can stumble, ways in which we can defeat a sense of order and peace in our lives. There is the hand, the foot, and the eye. We reach and grab what does not belong to us. Our feet take us where maybe we should not go and the eye is attracted so often to what we do not have but what we covet and long for to the detriment of our health and well-being. There are so many different ways in which to sin, finding ourselves too critical of others, disregarding the friendship and fellowship of a neighbor, and, in too many cases, dismissing the call to Christian community.

It is interesting to note that this morning’s lesson addresses a time when the disciples are confused and unsettled. They do not understand Jesus when he talks about death and resurrection. They are argumentative. Jesus hears them debating among themselves about who is the greatest. Jesus draws the twelve together and visits with them about the grace of humility, hospitality, and openness towards others. And Jesus said, “Be at peace with one another.”

In recent days I have read and pondered a reflection written by Rowena Aberdeen, former Deputy Warden at the MacLeod Center on Iona. She brings to the attention of her reader that today, most of us choose our neighbor – those we socialize with are usually people like us, who reflect the world as we see it. What happens, she writes, when you put yourself in a position where you can’t walk away? Where your colleagues and neighbors must also become your friends and family and support. “Where,” as we say on Iona, “we choose to be open to unchosen relationships.” It is here that life gets interesting. The unchosen neighbor provides a different perspective and a new context. We are all loving and wonderful people until we have to engage with the messy reality of human relationships, where nothing is perfect and we must wrestle each moment with our ideals versus the interactions that make up our days. (Living Letters of the Word: Readings and Meditations from the Iona Community by Neil Paynter, Wild Goose Publications, © 2012)

And Jesus said, “Be at peace with one another.” Jesus invites us by way of the gospel to practice and share his peace as we deliberately choose to be open to unchosen relationships. To this end, St. Francis of Assisi entertained the words of Jesus and made them his own –

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

As encounter life and the people who come our way, may we give example of Christ’s peace through the use of our hands, may we share Christ’s peace in the places where we walk, and may we look to our neighbors in the spirit of peace and see Christ in them as we pray they see Christ and his peace of Christ in us.

Once more, in the words of St. Francis, let us practice the grace of love and the grace of pardon; the grace of faith and the grace of hope; the grace of light and the grace of Christian joy. This is the way of Christ’s peace.