Don't Be a Stranger: "Making Peace"

Background Text: Ephesians 4:25-5:2
St. Martin United Church of Christ - High Ridge
Rev. Terry Minchow-Proffitt


We’ve been exploring the nature of church over the past few weeks. I hope this series has helped you reclaim the mystery of God’s gift to us through St. Martin. I’ve served God through the church most all of my adult life and this mystery has only increased with the years. I’m talking here about real church growth. I’m speaking of the mystery of being Christ’s body, of taking on the Mind of Christ, of allowing grace to circulate through us like our very blood.

Earlier in this series, Paul said this: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”

So, our Christ, the one we seek and seek to serve, has brought us near. Nearer to God and nearer to each other. If this is not our wish, nor our heart’s desire, then good luck with that—for this is what your God is up to in the world, this world, our world that seems to be coming apart at the seams, a world that appears to be more divided than ever. So, as Wendell Berry suggests, read the news, then practice resurrection! Live love, and press on toward the fullness of God’s will for your own life. For despite the evidence, we are not refugees. We are not strangers. We have been brought near. And our calling is the same: to live out of such intimacy with God and each other as if no one is a stranger.

A life like this does not make sense if God does not exist. If God is not the source of such peace, then making peace is downright silly. It makes no sense to do what John Cole, Henry Muhrer, and I just did, drive 11 hours to Belington, WV to join about 30 other folks to refurbish homes and spruce up the local elementary school. It makes absolutely no sense to end up at Miss Ruby’s house on Beaver Creek Road in Junior, WV, whose town motto is “A Little Touch of Heaven,” to hang a left off 92 and wind along the creek to the first house on the left, the one with the blue roof. It’s absolutely crazy to greet her in Christ’s name and for her to invite us into her home, absolute strangers, to repair her bathroom and build a ramp from her porch to the street because her Roy has Alzheimer’s and she can’t manage lifting and pushing him any longer by herself. It makes no sense for me to be there when she calls for help because Roy has “gone down,” still I struggle alongside her son-in-law to lift Roy’s body from the bathroom floor. But we cannot. I know who can, so I call in my son, who’s grown now, and much taller and stronger, who has been a part of these trips to this town since he was about eight. So I step back as he steps up, and they lift Roy back to his walker and see him to his bed.

All along, some preacher or shock jock is ranting about something from the radio that Ruby always leaves on. He’s screaming, seeing red, yelling at the world about abortion, or corporations, or thickheaded Republicans, or kneejerk Democrats. He’s spewing spite and bitterness and wrath, he’s wrangling and slandering and making room for the devil by mining brimstone. He’s gone to sleep on his anger. To be honest, I can’t really tell you what he’s saying. I’m not sure, because I’m not listening. I’ve got tending to Roy on my mind. His voice makes no sense in a world where Christ has broken down the dividing wall. There are far more important things going on in a world where God exists.

The grace of God teaches us over time that God does not need our protection or perfect understanding. God does not seek our perfection. God seeks only what God provides: an authentic connection. As Richard Rohr says, all our words, dogmas, and rituals are like children playing in a sandbox before Infinite Mystery and Wonder. It has always been true, and will always be true, that God seeks only to bring us near—nearer to God and to each other. God flows, moves, dances with a face we call Jesus. God’s heart is always and ever toward more love and deeper union—in ever-widening circles. Such peace is a lived reality in Christ. A peace made nail by nail, one hand up at a time, as we draw closer and closer to the heart of God, to the joy that is ours in Christ. Amen.