Creating a Covenant of Peace

From Ezekiel 34:1-16, 25-31

There is something magical about finding a nest—about being that close to that sacred place of new beginnings.  And about seeing the deliberate industry that so obviously goes into creating a nest.  One piece at a time.  Thorough.  Deliberate.  It takes 2 things primarily:  1. A vision and 2. The willingness to work through adversity.

The work is slow.  Piece by piece.  Building.  Creating something out of nothing.  Balancing it.  Molding it. . . .  We’re clear about its purpose.  And its need.  To hold and nurture and sustain the tenderness of life. . . .

When we imagine creating a covenant of peace, we, too, are engaging in the work of nest-building.  We are building a nest for peace to be born and live and thrive.  And it requires 2 things primarily:  1. A vision and 2. The willingness to work through adversity. 

The work is slow.  But it is important to remember that we do not engage in this work alone.  It is a covenant we are creating.  Peace is not an idea we come up with on our own and then just run with it.  We have a partner in the peace-making, nest-building, covenant-creating. . . .  A covenant moves 2 ways.  We are not the only players in this scenario.  God is forever with us, forever for us, and never against us.  God gives us the tools we need.  But like Mary Oliver reminds us, we must remember our tools:  What are our tools?  “Flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.”  Sticks and straw, mud. . . .

Some of you may have seen the interview of the little French boy—maybe 3 or 4—with his father following the terror attacks in Paris.  The reporter asks this young boy if he understands why terrorists attacked Paris, killing and injuring so many.   The little boy says, “Yes, because they’re very very very mean.  The bad guys aren’t very nice.” And he insists that they all have to be careful and move to get away from the bad guys with guns. 

His father tries to reassure him, “No, don’t worry.  We are not going to have to leave.  France is our home.” 

“But there are bad guys, Daddy!”

“Yes, but there are bad guys everywhere.”

“They have guns, they can shoot at us because they have guns and are bad.” 

“Well, they have guns, but we have flowers.”

“But flowers don’t do anything.”

“See all the flowers?  They’re to fight against the guns.”

“Are they there to protect? . . .  The candles too?”

“It’s to not forget those who left us yesterday.”

“The flowers and the candles . . . they’re there to protect us. . . ?”  Lights churning in his head. . . .

The reporter jumps back in and asks the boy,  “So are you feeling better?”

“Yep. I’m feeling better.”

There are always those who will take advantage—who will work to harm rather than heal.  We know that, don’t we?!  And Ezekiel knew that:  Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool; but you don’t feed the sheep—even though that is your job! .  You have not strengthened the weak; you have not healed the sick; you have not bound up the injured; you have not brought back the strayed; you have not sought the lost….  But with force and harshness you have ruled them. You have scattered them, and they have become food for wild animals.
But that, of course, is not the end of the story. . . .  Remember, we are nest-building.  We must set a vision—what we want.  And we must be willing to work through the adversity to get there.  No one said it would be easy.  Some might even say it’s nonsense, craziness to fight guns with flowers. 
But would they also say it’s craziness to build a home, one piece of straw at a time, strong enough to hold delicate eggs at the top of a tall tree?!
We are creating a covenant of peace.  And the words of God, spoken through Ezekiel, echo into our hearts—and into our sanctuary this morning:  I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep.  I myself will search for my sheep.  I will seek out the lost.  I will bring back the strayed.  I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered.  I will bind up the injured.  I will strengthen the weak.  And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, with good, rich pasture.  I will feed them with justice.
Here is a blueprint for a covenant of peace:  Seeking, rescuing, binding up, strengthening, feeding.  And do you notice what God is feeding them?  Justice.  Yes.  Without justice, there can be no peace. . . .  and we’ll talk more about that next week.  Here are some more of our tools. . . .
Even when it is hard, we must set our vision and work toward it.  If we say we long for peace, we must be about peace.  In our daily lives—in our homes and relationships, driving home after a long day and in line at the grocery store.  As well as in our political views, spending habits, what we talk about, believe in, and fight for.
God desires to create a covenant of peace with us.  God desires to nurture us and our world into a people and place of blessing.  Let this guide our vision.  And as we lean into peace, I want to leave you with these beautiful words from Maya Angelou:

“Snow in Bethlehem” by Maya Angelou:

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes

And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.

Flood waters await us in our avenues.
Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche

Over unprotected villages.

The sky slips low and grey and threatening.
We question ourselves.

What have we done to so affront nature?

We worry God.

Are you there? 
Are you there really?

Does the covenant you made with us still hold?
Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,

Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope

And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.

The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,

Come the way of friendship.
It is the Glad Season.

Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.

Flood waters recede into memory.

Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us

As we make our way to higher ground.
Hope is born again in the faces of children

It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.

Hope spreads around the earth. 
Brightening all things,

Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.
In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.

At first it is too soft. 
Then only half heard.

We listen carefully as it gathers strength.

We hear a sweetness.

The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.

Louder than the explosion of bombs.
We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.

It is what we have hungered for.

Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.

A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.

Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.
We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.

We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.

We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.

Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.

We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,

implore you to stay awhile with us

so we may learn by your shimmering light

how to look beyond complexion and see community.
It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.
On this platform of peace, we can create a language

to translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.

We jubilate the precious advent of trust.

We shout with glorious tongues the coming of hope.

All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices to celebrate the promise of

We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Nonbelievers,

Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.

We look at our world and speak the word aloud.

We look at each other, then into ourselves,

And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation:
Peace, My Brother.

Peace, My Sister.

Peace, My Soul



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