2022 12 04: Advent Peace
Sunday Sermon: Alan Storey
Each week of Advent we are invited to contemplate a different theme: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. We do so through the lens of ancient texts (this year through the likes of the prophet Isaiah). The texts stretch our understanding of each theme beyond shallow stereotypes. They remind us that hope is not hope, unless it is hope for the whole world.
Hope that is not for all, is for none.
Peace that is not for all, is for none.
Joy that is not for all, is for none.
Love that is not for all, is for none.
The reason, “if they are not for all, they are for none”, is because of our interconnectedness and interdependence. The ancient texts set us free from the false frame of individualism, releasing us from solitary confinement to enter communal solidarity where justice reigns.
Contemplation cannot be rushed. Unlike other things, we are unable to squeeze an hour on contemplation into fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes of contemplation is at most fifteen minutes of contemplation. Nothing more.
The dictionary is clear: To contemplate is to look at or view with continued attention; to survey; to observe or study thoughtfully; to consider thoroughly; think fully or deeply about; to have as a purpose (intend); to have in view as a future event; to think studiously; consider deliberately.
Advent’s invitation for us to contemplate hope, peace, joy and love, is therefore first an invitation for us to carve out time to consider them thoroughly with continued attention, etc.
Artwork: Frances Seward Photography – Abstract Landscapes
This morning marks the second Sunday of Advent. The word before us is Peace. Peace has become a political word, where when spoken of, one is hoping for the end to wars and the great conflicts of our day. Yet, peace is also a gift we can receive within. Jesus names for the waters in a stormy sea to, “Peace be still” naming the link to stillness and peace. To be centered enough in our life of faith to experience stillness within, no matter what is going on around is a true gift. It is not a quality that we can will within it is one that arises as one lives in their center trusting in God’s great truth.
There have been Peace and Justice witnesses serving on the University campuses during the exam writing. Reports came in that a petrol bomb was set off in one of the buildings at CPUT (Cape Peninsula University of Technology) where students were writing. The debris was cleared, security heightened, and the exams continued. One has to wonder how the students were able to manage to stay focused while the outbreaks were occurring. Many of them shared their thanks for the presence of the witnesses who were there to observe and work to bring a de-escalating peaceful presence on campus.
There are over 200 witnesses who have been trained to serve on campuses. A couple of weeks ago, I served myself at the CPUT Belleville campus. It was the night of the super moon. The mediators who have been negotiating during the education crisis were able to reach an agreement at Belleville that day for the private security to be removed and the old CPUT security to come back. The students were so excited they worked to man the security gate until the CPUT security made their way back.
The witnesses who were serving at Belleville that evening were all ones who had been serving quite consistently. I worried about our ability to sustain the effort. You can imagine the gift when a taxi full of clergy from Khayelitsha showed up to serve as the night shift. It was amazing to see them prepare for their time of service. One of the witnesses took out her guitar and began singing songs. It was one of my favorite memories. The beginning of our time on that campus was to be present in the midst of communication between parties that was disintegrating. On this night, it was as if peace was witnessing to us.
As I have served with the Peace and Justice Witnesses, I have grown more fully in my realization that we must be a people who work to stand in the midst of great divides witnessing to another way. The inner peace that is gift in this work is the fruit born to those who learn how to wait in the center of their being, trusting in the ways of God.
In Advent, we strengthen ourselves in the wait for the promise of something more that is held in the life and teachings of Jesus. Advent is meant to be a journey in the darkness of our unknowing. As we acknowledge that we don’t know the way forward becomes known to us, and we commit simply to walk in it.
With you on the journey,