International Day of Peace or “Peace Day” is celebrated annually on September 21. It was established in 1981 by a unanimous vote to a resolution in the United Nations. Peace Day provides a shared date globally for all of humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace.
Peace is an action word. It requires us to move beyond just thinking about Peace, and to commit to actively work together to bring Peace to our community and the world. We have been celebrating Peace Day at Christ Church Coronado and Christ Church Day School for the past 8 years.
One of the things that I love most about Peace Day is that it offers an opportunity to head outside of our church doors and engage with the community that surrounds us. Peacemaking activities are an outward and visible sign of God’s love. The campus is decorated with peace flags created by the children of our school and members of our congregation. They wave joyfully on the fence behind a sign that invites the local community to chalk messages of peace on the sidewalk. Each chalk message, and each foot that treads past it, is a quiet prayer for peace in our community and our world.
A new offering this year was peace cranes, folded by our Peace and Justice committee. Baskets of exquisite origami cranes filled the tables at our Wonder Wednesday dinner at Christ Church. This meal falls in the middle of our weekly evening of formation. Attendees were invited to write a personal commitment to work for peace on one of the wings of a crane and take it home with them as a reminder to pray and work for peace each day.
We also focus on Peace Day in both chapel and spiritual nurture classes at Christ Church Day School. Students in grades 3-6 read the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 5:1-12
Our conversation began with the idea of upside-down blessings. How are any of the things that Jesus is talking about a blessing? They certainly don’t seem to be. They are challenging to think about, and much like most of the things Jesus calls us to, even more difficult to put into practice!
Our specific focus is on the line, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” As we looked at the challenging situations we face at school and at home, we talked about the difference between peace (an action word) and quiet (passively ignoring disruption). The conversation included problem-solving on how to address areas of conflict with respectful words and open hearts. We brainstormed ideas on how to enrich our school community by creating a space where everyone is cared for and valued, and the need for each of us to be an advocate for ourselves and for others. Listening to the children make connections and grow in faith and love deeply enriches my own faith.
One of the primary themes of Peace Day is, “Who will you make Peace with?”
Those six words encompass an enormous challenge for the students, one that applies to us as well. Making Peace with someone implies that there is strife or disconnection. It feels both aspirational and impossible. Yet I know in my heart that carrying that strife, or allowing a long-term disconnect, is exhausting.
As we consider the question, I find comfort in knowing that I do not need to do it alone. It says it right there in the scripture, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
God is always with us; in the joy, in the struggle, and even when we are doing the exceptionally difficult work of being peacemakers.
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