Today is Peace with Justice Sunday
Today, as we recognize Peace With Justice Sunday in each congregation with prayers and gifts, we celebrate the communities that study, live, advocate and contribute to peace-making.
It was a drizzly morning in Oslo, Norway. Bjolsen United Methodist Church was hosting worship in the nearby park. Rev. Kari Hay, a Church and Society board member, graciously invited Bishop Sally Dyck to preach and me to bring greetings on behalf the General Board of Church and Society. We were attending a meeting of the Connectional Table with 60 United Methodist colleagues from many parts of the world.
On the richly green, tree-lined park, the happy church members, neighbors, children, parents, and young people gathered singing “Ain’t Gonna Study War No More.” It was both sanguine and haunting. The tune and lyrics reflects a steady joy and confidence in the face of struggle, uncertainty and worry.
Occupied by German forces from April 9, 1940 to May 9, 1945 during World War II, Norway - along with most countries of Europe - is deeply affected by war and its aftermath. The storied memory of occupation is profound. Today, Norway holds a border with Russia, where there are regular irritations and aggressions by Russians at this border. We know the Soviet countries also suffered greatly in the 20th century losing 24 million people in World War II,. The scars and wounds of war are deep and long lasting.
Today, communities of United Methodists around the world continue to both feel the affects of such histories as well as live with renewed and continuing wars and conflicts shaped by racism, tribalism, civil war, violence, poverty, greed and discontent.
Yet God does not leave us alone in the dangerous memories of violence and war. Rather, by the grace of God, we can take hope that Jesus Christ bears scars as well, as one who died and is resurrected. He has borne suffering and pain. And we thank God we are not alone in the work of peace.
As Christians, we are called to live peace-filled lives and to advocate for peace and justice in the communities and world in which we live.
Today, as we recognize Peace With Justice Sunday in each congregation with prayers and gifts, we celebrate the communities that study, live, advocate and contribute to peace-making:
- United Methodists in Germany who welcome migrants
- United Methodist congregations along the US/Mexico border that care for and walk with immigrant families
- United Methodists that work for peaceful reunification of Korea -Christians in Palestine that resist occupation
- United Methodists in Tennessee (U.S.) who advocate tirelessly for affordable health care
- Muslims and United Methodists in Nigeria that work across faith traditions and ideologies to support women and girls impacted by war
United Methodists are engaging in relationships that build a more peace-filled world, educating others about peace-building strategies, and advocating for economies and policies that prioritize peace.
As we stood in the park in Norway, I was delighted when a choir of young Norwegians began to sing the African American hymn, “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired.” Listening to the beautiful choir, I was overcome with the memory of a night long ago at a clergywomen’s gathering when the then Reverend (later to be Bishop) Leontine T.C. Kelley stood and started humming “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired” inviting the group of 25 young clergy women to join in. It brought back the feeling of hope in the midst of weariness, and the glimmer of peace in the face of misunderstanding and conflict. The strength of Bishop Kelley, the tradition of facing struggle and violence with a faith built on peace was again made alive in Norway.
In the face of the conflicts, aggressions, violence and bullying in many places continue to struggle for peace, we can be reminded:
I don’t feel no ways tired
I’ve come too far from where I started from,
Nobody told me that the road would be easy
I don’t believe he brought me this to leave me.
God has not brought us this far to leave us. Together we will take inspiration from those before us, and we will walk toward peace.