by Parrish Jones, PNS
Though the world is scary and violent, people of faith are nevertheless called to be peacemakers, former General Assembly Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow told the closing plenary of the Peacemaking Conference at Big Tent July 2.
Preaching from Esther 4:14 ― “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” ― and the parable of the sower from Matthew 13, Reyes-Chow said God’s call to peacemaking can be problematic.
“All of this is scary stuff,” he acknowledged. “I’m prepared to go out and change the world until I realize it is impossible and the world sucks. It’s everyone for him or herself.”
Reyes-Chow said that we are tempted to bite back with righteous indignation, but graciousness is about understanding the dignity of the other. It is an understanding of God's claim on each of us. “What will happen to our seeds?” he said, referring to the parable’s sower, some of whose seeds fell in fertile soil and others on rocks. “Will we be choked and die?”
General Assembly Mission Council Executive Director Linda Valentine told participants that peacemaking requires sustained effort amid disappointments.
Referring to the hope for peace ―finally ― that followed the elections in Sudan in January, she spoke of the deep sense of sadness that has come now that violence once more engulfs the nation. “Peace will only come to Sudan,” Valentine said, “if we continue in our work there, for which the people of Sudan are deeply grateful.”
Peacemaking also requires building on the legacy of those who have come before, Reyes-Chow said, reminding the crowd that he had been raised as a child of Presbyterians, educated in Presbyterian institutions and served as a Presbyterian pastor.
“In speaking to you, I am speaking to family,” he said. “When we speak to family, we can chose between affirming how wonderful we are or challenging us to be more faithful in our call."
In the family, Reyes-Chow continued, “we know we are responsible to honor and nurture within us the work that those who raised us have done as we assume responsibility to nurture those who come next — to raise the children of the world.”
That, he said, “is an overwhelming burden” until we realize “that God is watching over and caring for them ... and that they will feel God's claim on them.” That grace must be our posture as peacemakers, Reyes-Chow said.
"We know we must be God’s people encountering the world … remembering that God is calling us to engage in the work of peacemaking. We will be bullied, mocked, condemned,” he acknowledged, “but called we are to respond with the fertile ground of God's graciousness in such a time as this.”
Parrish Jones is a Presbyterian minister and free-lance writer in St. Augustine, Fla. He covered the Peacemaking Conference at Big Tent for PNS.