e-letter 4/13/18

Peace. The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom. The word shalom in all its forms is used 550 times in the bible. Too often when we think of the word peace, we think of the absence of conflict, which is certainly at the core of the meaning of peace. But biblically, the word peace, or shalom, means more. Biblical peace, shalom, means wholeness, well-being, the perfection of God’s creation, harmony, abundance. Shalom, peace, is God’s intention for God’s world and for all people. God is a God of peace, who desires peace in all relationships: peace between humans and God, peace between nations, peace between individuals and peace in individual hearts. It is no coincidence that the Messiah, Jesus, was referred to as the Prince of Peace.

It can be hard to find peace in a broken and conflicted world where division and discord are the predominate reality. We become so accustomed to division and conflict that we practically give up on God’s vision of peace. Rather than engaging conflict and dealing with our differences around challenging issues, we often talk past one another if we even talk at all.

But Christ, the Prince of Peace, calls us to another way, the way of biblical peace or shalom where God’s intentions for wholeness, community and respect can thrive amid our diversity. Christ calls us to be peacemakers who join with him in a ministry of love and reconciliation.

Over the next 5 weeks, our message series, “Peace Works” will explore what it means for us to be peacemakers for Christ in our families, our work, our community and in our world. We will dig into scriptures that describe God’s vision of peace and the ways we are called to be instruments of peace in a conflicted and divided world. We will think about what it means for us to be united in Christ without having to achieve unanimity of thought. We will discuss some specific skills that we can develop to enable us to discover peace in our own hearts that can then extend to our relationships with others. Our hope is that we might fulfill Jesus’ prayer over the church when he prayed in John 17, “that they may be completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me.” (John 17:23) A helpful learning resource that we will reference during this series is the book The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict by the Arbinger Institute. We encourage you to get a copy and read this engaging text to dig deeply into the topic of peacemaking.

Also, as a part of this message series,we will hold three open discussion forums in May. These Point of View (POV) workshops are designed to help United Methodists have conversations about challenging topics such as human sexuality with empathy and broader understanding of different points of view. The Florida Conference is encouraging these conversations as a way for United Methodist Churches to prepare for any future General Conference decisions regarding human sexuality. To that end, the Conference has prepared videos and other materials through which conversations may take place in an atmosphere of Christian love and trust. These conversations will be different and even countercultural because in our polarized world, there are few spaces left where we don’t have dividing lines that create us and them, in and out. At these POV conversations, we are all in, we are all us. We will listen, share, reflect, and engage. We hope you will join us in these conversations. If you would like to attend, please register (and specify childcare needs) at suntreeumc.org so that we will have printed materials available for everyone. POV discussions are 6:30-8:30pm May 2, 9 & 16 in the Worship Center.

We will share more about these POV conversations and the work of the United Methodist Council of Bishops Commission on The Way Forward around the issue of human sexuality and the UM church as we move through this message series.

Paul writes in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” “Peace Works” is an opportunity for us to live into that call and the call of Christ to be peacemakers. I pray you will make an intentional effort to join us in worship each week and to participate in the POV conversations. This week we will begin by digging into God’s vision for peace reflecting on Isaiah 2:1-5, Matthew 5:9 and Hebrews 12:14-15.

See you in worship!

Grace and Peace,