Season 9 - Week 6
“The cost of peace”
I’m sure we’d all like a little more peace and quiet. So many of us live lives that are busy, loud and ever-changing; sometimes we just want a bit of calm in the chaos. But at what cost do we obtain that peace and quiet? Is it ever at the cost of peace itself?
When I was 15 my church ran a huge week-long youth event that engaged the local high school. It saw marginalised young people engaging in social action, saw young people from different walks of life become friends, it saw young people who had never stepped foot in a church worshipping and giving their life to God. It was one of the most memorable weeks of my life as a young person. It was noisy, messy, chaotic and full of God’s kingdom. Through this week we saw reconciliation start between young people and the community they had hurt and been hurt by. We saw fractured friendship groups begin to heal. We rallied around the vision of a better town, and together each young person gave themselves towards that vision. As the event came to an end our church was rejoicing, tired, hopeful, and desperate for some peace and quiet.
But the next Sunday, to our surprise, some of those young people came back to church. As they walked in our hearts were lifted, we felt excited at what God was going. That was until the service started. They were loud. Really loud. Disruptive, energised, excited; they seemed to not care one bit for normal church etiquette. It wasn’t long before there were grumbles and nudges, people eye-rolling or tutting at each other. You see, my church wanted to bring peace and reconciliation to the community, but not at the expense of their peace and quiet.
Through this Open Me series we’ve wrestled with the kind of peace Jesus pursued, and what that might look like or require of us in our different family, church and community contexts. In each of the stories, from the Bible and from the lives of people in Northern Ireland and South Africa, we’ve heard that peace often came about at the expense of tranquillity. Peace demanded people cross boundaries of comfort, quietness, ease, convenience. Peace has never been won by staying in our own bubbles, nor by drawing our own lines between those who are in and those who are out. Peace costs.
No one knows this truth more than Jesus. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword,” he once claimed, and his words still sound provocative and dangerous today. The Prince of Peace didn't seem to spend much time 'keeping the peace'. He broke the law, went where he shouldn’t, and when his agenda became too threatening and unbearable for the Jewish authorities, they arranged for him to be sentenced to death. And it was a painful, humiliating death - just read the account in Mark 15. Jesus knew what kind of rage and violence his kingdom would provoke, but he rejected a peaceful and pain-free life to bring the possibility of true peace to others. And he asks us to do the same. “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:38-39).
Give up on your peace and quiet, Jesus says, and find a rich life: lived out loud.
They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means ‘the place of the skull’). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.
It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: the King of the Jews.
They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!’ In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.’ Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
Lahna has suggested a number of practical ideas for pursuing peace this Easter. Could you try one of them? Hold difficult conversations with angry teenagers | Work in the places others won’t go near | Challenge the powers who have given up on young people | Prioritise the least in a world that favours the strongest and the ‘best’| Open your doors to those others would rather shut out | Be willing to risk your reputation for the sake of the things and the people you believe in.
Read through the account of the crucifixion in Mark 15:22-32.
Think about the different ways that Jesus could have responded to the insults and humiliation of the crucufixion, and the full cost of his death - to his body, to his relationships, to his reputation, to his dignity.
Take some time to talk to God about any ways in which you are having to pay a cost for your ministry at the moment - in relationships, in energy, in finances, in your body. Ask for the strength to bear it, and to know Jesus' presence in the midst of it.