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A Gift of Peace

July 1, 2017

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Last year, on the Fourth of July, I spent the day taking pictures and wandering around amongst the crowds who had come to Estes Park to celebrate the Fourth of July. My day began as one of the “celebrity flapjack flippers” at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church for their annual fundraiser for Crossroads Ministry of Estes Park, a wonderful non-profit organization that cares for so many in need in the Estes Valley. After that, my trusty camera and I wandered all over town taking pictures and simply being in the midst of the gathering crowd.

One of the highlights of our little mountain town is shown above. Most days you can find one or both of the Bald Eagle pair hanging out on the power towers on Lake Estes. They are indeed a majestic sight to behold and we have also spotted them fishing on Lake Estes which is another glorious experience. How amazing it is to have our national bird as a regular part of our community (along with the Rocky Mountain Elk, Rocky Mountain Mule Deer, Rocky Mountain Longhorn Sheep, and so many other members of the animal kingdom who call Estes and Rocky home).

I have always found it a struggle to balance the wishes of many church attenders to wave the flag on the national holidays (Fourth of July, Memorial Day, & Veterans Day) in worship. That also includes the “celebration” of the Hallmark Commercial Holidays of Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day. I have observed countless numbers of all of those “holidays” in war zones or overseas along with Sunday worship in the midst of war-game exercises. The funny thing is, in those services of worship it hasn’t been about the “holiday” as much as it has been about meeting the Lord in the midst of the present situation. In a time of war it wasn’t about celebrating or waving the flag… it was about seeking God’s presence in the midst of the darkness.

So Padre, what does this have to do with the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost? If you aren’t going to be wrapping the flag around the cross or the bible, what’s the point? That’s a good question that I will now address.

The political and religious climate in this country is quite concerning to me. This also includes the strange bedfellows of politics, religion, and war. As I verbally processed (again) my own reflections on politicians who seem to be all too hot for war when other people’s children are involved, Denise pulled up a protest song from our youth in the Vietnam era.

Listen children to a story that was written long ago
‘Bout a kingdom on a mountain, and the valley folk below
On the mountain was a treasure buried deep beneath a stone
And the valley people swore they’d have it for their very own.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend
Do it in the name of heaven, you can justify it in the end
There won’t be any trumpets blowing, come the judgment day
On the bloody morning after – one tin soldier rides away.

So the people of the valley sent a message up the hill
Asking for the buried treasure, tons of gold for which they’d kill
Came an answer from the kingdom: “With our brothers we will share
All the secrets of our mountain, all the riches buried there.”

Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend
Do it in the name of heaven, you can justify it in the end
There won’t be any trumpets blowing, come the judgment day
On the bloody morning after – one tin soldier rides away.

Now the valley cried with anger, mount your horses, draw your sword!
And they killed the mountain people, sure they’d won their just reward
Now they stood beside the treasure on the mountain dark and red
Turned the stone and looked beneath it –
“Peace on Earth” was all it said.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend
Do it in the name of heaven, you can justify it in the end
There won’t be any trumpets blowing, come the judgment day
On the bloody morning after – one tin soldier rides away.

One Tin Soldier – The Original Caste

The song, One Tin Soldier, was written by two Canadians (Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter) and it was first recorded by a Canadian pop group, “The Original Caste” in 1969. It was later recorded by many American folk singers including Peter, Paul, & Mary and Joni Mitchell.

How does this tie in with the readings? Well, here is part of the reading from the prophet Jeremiah: “But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet.” (Jeremiah 28:7-9)

What was the treasure that was discovered beneath the stone in One Tin Soldier? Was it oil? Was it gold? Was it a ton of money? Was it power and prestige for the winner? Nope… On the stone one phrase was written… “Peace on Earth”… similar to the phrase I often end my Evening Prayers with… Dona Nobis Pacem et in Terra… Grant Us Peace on Earth…

I find it intriguing (thank you, Holy Spirit) that on a Sunday when folks are making plans for their festive Fourth of July Celebrations and when politicians rattle their sabers and threaten not only other nations but also those who are different from them at home that we would be looking at this particular text from Jeremiah! I have seen and experienced first hand so much hatred and fear and any kind of -ism or -phobia in the book (racism, sexism, other religions, the list goes on and on and on…) on the part of those who claim to be christians (yes, the lower case is intentional as long time readers of this blog know). It embarrasses, angers, and saddens me greatly to see and experience this.

The prophets of doom who forecast pestilence, hell-fire, and damnation on those whom they disagree with (interesting how their god hates everyone they hate) want nothing to do with peace. Their peace means subjugation of anyone who is different and the elevation of their own selves above any others… If we continue to pursue hate we will end up with a world filled with violence and despair. On that bloody morning, one tin soldier will ride away… alone.

So what does that peace look like? Isaiah’s vision where the lion and the lamb will lie down together and there will be peace on God’s holy mountain comes to mind. Another thought that comes to mind is from the Gospel reading for this Sunday: “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.” (Matthew 10:40-42)

Do you hear that? Do you see that, dear reader? “Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple…”. This is a foreshadowing of Matthew 25:31-46 (the parable of the sheep and the goats) where we read the following: “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”

Tomorrow and on the Fourth of July I will reflect and I will pray… I will soul search and I will seek forgiveness… I will search out ways that I can be an instrument of Christ’s Peace to those I meet. I will seek to be that Instrument of Peace that Saint Francis of Assisi spoke so eloquently about in his prayer. Perhaps in doing that, I can be that gift of peace which the prophet and our Savior spoke about. Will you join with me, dear reader?

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