9 December 2018

Steve Killelea the Australian IT entrepreneur and founder of the global Institute for Economics and Peace has said, “Sanskrit has 108 words for love. Islam has 99 names for God. Japanese has 14 words for beauty. We’ve got one word for Peace…. We don’t have enough words to accurately describe all the different types of peace. I think it was Socrates who once said if you don’t have a word to describe something, then how can you think about it?”

This morning we are going some way to address that problem by examining peace through different lenses, but I realised when James told me the theme for this morning’s service that my understanding of how lenses work was – a little bit – fuzzy.

Apologies to those of you who did pay attention in science, but lenses and cameras work when light rays from an object pass through a convex lens, and bend (or refract) and converge to produce a second – upside down – image. However, because the lens is curved not all the light rays passing through it converge at exactly the same spot – and because different colours have different wavelengths they also don’t converge at the same spot. What is required is for a concave lens to come alongside the convex lens to create a clear image.

And according to the prophets – Malachi and Zechariah – this is what happens when God comes alongside us. Our fuzzy images of peace – full of doves and rainbows and singing Kumbaya – become sharper and clearer. We see that we are not just hoping for peace or wishing for peace but blessing God for the peace we have and the peace we will have. Blessing is the language of certainty. It is the language of trust; that we know that God who has given us a Saviour, will one day save us from our enemies and from all enmity.

But to stay with the theme of lenses, our readings also indicate that to see the peace God has and is making, we need a zoom lens – we need to be able to change focal lengths.

Sometimes we need a short focal length – one that offers us a wider picture angle – so we can see what is happening in our world, so we can help, ‘give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death’. According to Baptist World Aid’s, Global Neighbour Index, “2 million people [in our world] live in countries where development outcomes are affected by …conflict and violence, and half of the world’s poor currently live in fragile or conflict-affected states.” The document urges nations like Australia to limit arms sales, continue to invest in peacekeeping, increase aid and remain committed to peaceful relations with our regional neighbours.

And sometimes we need a long focal length – one that helps us see the small things – the small steps all of us can make to make peace – large and clear; like stopping exploitive labour, purchasing ethical goods, reducing our carbon footprint, giving generously to Baptist World Aid and Hagar and BaptistCare and Communities at Work and many others, volunteering, being neighbours to our neighbours, making every effort to live at peace together, sharing, being kind and being fair – because we all need to step out – to step up – to let God guide us into the way of peace.