World Peace. This morning, gathered together, we have prayed for world peace. In our prayers said this morning, we have asked for a world where no-one will “learn” or experience war anymore. We asked God to help us catch a vision of how the world can live together, and we prayed for peace to reign in every heart, home and nation. We thanked God for the love and courage of those who fought in war and brought us our freedom, and we prayed for those still caught up in conflicts around the world. We asked God to show us how we might participate in an enduring peace for all, and work for the justice of all. We asked to live for God’s glory, and to live for the service of God’s people wherever they may be. World peace. Is it possible?
Jesus had a vision. And it was for world peace. It is summed up in his great commandment. “Which commandment is the most important of all?” he is asked. And Jesus replies: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, and love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than this, says Jesus. And there it is in a nutshell. If you love God, you are to love your neighbour as much as you love yourself. Whatever you esteem, whatever you desire for your comforts, your safety, your freedom, your values, your quality of life, you are to give that to your neighbour as much as you give it to yourself. Your neighbour has as much right to what you give yourself as you do. And there is a difference between wants and needs, as we know.
You may want a new car, but you need food to survive. Many of our world neighbours are starving, as we saw in our Canadian Foodgrains videos just a few weeks ago. In Canada, 1.3 million children live in conditions of poverty (that’s 1 child in 5). According to current statistics, child poverty rates are not declining, and food security is an issue for far too many. Let’s bring this home. If Jesus says to treat our neighbour the same way we treat our very own self, do we know where these children living in poverty are – right here in Stratford? Where are they? Jesus says we are meant to care. They are our neighbour. Again, according to statistics, it is estimated that over 150,000 Canadians are homeless on any given day. Where are they? Where are they in Stratford? Jesus says to care. They are our neighbour.
We would say that we need our freedom – not just want freedom, but we need freedom to function fairly in our society. We need the freedom of speech and choice – choosing what’s right and decent in action and governance. Many of our world neighbours do not have this freedom. Many world neighbours live without justice. They have no safe place to go. They live in fear. Let’s bring this home – do you know families or neighbours here, right here in Stratford, who live in fear or without safety? Our Social Services would certainly know of them, but do we? We are told that our young people, especially teenagers and young adults, are desperately in need of counselling for mental illness issues and concerns. They feel overwhelmed and need a safe place to go for help. What if that was us? What would we do? Can we help them get the assistance they need? Right here, in Stratford?
There is hope for our world from those committed to its welfare, those who address oppression and fight for important justice issues. Greta Thunberg, the 16 yr. old Swedish activist, advocates for climate change and organizes protest marches around the world called Fridays for Future. She has taken world leaders to task – they aren’t doing enough to stop global warming. Greta is fighting for the future – she wants a healthier world.
Gwynne Dyer, a journalist based in London, England, recently wrote an article printed in The Beacon Herald called “Worldwide wave of protests heralds emerging global society.” Protests are happening all around the world demanding democratic rights, or an end to corrupt systems, or a stop to the growing inequalities between rich and poor. Gwynne writes: “It’s about economic and social inequality as well as political oppression… What we have here, despite the multiplicity of languages, religions and histories, is an emerging global society with shared values and ambitions, especially among the young… for the first time, we really are becoming one people.”
One people. One worldwide people. Jesus prays that we all may be one. In John chapter 17 he says: “I pray for those who will believe in me that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us…that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me, and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
My message about world peace this morning is a simple one. It may seem to be almost too simple. But the gospel of Jesus is a very simple message. We must bring the commandment of Jesus home. We must bring the message of world peace home. For peace begins simply with loving our neighbour just as much as we love our self. Caring for someone else, just as much as you care about your self. And when we do, we are loving God, with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength. If we all of us, together, collectively, loved other people the same way and as much as you love yourself, we would all be enveloped in a caring, loving world which would not want to harm, or hurt, or exploit or take advantage of anyone.
We asked God this morning to help us catch a vision. To show us how to participate in an enduring peace for all. To work for the justice of all. To live for the service of God’s people wherever they may be.
Jesus told us how. It is God’s way for peace. For lasting peace. It starts with us. And may the Spirit of Christ live within each of us, may we ask him to do so, to strengthen us and empower us to live out his commandment. Thanks be to God that we are one in Him. Amen.