Lenten Luncheon Series: gifts of the spirit, week two

“If you want peace, work for justice” — Pope Paul VI
On Wednesday, March 22nd, I attended the second of the Grand Island Ministerium’s series of Lenten Luncheons. It should have been the third; however, last week’s snowstorm resulted in the cancellation of that week’s luncheon. The featured church at last week’s luncheon was Saint Martin in the Fields, and the featured church at this week’s luncheon was Saint Timothy Lutheran Church. Unfortunately, the pastor of Saint Timothy, the Rev. Kris Bjerke-Ulliman, was ill and could not attend the luncheon. As a result, Saint Timothy provided the food and the Rev. Canon Earle King of Saint Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church shared the reflection that he had planned to share last week.

Clear as mud?

Excellent. The room at Trinity United Methodist Church, where all Lenten Luncheons are held, was filled. People enjoyed roast beef sandwiches, chips, salads, and cookies, along with coffee and tea.

Now, on to the reflection.

Father Earle’s reflection was a continuation of the theme of “gifts of the spirit.” He talked about two: peace and joy.

Part one: What is peace?
“Is peace the absence of war?”
He mentioned the words “shalom” (Hebrew) and “salaam” (Arabic). They both mean peace, but they mean much more. They mean hello and good bye. In addition to peace, the words also mean:

  • prosperity
  • safety
  • wholeness
  • well being
  • harmony with God and with other people

As people, we have to challenge ourselves about what peace means to us. Father Earle said that, in the 1960s, some people said, “Everything was fine until those black people started demonstrating.” Black people said, “It wasn’t peaceful for us.” Father Earle, as a young man in 1968, heard a Sunday School teacher express delight that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was dead because “he was a communist.” Today, however, King is known as a visionary and a great champion of peace, justice, equality, and freedom.
Who works for peace? Do we have consensus on that?
Is Standing Rock working for peace?
Was Occupy Wall Street working for peace?
What about the peace that comes from God?
The “peaceable kingdom” is described in Isaiah 6-9. Animals, such as lions and lambs, live peacefully with one another. 
Part two: What is joy?
What brings you joy in life? Father Earle suggested several things: Snoopy doing a happy dance, marriage, the gathering of the harvest, an end to war, drinking wine, and winning the Superbowl.
Right now, I’m listening to a recording of a six year old boy playing Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu, opus 6, on the piano. His interpretation is beautiful. I love Chopin. My favorite composer. For me, listening to this is joy.
The Bible is full of examples of joy, said Father Earle. In Luke’s gospel, there are three stories about joy and they all have to do with finding someone or something of value that is lost. They are a lost coin, a lost sheep, and a lost son. “The joy is being in the presence of God and of finding a hidden treasure,” Father Earle said. Peace and joy can go together. In the fourth chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he talks about the peace of God, which transcends all understanding. He concludes the passage by saying that “the God of peace will be with you.” When the disciples were sad, after Jesus was crucified, they were walking to Emmaus. A man joined them, and they told him about their sadness. They did not know who the man was. They invited him to share supper with them. He told them, “I bring you tidings of great joy.” It was the joy of having been in the presence of God and of finding a hidden treasure. All of a sudden, the disciples realized that they had been walking with Jesus, the risen lord. “Didn’t our hearts burn within us?” they asked.

Father Earle said that, in 1991, he was encouraged by that passage in the epistle of Philippians as he was traveling to Pittsburgh to be with his mother, who was facing open heart surgery. “I’ll never forget that passage. Even in the most difficult times, we are encouraged to rejoice.”
Next week: The food will be provided by Saint Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church, and the reflection will be provided by Trinity United Methodist Church.

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