Small group devotion
Each week we’ll be digesting a different aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. This week: PEACE. How can we build peace in our personal lives and as a faith community?
Opening activity: Jordan finished by talking about the origami crane as a symbol for peace. If you want, begin by constructing origami together. There are clear instructions here. You could see how you go making some other origami besides a crane. As you work spend time filling in the blanks of Sadako Sasaki’s story.
Before you read scripture, see how much you can remember together of the bible story from Sunday night (if anyone was there). What happened in the story? And what struck you?
Read Luke 10:1-9.
How do you react to the passage? Imagine yourself as one of the 72 disciples — does Jesus’ commission excite you, terrify you, or something else?
What does this passage say for how we share the Gospel with the people in our life?
Imagine scenarios together — what are some practical ways you could bring up your faith with friends in a non-threatening way?
The first thing Jesus instructs the disciples to say is “Peace to this house”. What do you think this means?
How can you actively bring peace to your friends and family? What does this look like? (cf. vv.6-9)
Peace doesn’t necessarily mean there is no conflict. In what ways can conflict be good? And how can you deal with conflict constructively?
If you’re group is ready to grapple with the passage at a deeper level, go on to read Luke 10:10-16. Contrast this to the first half of the passage. What do you think this means?
Finish by using your completed origami as a prayer tool for peace. You might like to write prayers on them, or just hold your origami — get each member of the group to offer up a prayer for peace. It may just be one word e.g. “Germany” or “conflict” or “a family member”. Each everyone to say at least one thing.
- If “the Kingdom of God come near” means the arrival of “peace to this house”, then the rejection of peace is the rejection of God’s kingdom. The second half of the passage is less about God punishing the people for turning the disciples away and more about the natural result of rejecting peace. The opposite of peace is suffering, oppression, war, intolerance, hate. These things lead to destruction and death.
- Sermon script from Sunday night:
It’s a trap!
The peace of Christ be with you
and also with you!
Yes! Today we’re reflecting on peace.
When we say to one another
the peace of Christ be with you,
what are we really saying?
Are we wishing each other a kind of inner peace?
That’s what we often think about
when it comes to peace, right?
Restfulness, inner contentment, wellness of the soul.
But overwhelmingly in scripture,
peace doesn’t really contain this emphasis.
In the New Testament, the peace of the soul
is certainly present but almost always in the context of community.
By and large peace is about how we live in the world.
In the Hebrew scriptures,
peace is the opposite to war
but it’s also a flourishing society, well-being —
right relationship with God, the people of Israel, and the world.
When we talk about peace
as an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit
we need to talk I think
about how Christians live in the world.
Certainly, inner peace is an important part
of the peace we have in the Spirit,
but it seems to me this is always
a product of right relationship with God and with others.
So to get us thinking provocatively,
here’s a short video clip.
A warning of a mild blasphemy
at 19 seconds in.
“Come on in, let’s talk beliefs.”
Now I’m sure that on some occasions
people are very happy to talk about Jesus
with a total stranger.
And I’m sure that in some instances
people have genuinely come to faith
through cold calling.
There are some people that have a gift
for speaking to people out of the blue about faith.
Some of those people might be here
and kudos to you!
This is by no means to belittle your gift.
But for most of us, the idea of cold calling or even talking
to a work colleague or a school friend about Jesus is
- absolutely terrifying
- something that we would hate to receive ourselves, and
- something likely only successful if the person is filling out their tax return at the time.
The fact remains that,
while cold calling may lead to one open conversation,
it often has detrimental effects on ten others.
When I was a university student
some of my non-Christian friends (yes, I had friends)
would deliberately sit in public areas in two or threes,
because if you sat alone
there was a risk of being evangelised!
So as Christians, how do we sit in that tension?
Should we feel guilty about not trying harder
to evangelise our friends and work colleagues?
After all, Jesus did say he’s sending us out like lambs among wolves.
This Christian business was never supposed to be easy.
But the fact remains that it can feel like
we would be setting ourselves up for failure,
hostility or even ruined friendships.
To quote Admiral Ackbar: “It’s a trap!”
What’s this all got to do with peace?
Well, in our reading today,
Jesus pretty much sends his disciples out to cold-call.
I imagine they would have had similar apprehension to us —
probably worse because there wasn’t just danger of rejection
but active persecution!
…which is why the first the thing
they are instructed to say is so important…
They don’t begin by saying:
we were wondering if we could talk to you about JE-sus.
But they begin by saying… peace to this house.
Then Jesus goes on to say,
“if someone who promotes peace is there,
your peace will rest on them…
stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you.”
In other words, the first thing is not to push an agenda,
it’s not to “evangelise”,
it’s not even to serve.
It’s to be a guest.
As Christians we love to talk about serving others,
about being the host, about offering something…
…but we often forget to be the guest (of Christ and others),
to receive, to be served.
I wonder if that’s because being the guest
means making ourselves vulnerable.
It means risking ourselves to be changed
by the person who is different from us.
It means giving up our own comfort or even safety
to let the other in.
…which is perhaps why cold-calling is often so problematic.
Because it’s the opposite of making yourself vulnerable.
Instead you’re going with an agenda:
“let me tell you about Jesus.”
The only way for peace to emerge in that situation
is if the other person capitulates to your agenda.
You’re naming the terms,
you’re controlling the conversation.
So while the odd cold-call might bring some fruitful conversation,
most of the time it does the opposite of bringing peace:
it creates hostility, division.
Ultimately it keeps me safe
because I don’t have to make myself vulnerable
to the other person.
It’s my way…or the conversation ends.
(I should say as an aside that I’m by no means saying
that we shouldn’t explicitly talk to people about Jesus.
I think we absolutely need to share the Story with people,
but the point is that we’re not pushing an Agenda,
we’re not viewing the person
as another soul to add to our List of the Saved.
Sharing our faith is something that arises
through genuine relationship and love.)
Pax Romana. Pax Christi.
When we strip it right down,
I believe there are two sorts of peace in this world.
There’s false peace. And there’s real peace.
In Jesus’ day, when people talked about peace,
probably the first thing that came to their mind
was the pax Romana, the “Roman Peace”.
This was the peace of the Roman Empire.
Sure, by and large, there was no war,
there was “peace”,
but it was uneasy peace imposed by
and sustained through military might.
It is peace that is imposed on others,
peace that is a result of oppression and power imbalance.
At its worst Christians can demonstrate this sort of peace
when we have this sort of arrogance in the world.
We have the truth, you’re wrong.
End of story.
But then there’s real peace.
In contrast to the pax Romana
— pax Christi, the peace of Christ.
This is the peace that is not imposed,
but peace brought about through healed relationship.
It’s the peace that is borne out of being vulnerable,
being willing to be changed,
willing to be hurt.
So when the disciples went cold-calling
and saying, “peace to this house”,
it was a deeply rebellious and counter-cultural act.
It was a subversive peace
that spoke against the forced peace of the Roman Empire.
We’re proclaiming a new kingdom,
that brings a totally new peace (not with the sword)
— a radical peace
that’s built on vulnerability, and sacrifice, and even death.
You’ll notice that Jesus never says to the disciples,
“go and tell people about me.”
The focus is never telling people about Jesus,
the focus is preparing the way for Jesus —
the real Jesus.
And how did they prepare the way?
We’re told: by bringing peace,
by healing the sick,
by being guests,
by being vulnerable.
It’s one thing to preach about the peace of Christ,
it’s another to actually prepare the way for Christ
through vulnerable and peaceful action.
And this is something we’re all called to —
not just the gifted evangelists among us.
We’re all evangelists if we demonstrate peace in the world.
Question: Did you wonder why 72 disciples?
Was it just a random number?
Jesus just had 72 people on hand at the time?
It was actually the number of Gentile nations
listed in Genesis chapter 10.
So in other words this is universal in scope.
Luke is saying, Jesus is sending disciples
into every corner of the earth,
including New Zealand, including Hornby,
to do what?
To bring peace through service and healing!
So how can we do that as a community?
Love Your Local Gilberthorpe School event was a great example.
I think we can also demonstrate this peace every Sunday
through our interactions with others
particularly those we don’t like or who are different from us.
It might happen at a micro level
with neighbours, work colleagues,
friends in our life who are struggling.
This call is pretty broad!
But that means none of us have the excuse not to do something!
One thousand cranes
To finish up…
remember we have the children making origami,
the most famous being the origami crane.
Do we have any yet?
Many of you will know the story of the origami crane.
Making 1000 cranes is said to grant a wish.
After the bombing of Hiroshima,
Sadako Sasaki, a little girl,
was fatally sick in hospital from radiation.
She set about making 1000 cranes
in order for her wish to be granted.
She died soon after.
But the 1000 origami cranes
became a symbol of hope for peace in the world.
It’s a wonderful reminder and image for us as Christians —
perhaps even what it means to evangelise in the world.
Every time we speak and act Christ’s peace,
in our daily interactions,
it’s almost like we’re making yet another crane —
actively living into the hope of God’s reconciling peace.
Pacifism as an ideology
is often thought about as a coward’s way out,
just being a pushover,
a nice ideal but totally unrealistic.
But wherever you sit on the whole just war/pacifism debate,
I think as Christians we’re all called to be “pacifists”
in the way we live out our daily lives.
And by that I mean we’re called to bring peace
into conflict, hate, distrust, intolerance.
Considered in this way,
pacifism is the opposite of being passive, doing nothing.
Pacifism is actually incredibly courageous —
it means being vulnerable,
allowing yourself to be changed.
When we bring peace, we are daring to believe
that there is a different way,
that our reality of conflict, intolerance,
bullying, sickness, death…
this is not the only reality.
But God is building a new reality,
when all will be made right.
Do we dare to lay everything down for that vision?