“Blessed are the peacemakers” – Jesus
“Promise me you won’t get into the middle of this.” That’s what my mother said to me just before I got out of the car to go to the Donald Trump Rally at Lenoir Rhyne University in Hickory, NC. “Sure thing” I said and off I went. I shouldn’t have made that promise.
I was at Lenoir Rhyne to stand with my Bishop and my brothers and sisters in Christ. I wasn’t pro-the Donald; to be honest I don’t really agree with much of anything he has to say. Then again I wasn’t really there to protest either. It’s not really my thing, I’m more interested in standing for what I’m for than against. So what was I for? I was for Jesus. I was for the ideas of Grace, Mercy, Forgiveness, and love.
For a time all was well. The supporters supported, the protesters protested, and the Christians sang and prayed. It wasn’t until after the auditorium was filled to capacity and the doors shut that the real fun began. Where once there had been a hundred or so feet of grass separating the groups now they converged upon one another. Rival signs like banners of war waved as shouts and taunts flew through the air…it seemed to start all at once with both sides being the instigators.
We pastor types wearing our clergy collars and singing our hymns found ourselves between two groups of angry folks, Mr. Trump’s supporters on one side and his detractors on the other. There we were, a thin line of Christians linked arm in arm singing “Jesus Loves You” for all we were worth. It was scary. It was scary because their anger was real. Other Trump rally’s had fallen into chaotic violence; would it happen here as well? I was right smack dab where mom didn’t want me…in the middle of a powder keg.
Blessed are the peacemakers, that’s what Jesus said. I’d heard those words in church countless times; but now, with the church outside her four walls in the midst of shouts and taunts and anger those words raced through my head and took on a whole new sensation. I never knew being the peacemaker Jesus called us to be would be so knee shaking, heart pounding scary.
As we stood there linked arm in arm between these two groups who needed only the smallest provocation to erupt the irony was not lost on me that Mr. Trump had indeed gotten a wall built. We stood there walling off one group from another. The difference between Mr. Trump’s wall and ours was that ours was built not of stone and mortar but of the living stones of our flesh and blood. Our wall, while separating folks for a time, had the ultimate purpose of preventing further escalation so that one day these two groups might become one again. Perhaps our wall was something of a bridge?
It’s a funny thing about those two groups as I’ve thought about them hours later from the safety of my home. They’re both so very similar. Sure they have different life stories, different ideas about how to move forward; but at the end of the day they have something linking them together that they may not even realize. In all honesty both groups, Trump’s supporters and his detractors, feel forgotten. They both feel forgotten by the political elites, the talking heads, the powers that be. Both are forgotten in so many ways from Wall Street to the Main Street’s of any town USA. Both feel forgotten and both are angry about that. Time and again our go to answer is to find a group of people to blame for our lot in life. It’s easier to bear if you’ve got someone you can shake your fist at; that’s the common knowledge at least. Both groups, the supporters and the detractors, have been told the other is the problem and now here we were, a thin line of Christians linked arm in arm amid the mayhem.
At one point I heard someone call out “hold the line.” I have no idea who called it out or who they were instructing to hold the line; was it us? I thought of God commanding the seas in Job’s account of creation, “here shall your proud waves be halted, here shall they go and no further,” it’s my own heart translation. There was the church between two raging seas. Jesus said that by faith we can move mountains; I wondered if faith could hold back the relentless waves of the sea…we would find out.
This is where we needed to be; this is where the church is most fully the church. Christ calls us outside our sanctuaries to create sanctuaries in the midst of wildernesses so often filled with hate and anger and chaos. So often today the church is considered irrelevant. Out of touch and useless in a world that has moved on. Well today my friends I have seen with my own two eyes that the church is anything but irrelevant and out of touch. Today I saw a church that spoke peace to a growing storm, just like Jesus did all those centuries past on a sea in Galilee. Today I saw a church reach out in healing touch choosing to make well that which is sick, just as Jesus did in times past along the highways and byways of lands holy. Today I saw a church teach the ways of grace, mercy, and love, just as Jesus did on the hillsides of of places far away. Today I saw Jesus and I saw him in the church gathered outside a chapel named Grace at Lenoir Rhyne University.
You may well want to call us dreamers or naive or too young or too old. But I know a God who time and again has chosen dreamers and the naive; I know a God who has time and again named and claimed the too young and the too old; I know a God who has time and again walked with all the wrong people and through them has shown the ways of love and forgiveness and mercy and grace. I know a God who can create everything out of nothing and yet still chooses you and I, flaws and all, to be his co-workers in making all things new. Jesus calls us out into the chaos, blesses us, and then sets us to work peacemaking.