Blessed Are the Peacemakers
A YouTube Video Premiere worship service led by Ruth Padilla DeBorst based on Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Blessed are the Peacemakers
Song: “Instrument of Peace”
Text and Music: Isaac Wardell, Liz Vice, Jessica Fox, Orlando Palmer, Paul Zach, transc. Owen Stroud © 2020 Integrity Worship Music/PG Songs and Hymns/Integrity’s Alleluia! Music/Paul Zach Publishing/Porters Gate Publications, admin. worldwide at CapitolCMGPublishing.com
Used by permission. CCLI #400063.
Led by Liz Vice, Jessica Fox, Orlando Palmer, Paul Zach, Audrey Assad
Prayer, God’s Greeting, and Call to Worship
Led by Karen Campbell
Text and Music: Josh Davis © 2017 Proskuneo Ministries, Inc.
Used by permission.
Led by Eric Lige and Vahagn Stepanyan
Prayer of Lament and Confession, Assurance of Pardon
Led by Eric Sarwar
Song: “Abana in Heaven”
Text and Music: Laila Constantine, Lebanon © 2002 Songs of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Egypt, Council of Pastoral Work and Evangelism, admin. Faith Alive Christian Resources; tr. and adapt. Anne Emile Zaki, Emily R. Brink, Greg Scheer © 2008 Faith Alive Christian Resources
Used by permission. CCLI #400063.
Led by Dareen Sayer, soloist; Joy Kim, piano; Joshua S. Davis, American Sign Language
Prayer for Illumination, Scripture Passage, Sermon, and Prayer of Application
Matthew 5:9 (full text below)
Led by Ruth Padilla DeBorst
Text: John 14:27
Music: Dan Forrest © 2020 Beckenhorst Press, Inc.
Used by permission. CCLI #400063.
Led by Calvin University’s Capella; Pearl Shangkuan, director of choral activities; Dan Forrest, piano; Emily Sall, violin
Led by Neulsaem Sam Ha
Song: “Agua viva fluye del Señor / May the Love of God”
Text and Music: Young Beom Kim; English tr. Greg Scheer; Spanish tr. Joshua Davis and Juan Alberto Camacho © Proskuneo Ministries
Used by permission
Led by Grace Funderberg, Jaewoo Kim, and Joshua Davis
Led by Neulsaem Sam Ha in Korean
Sermon by Ruth Padilla DeBorst
Let us begin in prayer. Our God, community of love, we come before you acknowledging our incapacity to make things right in our lives and in your world. We come seeking nourishment through your Word and your Spirit so that we might walk in your ways. Speak to us, we pray. Open our minds, our hearts, and our hands to your reconciling work in your world. Amen.
A reading from Matthew 5:1–2, 9: “When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them saying, . . . ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’” This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
I greet you from Santo Domingo de Heredia, Costa Rica, and the community of Casa Adobe, of which I am a part. So don't be surprised if you hear birds in the background as I speak today.
Wars and rumors of war. Afghanistan, Syria, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Yemen, the DRC, and the list goes on. Millions and millions of people displaced fleeing the violence and hunger provoked by civil wars and political instability. Closer to home for many of you, there are more guns than people in the US, which is the most heavily armed country in the entire world. During the COVID pandemic, mass shootings have increased, and only in 2021 over 43,000 deaths resulted from gun violence. Beyond arms, language itself is being weaponized. Meanwhile, xenophobia, extreme racial turmoil, and volatile political polarization are splitting not only society at large, but also families and churches. Sadly, we must admit Christian individuals and communities are all too often silent and complicit in these conflicts if they are not outright stoking the fires. Violence, repression, ethnic conflict—none of these were unfamiliar to the people gathered around Jesus on the hill that day. The iron fist of Rome gripped all areas of their lives. Imperial armies occupied their villages. Taxation and forced displacement upended entire communities. The supposed Pax Romana was pounded in by crucifixion nails, while prejudice against others was fostered in order to quell concerted opposition. Not surprisingly, resistance movements plotted revenge for liberation.
Jesus’ words are almost jarring: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” These words just don't fit. Not then. Not now. “Blessed are the peacemakers.” What a bold and countercultural call for the tired Galileans, who had long awaited a messiah who they expected would free them from their oppressor as God had their ancestors back in the days of Moses and Pharaoh. What a bold and countercultural call for stirred-up people today lining up on this or that side of dividing ideological, racial, even religious lines. Blessed, happy, fulfilled are those who make peace, Jesus says—the peacemakers, not the peacekeepers. There's a crucial difference. His is not an invitation to simply accept things as they are, to not rock the boat or let sleeping dogs lie when exclusion, injustice, violence, and oppression reign. No. That is not in the least the role Jesus had when he was on earth. As with all the Beatitudes, so with this one we ask: how did Jesus embody that blessed lifestyle? In this case, in what ways did Jesus make peace? What does peacemaking look like?
The author of Ephesians writes to the small communities of extremely diverse Christians spread across Asia Minor. People different in ethnic background, in language, in social status—to all of them he explains Jesus is our peace, Jesus makes peace, and Jesus proclaimed peace. You can see this in Ephesians 2: Jesus, the promised Prince of Peace, is our peace. Through his life, death, resurrection, and current rule, he opens the way for the broken relationship between human beings and our Creator to be mended. Jesus made and continues to make peace by doing justice, restoring to rightful place and right relations those deprived of them by unjust systems, human greed, and abuse of power, and by breaking down dividing walls of separation. The gospel reveals that peacemaking for Jesus looked like walking through Samaria when pious Jews took the long route around the region they detested. It looked like touching the untouchables of his day, like lepers and possessed people. It looked like engaging in public with women. It looked like bringing together among his unlikely band of followers both zealots and tax collectors, women and men, landowners and poor fisherfolk. Finally, Jesus preached peace to Jews and Gentiles. His peace preaching was grounded in his peace being and his peacemaking as expressions of the ongoing reconciling work of the God who declares things into being. So it is for us, who as children of God have been entrusted with what Paul terms the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:14). We are called to be, to make, and to proclaim peace as Jesus did and as our Father wills.
The most powerful testimony of God's love for the world are the reconciled relations between us as God's children regardless of our nationality, ethnicity, denomination, financial status, political persuasion, or our conviction regarding climate change or COVID protocols. When our families, neighbors, colleagues, communities look at our local congregation, are they struck by the loving and just relationships between its members and of these with the broader community? You see, the world would like us to believe that division, separation, indifference, and war are inevitable: cultural wars, ethnic wars, racial wars, religious wars, ideological wars. The global war machine needs to keep fabricating the clash of civilizations, building taller walls and tearing us apart, simply to justify its existence. But as followers of the Prince of Peace, we must denounce those as lies. We can reclaim our identity as a global community—yes, separated by sin, but drawn together by God's reconciling work as a body in which we all belong to one another. We can step out boldly, engaging in conflict transformation efforts at both grassroots and policy levels. For example, we can help bring together estranged friends or relatives. We can lobby for a land freed from guns. We can advocate for peacebuilding agreements and demand accountability from state and non-state agents regarding their use of force and their treatment of the most vulnerable. We can pray that wars cease and offer radical hospitality to those affected by them. We can place ourselves as human shields as a means to de-escalate violence in terrible areas. When we actively promote peace in these very concrete ways, we give evidence that we are following in our Lord's footsteps as children of God who do as our Father wills.
The good news of God's eternal love, the peacemaking ministry of Jesus and the ongoing reconciling work of the Spirit is good news for today, and it is made visible in our world when we, the community brought together by the reconciling work of that community of love, recognize ourselves as fruits and agents of Pax Christi, the peace of Christ, as a community sent into the world by the power of God's Spirit to incarnate, to give evidence, concrete evidence, of God's good purposes for the entire cosmos.
Let us pray. Community of love, tear down the walls of self-defense, security, and prosperity that our greed, our pride, our prejudice have built, and prompt us to take the risk of becoming communities of followers of Jesus being, making, and proclaiming peace. As God's children, by your grace, may we pledge ultimate allegiance not to the Caesars of our day, but to you, the Lord of history, the only Prince of Peace. May we celebrate today in profound and repentant awe and grateful commitment that when we are together, we are God's dwelling place, here in Grand Rapids, in Addis Ababa, Budapest, Santo Domingo, or wherever we may be. May we, in sum, live out the good news and make peace today while also anticipating the day when, as part of the great multitude that no one can count from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing together as one, we will cry out in a loud voice: “Salvation, peace, justice belong to our God, who is seated on the throne and to the Lamb.” May it be so.
As a final blessing, I will end with a song probably familiar to you. It is the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: “Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace.” But I will be singing it in Spanish.
[Lord make Me an instrument of Your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness joy.
O Divine master grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand.
To be loved. as to love
For it's in giving that we receive
And it's in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it's in dying that we are born...
To eternal life.