Jesus, in the song you wrote
The words are sticking in my throat
Peace on earth
Hear it every Christmas time
But hope and history won’t rhyme
So what’s it worth?
This peace on earth -U2
It is hard to hold out hope for peace.
We attend to peace like a river, mindful of where it is moving us to, and we yearn to have the peace that passes understanding down in our hearts to stay. We work to prepare the way for the Prince of Peace to come. But we feel the cognitive dissonance between the world we experience every day and the promised peace of our soon and coming King. “Jesus, in the song you wrote/ the words are sticking in my throat,” sings Bono and we feel with him the angst of a hope and history which just won’t rhyme. How can we hold out hope and sow peace in our wartorn land of discord?
Gerard Manley Hopkins poem Peace describes this same sense of elusiveness—our longing for promised Peace when we’ve only seen a peace, piecemeal and poor:
When will you ever, Peace, wild wooddove, shy wings shut,
Your round me roaming end, and under be my boughs?
When, when, Peace, will you, Peace? I’ll not play hypocrite
To own my heart: I yield you do come sometimes; but
That piecemeal peace is poor peace. What pure peace allows
Alarms of wars, the daunting wars, the death of it?
O surely, reaving Peace, my Lord should leave in lieu
Some good! And so he does leave Patience exquisite,
That plumes to Peace thereafter. And when Peace here does house
He comes with work to do, he does not come to coo,
He comes to brood and sit.
When, Peace, will you, Peace? How long, O Lord? What pure peace allows/ Alarms of wars, the daunting wars, the death of it?
I had planned to write, today, ways we can welcome more of God’s shalom in our midst, but it struck me that such preachy platitudes would ring hollow if we didn’t stop and notice how hard it really is to hope for peace. We know far too much of grief and sorrow, death, terror and war, oppression and hate, we know far too little peace. It is hard to watch the news and not feel profoundly disillusioned and cynical. There is too much that is broken. How can such a world be made whole?
And yet we hope and wait, work and wonder. Peace is our hope but we hate the delay. We’ve seen just enough to have some trust, but hope the way is not far off. The opening lines of Bono’s song are:
Heaven on earth
We need it now
I’m sick of all of this
Sick of sorrow
Sick of pain
Sick of hearing again and again
That there’s gonna be
Peace on earth
We are sick of all we see and suffer. We long for your Kingdom come. How much longer? Prince of Peace, don’t drag your feet.
Image source: Land art sculpture by Hein Waschefort, Maluti Mountains near Lesotho (Wikimedia Commons)