I was listening to a Ted Talk on my way to the church early last week. TED is a nonpartisan non-profit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 110 languages. https://www.ted.com/about/our-organization
This Ted Talk was from a volunteer firefighter, I know that at least one of you is one.
He spoke of his first call, it was a house on fire… he was all pumped… wanted to do something heroic… when he arrived on the scene, the Fire Chief was standing there talking to a barefoot woman who was distraught at the remains of her water-logged home and her dog was still inside… he thought, “Great, I am going to get to rescue the dog, I will be a hero.”
The fire chief sent a more experienced person in to find the dog and looked at this firefighter and said, “Can you get her a pair of shoes from the front hall.”
Shoes? I trained to get shoes?
Nevertheless he got the shoes, gave them to the woman, who didn’t even acknowledge him.
Weeks later, the fire station received a letter thanking the firefighters for their efforts and especially the one who in the midst of the chaos had made sure she didn’t stand around barefoot.
When he told that story on the Ted stage, one of the things he said was, “In both my vocation at Robin Hood, which is an anti-poverty non-profit and my avocation as a volunteer firefighter, I am witness to acts of generosity and kindness on a monumental scale, but I’m also witness to acts of grace and courage on an individual basis. And you know what I’ve learned? They all matter.
So as I look around this room at people who either have achieved, or are on their way to achieving, remarkable levels of success, I would offer this reminder: don’t wait. Don’t wait until you make your first million to make a difference in somebody’s life. If you have something to give, give it now. Serve food at a soup kitchen. Clean up a neighborhood park. Be a mentor. Don’t wait.” Get the full text of his talk here.
While we are in the season of waiting… of anticipation and preparing, I think his message of ‘don’t wait’ has value. I share that story because I think we sometimes wait for someone else to fix something… or create something… or do something… and yet, we all have a hand in creating something.
It’s the second Sunday of Advent… a time to focus on peace… Jesus is often called the Prince of Peace, but I don’t think he was all that peaceful to have around. People who challenge the status quo usually aren’t. As I often say before we share the Peace of Christ, he didn’t come for the superficial peace of oppression or suppression, but the deep peace of shalom, justice for all. Jesus often had harsh words for those religious authorities who had made so many rules to keep people from God… Like John the Baptism before him, he told us that we all needed to repent and change our ways… But he also preached to us about God’s love and welcome for each one of us… Women and children, tax collectors and Gentiles… each one of us was welcome in the realm of God. Each one of, who for whatever reason, had been excluded from God’s realm… And he taught us that the realm of God was not just about what happened to us after we died… but it was about how we lived with each other here on earth… And that we each have a hand in creating it.
He presented a vision of God’s Shalom to us, just like Isaiah gave us in our scriptures… A vision where there was nobody left out… A vision of a place for each one of us… But he didn’t just leave us with the vision… he left us with the responsibility to work for the vision… That’s harder than waiting for a saviour to come and make everything right…
The Jewish people at the time wanted a warrior to come and overturn their oppressors… but Jesus taught us that warriors can’t create peace and shalom… warriors only create war… and more violence… Instead Jesus taught us these things… Love God and love your neighbour as yourself… And that whoever welcomed one in his name, welcomed Jesus and God. That kind of peace can be threatening to some, but I promise you, when we persevere in peace, relationships deepen, hearts are transformed and love bursts forth.
So, this Christmas season, as you prepare once again to welcome the Prince of Peace into your homes and hearts… don’t wait. Don’t wait to make peace with a family member. Don’t wait to make peace with a neighbour. Don’t wait to make peace with someone from the other point in the pastoral charge.
Be strengthened and encouraged by this community to undertake the work of peace… a peace that is not the absence of war in parts of the world… but an absence of war throughout the world… A peace that is not just food for some… but for everyone… A peace that sees each naked person clothed… each hungry mouth fed… each oppressed one freed…. A peace that starts with how we interact with each other in small ways and large ones… A peace that begins in your own hearts and and spreads to the world… don’t wait.
Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity, amen.
December 4, 2016
Rev. Catherine MacDonald
Elmsdale Pastoral Charge
Advent 2 – Peace
Isaiah 11: 1-9