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Thursday, August 27, 2009

 

A Million Minutes for Peace

I've joined "A Million Minutes for Peace," a grassroots effort to get 1,000,000 people to stop at 12 noon on the United Nations International Day of Peace, September 21, to pray for one minute for peace. You can join at www.odysseynetworks.org .

I am also one of the bloggers for this effort. You'll find my first blog response on the "Million Minutes for Peace" website that Odyssey has created. We were asked to respond to this: "A common mantra in the peace-making community is “in weakness is our strength.” Have you found this to be true in your experience as a peace builder?"

Here is my response:

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One of my favorite Christian New Testament texts is found in 2 Corinthians 12:10 - “Therefore I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong” (NRSV). A great and favorite text. And, maybe, a helpful path to peace.

St. Paul wrote these words to the new Christians at Corinth when they were having another church fight, this one over spiritual gifts and some in the congregation who were bragging about their spiritual gifts (“We have them and you don’t!”). Using his own ongoing poor physical health as an example, Paul makes the point that God responded to Paul’s own weak health and Paul’s pleas for physical healing by telling him, “My grace if sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, when the military power of the former USSR was perceived to be very strong, I got to know the Rev. Dr. Arvids Ziedonis Jr., a Lutheran pastor and Russian professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Dr. Z, as we called him, would often say that the USSR would one day soon collapse from the inside, that its “power” was really a hollow shell. People laughed at him. Lots of people. Called him names even.

After the fall of the “Iron Curtain” in 1989 and the fall of communism and the breakup of the USSR I saw Dr. Z and asked him, “What’s it like to be right?” He just smiled at me.

Turns out, of course, that Dr. Z was right and the USSR was never very “strong!” And so many dollars and lives were spent (by all “sides” in the so-called Cold War) to respond to what turned out to be a lie!

St. Paul writes that true strength is to know and accept one’s weaknesses. To pretend to be strong is an invitation to disaster. Just ask the leaders of the former USSR!

For us, as people of faith, true strength comes not in military might, real or perceived, or any other show of strength and power. No, true strength comes from what we Lutherans love to call God’s grace, God’s unconditional love for all people. That makes our survival as individuals and peoples a matter of faith, not strength or power.

I know this to be true in my own life. In my own times of weakness, I find my strength in God and other people. And, if I let it, my own weakness becomes my strength. In those times, I find that I do not need anything else to survive and even thrive – just God’s love and the love of others who have also responded to God’s love.

I think this is true for people and even nations. I know it is true for me.

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