The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer
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Based on Micah 4: 1-4 and John 14: 23-27

Dear Sir/Madam,

| am writing this letter in the hopes that you might be able to forward it to the family of the prophet, Micah.

It's my understanding that Micah, like his contemporaries,  Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah was thought to have offered his ministry of preaching and prophecy,  living in the kingdom of Judah some 800 years before Jesus walked the earth.

Like all prophets of every age, Micah felt compelled to tell God’s truth about a new vision of reality. 

He offered his message in a context of corrupt leadership, one not so very different from our own world context where leaders holding similar positions of trust, power, and privilege are equally corrupt.

My purpose in contacting you this morning is in regard to Micah’s ‘oracle of salvation’, his ‘ode to universal peace’ found in the fourth chapter of the book attributed to his name. 

You see, Chapter Four, verses 1-4 taken from the book of Micah is our first reading from scripture we are reading in our Remembrance Day service here at Knox United Church in Vancouver, B.C., Canada this morning.

What an appropriate first reading given that our primary purpose here on Remembrance Day Sunday is to honour those who risked their own well being in the two World Wars in the twentieth century in the name of peace! 

All that being well and good, I am acutely aware that now almost two full decades into the 21st Century, we  are also called still to be mindful of and to lament Micah’s dream of universal peace as it continues to elude us.

Yes, it is a sad reality that even 3000 years after Micah’s articulation of a vision of nations streaming together to God’s holy mountain in search of authentic leadership for the building of a world where all might know peace, peace continues to elude us!

Please be sure to share with Micah’s family how much I appreciated his vision of swords being turned into ploughshares as something that many Christian groups have taken to heart over the decades. 

In fact, we, in the United Church of Canada, continue to be committed to the ongoing work of Project Ploughshares, an operating division of The Canadian Council of Churches as it continues its partnership work with churches, governments, and civil society to advance policies and prevent war and armed violence.

This is but one of a number of Peace Initiatives our denomination supports as we continue to take up the challenge to be about ministries of birthing peace in our world.

Another more local partnership our church is involved in is the Westside churches of Vancouver initiative to respond to war in the Middle East by supporting and helping settle a second refugee family recently arrived from war torn Syria.

Dear friend of Micah’s family, please know that we here at Knox United Church are not lacking for opportunity to support Micah’s grand vision of universal peace.

That said, I often find myself wondering about which local peace-based partnerships and initiatives need our care.    

Earlier in our worship service this morning, after our annual ritual of remembrance of the fallen in World Wars I and II, we acknowledged our own personal and communal commitment to peace and prayed that justice and peace might find room in our hearts and grow there.

Shortly we will sing together ‘Put Peace into Each Other’s Hands’ which gives me pause to wonder:  What might that actually look like, on the ground as it were, in our everyday living?

For example, I wonder if God might be calling us to take more interest or initiative around partnering with local schools as supporters of community, especially as the gap between the haves and have nots in our beautiful city grows wider.

I wonder if God might be calling us to get more involved as a church family in supporting school-based anti-bullying campaigns, breakfast programs for hungry children, literacy programs, and such that provide support for children and youth in the greater Vancouver area. 

I say this for a couple of reasons, one being that our city is starting to feel less and less safe due to rapid growth and skyrocketing housing prices and the other being a more obvious sense of being among those of us who live with more privilege finding ourselves more and more at arm’s length from those with less privilege.

But then we are such a busy church family, maintaining numerous long established ministries of outreach and pastoral care already!  

Sometimes I need a word from scripture, such as we heard this morning from Micah to remind me to listen with care for God’s call to our community to be about mission rather than maintenance.

And so it is, I find myself pondering exactly what new social justice initiatives God would have us be about alone and together.

It's also my sense that in order for any such new initiatives to take root, we need to first be about the ministries of active listening and discernment so as to be certain that what we are about extends beyond the tried and true, the safe and the familiar. 

But before I get ahead of myself, I am aware that scripture also tells us that without a vision the people will perish.

That in itself  is daunting.

More daunting than that, I wonder:

What would it feel like to let lie fallow some of our more longstanding initiatives so as to make space for new and relevant initiatives to our current demographic context to emerge?

Now that’s a daunting thought!

Then I recall the words from our other reading this morning, taken from fourteenth chapter of the gospel according to John.   

 

Just as Jesus reminds his beloved ones of the ensuing conflict and his imminent death on the cross, I remember his promise to send an advocate, a comforter, and friend, one who will support and guide them in all their thoughts and their actions.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled”, he tells them, “and do not let them be afraid” and I immediately feel my spirit lift in memory and hope of that good news.

Jesus’ words to his beloved ones, “Do not let your  hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid” are words we would do well to attend to this morning as our Remembrance Day celebration continues and in the days to come as we continue to discern God’s will for our community.

And so it is, dear reader of this letter offered in thanksgiving to the family of the Prophet, Micah, for whom universal peace was as illusive then as it is now, I offer these final words:

“Loving God, we acknowledge again we are a hurting people in a hurting world.  Together we proclaim our faith in your loving and gracious presence.

Together we commit ourselves to make space for justice and peace to find room and to take root in our hearts.

Together, we pray that You might help us to learn to listen with care and attention for how to engage in local partnerships and initiatives that address loneliness, isolation, marginalization, and fear mongering as a first step towards the ultimate goal of universal peace. 

Through our living and through our loving, I pray that it may be so.  Amen.