Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace –
in peace because they trust in you.
On Advent Sunday, as a church we offered our hopes and fears to God in prayer. The fears were quite varied – from terrorism to the hardening of the world’s hearts against refugees; from failing an exam to a diagnosis of cancer. The hopes were more unified – about 90% of those written down included the word ‘peace’.
It was partly to do with the climate of the news, of course – we feel under threat, and are encouraged to be afraid for all sorts of reasons. The very real threats of Daesh take on all the less defined fears of our insecurities, and we then risk reacting to their atrocities in ways that make peace more distant, not closer.
Isaiah is writing about a real, settled peace ahead of Israel when God brings them back from exile. But he also writes of a settled peace of heart which comes from trust in God. When we know that there is no ‘existential threat’ to our eternal wellbeing, we are less likely to see around the corner one to our national security and identity. We are then more able to react thoughtfully and appropriately; to build peace while doing all we can to defend the vulnerable and defeat the root causes of extremist violence of any kind.
The defeat of that extremism is part of the peace which I know was in the hopes of many of the congregation a couple of weeks ago – and I’m sure still is. Peace of heart, coming from a steadfast mind that trusts God, is not the whole answer. But it may be its best beginning.
And along the path to peace, to meditate on God’s love and faithfulness will change us – so that we might become sources of peace ourselves, even channels of God’s pure peace to those around us. It’s worth a try.