Overview – Peace
Focus Text: Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
“Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other…”
Scripture Commentary by Marcus A. Steer
“Psalm 85 displays a deep communion between God and Israel in which the faithful listen to God and hear the message of peace.”
Pastoral Reflection by Rev. Steve Hickle, Faith Outreach Director, Stop Hunger Now
“I love the psalm’s bold assertion that it’s a done deal. Isn’t that how the prophets operated? They were so sure that it would come to pass, they framed it as if it already had! One might be tempted to take it all metaphorically, and not literally. Why not claim them both? May we live as those reshaped by the good news, experience “terraforming” within and without!”
Personal Vignette by Cyrus King
“We all know that being a veteran does not translate into being a peacenik – and it certainly does not guarantee wisdom – but I think it pushes me in what I hope to be the right direction. And that direction is a belief that ‘War Is Not the Answer,’ that there has to be a better way to solve problems. In a sense I returned to my roots….”
Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, there have been roughly 135,000 documented deaths of Iraqi citizens due to violence.
Focus Text – Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
LORD, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people; you pardoned all their sin… Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for [the LORD] will speak peace to [the LORD’s] people, to the faithful, to those who turn to [the LORD] in their hearts. Surely [the LORD’s] salvation is at hand for those who fear [the LORD], that [the LORD’s] glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. The LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before [the LORD], and will make a path for [the LORD’s] steps.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Alas for those who go down to Egypt for help and who rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD!
But I will have pity on the house of Judah , and I will save them by the LORD their God; I will not save them by bow, or by sword, or by war, or by horses, or by horsemen.
Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding, for her income is better than silver, and her revenue better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Other Lectionary Texts
- Isaiah 40:1-11
- Mark 1:1-8
- 2 Peter 3:8-15a
Commentary on Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
Psalm 85 displays a deep communion between God and Israel in which the faithful listen to God and hear the message of peace. It begins with a meditation on God’s actions through Israel’s history as the psalmist speaks of God’s favor, restoration, forgiveness, and pardon. Though Israel fell into iniquity and sin, God withdrew all wrath and turned from hot anger. This meditation of vv. 1-3 sets the stage for the psalmist’s vision of peace in vv. 8-13. It is the same God who showed favor on Israel through restoration and forgiveness to whom the psalmist now turns saying, “Let me hear what God the LORD will speak,” (v. 8).
The message of peace involves both the passivity and activity of the people. God is the origin of peace, and it is God who speaks the message of peace to Israel. In order to hear God’s proclamation of peace, the people must be listening to God. Listening is passive in the sense that the listener receives a message from an external source, but it is active in the sense that the listener must be attentive to the one speaking. The ability of Israel to hear the message of peace is predicated on a covenantal relationship with the God in whom the call for peace originates.
In vv. 10-13, the psalmist describes the world of peace. It is a world where “steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky” (v. 11). This image of peace depicts the redemption of all things. The virtues that humans ought to embody are here connected with nature: faithfulness with the ground and righteousness with the sky. The inclusion of nature in the redemption of peace is further established in v. 12, in which the psalmist declares that “the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.” God’s call to peace involves the entire created order. We are to live at peace with one another and with the natural world. By listening to God, the people hear the voice of peace and are called into action for the establishment of a new Kingdom of Peace.
By Marcus A. Steer, Duke Divinity School Intern
Pastoral Reflection on Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
For me, it was a brand new word: “terraforming.” My good friend Ray Buchanan had used it effectively in his Advent writing. I knew about “terra” (earth) and “forming” (shaping), I had just never heard them juxtaposed. Webster’s Eleventh makes no mention of it – maybe the Twelfth will. Another source roots its usage in science fiction – an earth-like shaping of a planet, moon or other body, deliberately modifying its atmosphere, temperature, surface topography or ecology to be similar to the biosphere of Earth – to make it habitable for humans.
One could cast an eye upon Planet Earth and see its own need for such a “re-terraforming,” or a reshaping. We the people have made earth’s atmosphere, temperature, surface topography and ecology less habitable, generation by generation. The Apostle Paul could scarcely have imagined our twenty-centuries-later context, but wrote as if he did:
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-23, NRSV).
One of the great gifts of Advent is the shaping and reshaping practices through which we are redeemed: we are attentive in prayer and in our daily readings; Sunday worship and the added services show the way to higher ground; and where we claim the best of the high holy days, we are shaped, reshaped, made new creations.
The prophet framed God’s coming amid such “terraforming.” Across the damaged landscape that demarcated Israel’s exile, Isaiah launched the word: The LORD is coming! Move some rocks! Smooth the way! Kick up some dust! Hey, the LORD may have made the earth and the fullness thereof, but the LORD is coming – nothing less than a highway will do!
What signaled the change, after generations of exile? In the main, there was a reshaped political landscape. After the fall of King Nebuchadnezzar, sources suggest a muddle of leadership – one ill prepared to resist the rise of Cyrus the Persian. It is the strengthening of Cyrus, and the prophet’s conviction that God’s hand was upon him, that gave rise to the prophetic hope.
A new epoch was dawning – and good riddance to the old! The exile was regarded as punishment, a kind of penal servitude that had been paid in full, and then some (Isaiah suggested they had paid double). The dawning would illuminate a newly “terraformed” landscape, a way home. The valleys were filling, mountains moving, obstacles crumbled, paving the roadway. A brand new geography would witness the exiles’ home-going.
How incredibly hopeful! That is a hope that comes to life for Jesus-followers who see Baptizing John as the one reworking the roadway. The Messiah is coming! No less than earth-moving is required! So get ready!By some grace, Cyrus didn’t have much use for the transplanted exiles. Perhaps even with the passing decades, they still grumbled. Go home? Sure! It may have been somewhere down the road, some days or weeks down the road, that the psalm (Psalm 85) of David began to make sense:
Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people; you pardoned all their sin. (Selah)
You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger. … (1-2).
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps (8-13).
Just because we populate a broken landscape (okay, one that is severely mucked up) does not mean that we are without hope for its redemption, nor that of the people therein. The earth is still the LORD’s and the fullness thereof!
I love the psalm’s bold assertion that it’s a done deal. Isn’t that how the prophets operated? They were so sure that it would come to pass, they framed it as if it already had! One might be tempted to take it all metaphorically, and not literally. Why not claim them both? May we live as those reshaped by the good news, experience “terraforming” within and without!
By Steve Hickle, Faith Outreach Director, Stop Hunger Now
Worship Aids for Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
P: God will break the chains of the bound.
L: Comfort my people, says the Lord. Speak unto them words of peace.
P: God will cast out the fears of the troubled.
L: Comfort my people, says the Lord. Speak unto them words of order.
P: God will hallow the cause of the righteous.
L: Comfort my people, says the Lord. Speak unto them words of assurance.
P: God will raise the eyes of the hopeless.
L: Comfort my people, says the Lord. Speak unto them words of blessing.
P: Lord, give us faith and strength the road to build, To see the promise of the day
fulfilled, When war shall be no more, and strife shall ceas
Upon the highway of the Prince of Peace.
All: Then faith and hope will shake hands, and love and justice will embrace.
- Lord, Make Me and Instrument of Your Peace
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
– St. Francis of Assisi
- Prayer for Peace
O God, it is your will to hold both heaven and earth in a single peace.
Let the design of your great love shine on the waste of our wraths and sorrows, and give peace to your Church, peace among nations, peace in our homes, and peace in our hearts.
Prayer of Confession
- Saving God, we are your people
yet the world cannot see this.
We are your children
and fail to live in peace.
We are your voices
and choose to be silent.
We are your hands and feet
and walk a different road.
Forgive us, for ignoring your love,
for brushing aside your hand
and trusting our own wisdom.
Enable us to worship you
in spirit and in truth,
to bring to you our joyful songs
in the everyday moments of our lives;
that your name might be glorified
through our words and lives.
 From Litanies and Other Prayers for the Common Lectionary: Year B (Everett Tilson and Phyllis Cole).
 From http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=134
 From http://www.holytrinitygnv.org/ministries/justice-compassion/peace-prayers/
 From http://www.faithandworship.com/prayers_Repentance.htm
Theme: God wants us to work for peace and overcome violence with peaceful solutions.
Object: None required
Scripture: Faithful love and truth have met; righteousness and peace have kissed. Psalm 85:10 CEB
Ask: Do you ever have a disagreement with someone or get really mad with someone? That is called a conflict. Have you ever heard someone say “Kiss and make up?” That is one way to settle the conflict.
How do you settle your disagreements or conflicts?
Some answers may be: overlook it, forget it, fight, eye for an eye, cry, tattle
What are the best ways to settle a conflict? Peaceful solutions? Share some answers if the children are not responding.
Talk it out.
Respect other’s opinions.
Admit you are wrong.
Apologize and ask for forgiveness.
Learn a lesson from the situation
Read the scripture verse.
Explain: Love, truth, goodness and peace can meet together, and kiss. A kiss means drawing close to one another, showing care and love for someone. I like to think of it as a “hug and a kiss”. We are to embrace each other in peaceful ways.
Explain: There are good ways to solve conflicts. In this Bible verse we learn that God loves peace and wants us to work for peace. Violence does not have to happen if we can create a solution that is peaceful.
Challenge for children: Try to do one peaceful act each day this week. Help solve a conflict in a peaceful way. Take the time to work for peace each day as God wants us to do.
Prayer: Dear Lord. Help us to be peaceful. Help us to solve our problems peacefully. Thank you for teaching us to love peace. Amen.
by Rose Gurkin, Program Associate-Administration
Suggested Hymns for Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
Make Me a Channel of Your Peace
Gather Hymnal 828
Behold a Broken World
United Methodist Hymnal 426
Moravian Book of Worship 691
Master, the Tempest is Raging
African Methodist Episcopal Hymnal 462
Christian Methodist Episcopal Hymnal 516
O God of Love, O King of Peace
Lutheran Worship 498
Oh Day of Peace
Presbyterian Hymnal 450
The People Who in Darkness Walked
The Hymnal (1982) 126
Moravian Book of Worship 320
We Utter Our Cry
Baptist Hymnal 631
Quotes about Peace
One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
We have got to face the fact that war is not merely the product of blind political forces, but of human choices, and if we are moving closer and closer to war, this is because that is what men are freely choosing to do. The brutal reality is that we seem to prefer destructive measures: not that we love war for its own sake, but because we are blindly and hopelessly involved in needs and attitudes that make war inevitable.
The most disadvantageous peace is better than the most just war.
To reach peace, teach peace.
St. John Paul II
“Our world is a legacy bequeathed to us from past generations, but it is also on loan to us from our children: our children who are weary, worn out by conflicts and yearning for the dawn of peace, our children who plead with us to tear down the walls of enmity and to set out on the path of dialogue and peace, so that love and friendship will prevail.”
Peace is not an absence of war; it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.
How is the world ruled and how do wars start? Diplomats tell lies to journalists and then believe what they read.
Vignette about Peace
On Being a Veteran of World War II and a Veteran of the Peace Movement
I have been lucky in love and lucky in the parents I had. My dear wife of fifty-seven years has supported me, pushed me and inspired me to attempt to do justice, to work for peace and to walk humbly with others. My father was a Quaker, and he and my mother epitomized the slogan, “If you want peace, work for justice,” long before it became a bumper-sticker favorite. Those who know me know that I have never been a great leader in the peace movement, but I have had the wisdom or good luck to fall under the influence of some wonderful leaders in the peace and justice movements. In my ‘growing-up’ years, thanks to my father, I heard folks like Kirby Page, Sherwood Eddy, Buck Kester, and others. In my college years there was Charlie Jones and Scotty Cowan, among others who spoke at YMCA and Student Christian Movement conferences.
Then came WWII and the struggle of conscience: conscientious objector or go to war. Whether it was cowardice or conviction I’m not sure, but I allowed myself to be drafted and eventually ended up in Europe in the 26th Infantry Division, part of General Patton’s Third Army. A person who served in the military, who experienced some of the horrors of war, should have something to say about peace. We all know that being a veteran does not translate into being a peacenik – and it certainly does not guarantee wisdom – but I think it pushes me in what I hope to be the right direction. And that direction is a belief that “War Is Not the Answer,” that there has to be a better way to solve problems. In a sense I returned to my roots. I became active in a church that was a leader in the civil rights movement and that had some wonderful Quaker folks as members. I tried to follow their lead and joined them; I continue to support groups such as the American Friends Service Committee, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Veterans for Peace, etc.
Then came Vietnam and protests of that tragic war became entwined with the civil rights movement and various student causes. I was working on the North Carolina State University campus at that time, so in addition to church and family support I had support from the like-minded faculty and students – which was very important to me. In went to Washington with colleagues to march and protest the war, and to call for “jobs, peace, and freedom.”
In the 1980s there was the Nuclear Freeze Movement; my church, Community United Church of Christ, became a leader in working for a freeze on the development, testing, and deployment of nuclear weapons. Out of that movement came a local and a State chapter of SANE, later to become SANE/FREEZE, and still later Peace Action. Then came the Gulf Wars and the “Coalition for Peace in the Middle East,” a new understanding of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and of course there was (and is) Central America and CITCA (Carolina Interfaith Task Force on Central America).
What does it all mean? I think it means that we have to “keep on keepin’ on.” We need to vote; we need to write and visit our Congresspersons; we need to march and vigil, picket and pray, sign petitions; we need to write checks to the many wonderful organizations involved in the peace movement. We will get tired doing this, but we cannot stay tired. We must “keep hope alive!”
By Cyrus King
Contacts and Resources for Peace
The North Carolina Council of Churches offers numerous resources on peace, including events, articles, policy statements and contacts.
Pax Christi USA is the national Catholic peace movement, striving to create a world that reflects the Peace of Christ by exploring, articulating, and witnessing to the call of Christian nonviolence. This work begins in personal life and extends to communities of reflection and action to transform structures of society. Pax Christi USA rejects war, preparations for war, and every form of violence and domination. It advocates primacy of conscience, economic and social justice, and respect for creation.
The North Carolina affiliate of Peace Action is part of the nation’s largest grassroots peace network, with chapters and affiliates in 30 states. Peace Action organizes a grassroots network to place pressure on Congress and the Administration through write-in campaigns, internet actions, citizen lobbying and direct action.
Since 1915, The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) has carried on programs and educational projects concerned with domestic and international peace and justice, nonviolent alternatives to conflict, and the rights of conscience. A nonviolent, interfaith, tax exempt organization, the FOR promotes nonviolence and has members from many religious and ethnic traditions. It is a part of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), which has affiliates in over 40 countries.
American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization which carries out service, development, social justice, and peace programs throughout the world.
The Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America gathers, equips and mobilizes Baptists to build a culture of peace rooted in justice.
Friends Committee on National Legislation is a public interest lobby founded in 1943 by members of the Religious Society of Friends. FCNL works with a nationwide network of tens of thousands of people from many different races, religions, and cultures to advocate social and economic justice, peace, and good government. FCNL is nonpartisan and it represents the oldest registered ecumenical lobby in Washington, DC.
Veterans for Peace represents veterans working together for peace & justice through non-violence. As a national organization founded in 1985, it is structured around a national office in Saint Louis, MO and comprised of members across the country organized in chapters or as at-large members.
The Center for Defense Information is an organization comprised of retired military officers, former U.S. government officials, and civilians (completely independent from the government) that acts as a ‘watchdog’ on defense spending and decisions. CDI provides expert analysis on various components of U.S. national security, international security and defense policy. CDI promotes wide-ranging discussion and debate on security issues such as nuclear weapons, space security, missile defense, small arms and military transformation.
The War Resisters League was organized in 1923 by men and women who opposed WWI. The League self-professes “not to support any kind of war, international or civil, and to strive nonviolently for the removal of all causes of war.”
Key Facts about Peace
In the fiscal year of 2014, North Carolina taxpayers will pay $2.06 billion for total war spending. For the same amount of funding, the following could be provided:
- 245,735 Head Start slots for children for one year.
- 955,030 low-income children receiving healthcare for one year.
- 38,201 elementary school teachers for one year.
- 543,966 low-income people receiving healthcare for one year.
- 359,511 students receiving Pell Grants of $5,730.
- 267,775 scholarships of $7,693 for university students.
- 34,049 police or sheriff’s patrol officers for one year.
- 1,832,740 households with renewable electricity-wind power for one year.
- 1,138,750 households with renewable electricity-solar photovoltaic for one year.
- 290,263 military veterans receiving medical care for one year.
Since 2001, U.S. taxpayers have paid $1.57 trillion for the total cost of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, there have been roughly 135,000 documented deaths of Iraqi citizens due to violence.