November 19, 2016
I wasn’t at my best last Saturday. Coaching my son’s soccer team, it was a tight game, even though we were outplaying the other team. The referee was missing or miscalling many plays and it seemed to me, my assistant coaches and a few parents on the sideline, that the calls were lopsidedly against us. In the final few minutes of the game, the score tied, the referee miscalled a play that had a good chance of seeing us score. That was enough. From the sidelines I started challenging the ref for the bad call and for what seemed like a pattern of preference for our opponents.
I was disruptive enough that the ref threatened me with a “yellow card”. (For non-soccer players, all you need to know is that a “yellow card” means you did something quite out of line and your team can be penalized.)
We went on to win the game, scoring in the final minute of play. But it was a bitter win. As I drove home with my son, I wasn’t experiencing the rush of excitement that comes post game after a well-played match and a win. I had spoiled the experience.
It wasn’t lost on me that this incident took place the morning after Novemeber 11, Remembrance Day. For the last several years, I’ve adopted the tradition of wearing the MCC peace pin at this time of year. “To remember is to work for peace”, it reads.
I certainly wasn’t working for peace when I was yelling at that ref.
I seem to be hyper aware of the importance of peace lately. Maybe many of us are. There is the constant barrage of nasty rhetoric spewing from the US election, the ongoing displacement of people in the Middle East and Africa due to conflict, and earlier this month, in the hometown of our MCC provincial office here in Abbotsford, the random killing of 13 year-old Letisha Reimer. These feel like the ugly truths of the world we live in. Brokenness, loss, fear, and anger rule.
So what does it mean to “go in peace”? Throughout the Old and New Testament, from Joseph to his brothers in Genesis, to the many peace references in Isaiah, to the words of comfort from Jesus’s for many he met, to blessings in Paul’s letters, peace is a gift offered to all.
Definitive or not, I found a definition from a Catholic theologian and friar helpful. “[Go in peace] means that we leave church with the intention of making peace happen in our personal lives and in what happens around us.” They go on to say, “We go forth to act as priests, making Jesus present to the world. We go forth to act as prophets, speaking on behalf of the oppressed and bringing hope to those in despair. We go forth to act as kings, serving and protecting the vulnerable and providing for the needs of others.”
I’ve never felt comfortable with the idea that peace is some kind of self-actualized homeostasis that we must work for in order to find balance in our lives or personal fulfillment. To go in peace is to go with God, to go into the world knowing the love, grace, and compassion of God.
Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is our example. His life is a testament to “going in peace”, fully known and fully knowing the faithfulness of his Father.
It’s too big a jump to say that my sideline antics reflected a shortcoming in my faith, and it’s too trite to remind myself in such situations to think “what would Jesus do”. Rather, in living my life, by going “into the world”, I was confronted again last Saturday with my own humanity. I was reminded that to “go in peace” is not a call for me to somehow manufacture a state of peacefulness, but rather to step into the fullness of life, to speak, act, and serve in ways that bring life, with the awareness of being known by God, and in some way, imperfectly and with limited understanding, knowing God.
At MCC, we occupy ourselves daily with discovering ways to work with partners locally and around the world to help with relief, development and peacebuilding. In these ways we are sharing God’s love and compassion for all in the name of Christ.
Like me, on the sideline of my son’s soccer game, we don’t always succeed, but there is goodness in the intentionality.