We are a group of four Anglican parish churches who enjoy working collaboratively in serving the people and communities of Beech Hill, Farley Hill, Grazeley, Riseley, Shinfield, Spencers Wood, Swallowfield and Three Mile Cross. Our four parish churches are delightfully different in history and character, each offering a different take on what it means to be active, forward-looking, community-focussed churches of the 21st century. Each church also has its own style of worship, weekly activities and pattern of services that continue to evolve. You should find all you need to know about us as you engage with our website, but if you’d like to meet and talk something through in person… don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Peace on Earth?
A question in my mind is, should we pray for peace on Earth? The reason that I am thinking about this question now is because I am writing this article the day after Remembrance Sunday. This was a moving occasion when we remembered the fallen 100 years after the end of the First World War. This was a war to end all wars and yet, 100 years later, many are still losing their lives on the battlefields and war zones around the globe. As I look ahead to next Sunday, the set reading has Jesus saying: “When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet” (Mark 13:7). This reading begs the question if war “must take place,” how can you pray for peace without opposing God?
Our prayers should be guided by what is morally right for people to do, not by what God, in his sovereign providence, may will to take place. Rarely, if ever, should we pray for moral evil to take place, but God may will that moral evil prevail for a time a season. For example:
1) God willed that Christ be crucified. Many of the necessary acts involved in crucifying Christ were morally evil. Therefore, God willed that this moral evil prevail for a time a season. “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Acts 2 v23.
2) God willed that Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery in Egypt, even though this was evil for them to do. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50 v20.
In other words, God ordains and predicts that moral evil prevail for certain times and seasons, but this does not mean we should pray for moral evil to happen. We should pray according to the way God has commanded us to live - in righteousness and love. We should pray that God’s will be done on earth the way it’s done in heaven by the perfectly holy angels (Matthew 6:10), not the way it’s done on earth through the agency of sinful people. In fact, Paul teaches us to pray for peace among nations for the sake of the gospel. The crucial text relating to prayer and peace is 1 Timothy 2:1-4. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Christmas reminds us of peace. Jesus Christ is the ‘Prince of Peace.’ He came first to reconcile us to God to open the way for peace and reconciliation with Him. And he shall return a second time to bring peace on earth when he rules the nations. So please do pray for peace as we face uncertain times ahead in the New Year. And my prayer, both for myself and for you this Christmas and New Year, is to “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” Colossians 3 v15. Or as we say each week at the blessing “May the peace of Christ which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Wishing you a Christmas and New Year full of peace!
Revd David Little