Practicing Words of Peace
Peace in Relationships
Rev. Martha Koenig Stone
People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. (NRSV)
Reflection: My mother was a fount of wisdom. Whatever my questions or worries, I could come to her for information and opinions, comfort and challenge. One memory stands out: She often said that “the hardest thing you have to learn is how to get along with other people.”
I’ve spent my whole life trying to do that, but like the rest of the world, I have a long way to go. I remember a time when my own children were small: the day had been long, we were all hungry and I was struggling to put supper on the table. I could feel the tension rising as the kids played in the next room, but I didn’t have the energy to go and settle one more argument. I tried to ignore the increasing volume.
Then the angry words began. I don’t remember what it was about, but I remember the desperation I felt. In a last-ditch effort to intervene without leaving the kitchen, I found myself shouting out a phrase they had practiced using at their daycare center: “Kind words and gentle touches!” “Yeah, right,” I thought to myself. “That’s not gonna work.”
For a moment though, they settled down! I had little hope that the peace would last, but we made it safely to bedtime.
To this day, I am profoundly grateful for the dedicated teachers who nurtured my children, for the tender example they set, and for the habits of respect for others and self-control they cultivated. And I wonder, “What would this world be like if every child had high-quality schools, patient and gracious mentors, plentiful food, safe beds, a vision of a world filled with kindness and gentleness and ample time to practice their peacemaking skills?”
Only when we learn how to live in concert with one another will God’s realm of peace be complete. Jesus invites us to sit at his feet with our questions and concerns. Then he sends us out to “practice, practice, practice” the Way of Peace. I’m still working on it.
Action: Think of a time when you experienced a conflict that ended peacefully — with your kids, co-workers, a stranger or perhaps on the world stage. What words were spoken that helped those involved to step back from the brink? How can you apply those words to conflicts in the future?
Prayer: Thank you, God, for letting us kids come and talk with you, and for never giving up on us! Show us how to talk with each other, too, and how to listen better. Give us patience to keep working on getting along, because we’re going to need a lot of practice! Amen.
The Rev. Martha Koenig Stone is a UCC pastor who has served local churches for 25 years, currently serving at Henrietta United Church of Christ, near Rochester, NY. She chairs the N.Y. Conference UCC Commission on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations and co-chairs the UEK Forum, a denominational task force that attends to the UCC’s partnership with the Protestant church in Germany. A former foreign-language teacher, she is passionate about work that brings together people of varied ages and backgrounds.
This year’s Season of Peace Resources are designed to help participants explore practices for building peace on every scale. From the personal level to global issues, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Throughout the 29 days of the 2020 Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect upon:
Week 1 September 6–12: Peace Within
Week 2 September 13–19: Peace in Relationships
Week 3 September 20–26: Peace in Community
Week 4 September 27–October 3: Peace in the World
Final Day October 4: Holistic Peacemaking