Jesus told the disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27). These words are ones that campers will get to hear and reflect on during the start of our Christian Formation program next week. Just before saying this, Jesus explained that the Holy Spirit would come to give guidance and direction once He left this earth. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Having God’s peace is a fruit of the Spirit that grows in us as we follow Christ. It is a powerful sign of Jesus’ presence in and among us.
There’s a silly song we’ll be singing in chapel called “The Fruit of the Spirit’s Not a Coconut,” or a pineapple, lemon, watermelon, etc.! Likewise, the peace that the Spirit of Christ grows in us isn’t the kind of peace we find in the world. As Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove write, “Peace is not just the absence of conflict…A counterfeit peace exists when people are pacified or distracted or so beat up and tired of fighting that all seems calm. But true peace does not exist until there is justice, restoration, and forgiveness” (Common Prayer Pocket Edition, Zondervan, 2012 p. 58). In other words, when it comes to real peace, peace that is the fruit of the Spirit, it doesn’t just look like tolerance or merely getting along with people. It’s deeper than that. It’s about taking the risk of loving people for who they are, not for who we would have them be. It’s about working towards full inclusion and equality. It’s about celebrating differences, overcoming prejudice, and doing all we can to be reconciled to one another as we’ve been reconciled to God.
At Camp DeWolfe, we strive to create an authentically peace-filled community, one in which all of God’s children, from the littlest to the tallest, are welcomed, valued, and loved. We’ve been building community like this over the past week as staff have gathered for training to help ensure that campers have a blast while staying safe and being celebrated for who they are. Amid it all, staff have been learning about one another, celebrating and reconciling differences, and discovering what God’s peace is all about.
Embracing this sort of peace isn’t easy. It requires us to become “everyday revolutionaries” (the name of one of our staff small groups that are meeting throughout the summer). With radical commitment and Spirit-filled courage, we need to reject all of the counterfeit kinds of peace we find in this world, the false messages that tell us we can achieve peace through power, prestige and possessions. We must instead accept the Spirit’s gift of real, lasting peace that is built on the sure foundation of God’s justice and love.
In the history of the Church, examples abound of “everyday revolutionaries,” people who shared God’s peace in word and deed. One such saint was Francis of Assisi, after whom the camp’s new outdoor chapel was named. Although probably not penned by St. Francis himself, this famous prayer attributed to him seems like a fitting way to close:
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And 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;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
Under the power and guidance of the Spirit, may we be instruments of God’s peace- at camp, at home, at school, at work- wherever we find ourselves today, tomorrow, and always. Amen.
-Dan Bell, Christian Formation Director