The Watchword 2019
Dear Congregation and Friends
I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone of you a very Blessed, Happy and Peaceful New Year! It is my sincere hope that 2019 will be a year filled with life affirming experiences and peace – peace in your hearts, in your families, and your communities. The Psalmist’s call to “Seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34: 14) resonates with the Christmas message of the angels: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!
It is interesting to note that the Hebrew text uses the word Shalom twice in Ps. 34:14b. Shalom means not only peace but an all-encom-passing peace. It means wholeness, wellness, well-being, safe, happy, friendly, favor, completeness, to make peace, peace offering, secure, to prosper, to be victorious, to be content, to tranquil, quiet and restful. The one word used to bring all these beautiful and life-affirming words together is “restore”, in the sense of replacing or providing what is needed in order to make someone or something whole and complete. So, shalom is used to describe those of us who have been provided with all that is needed to be whole and complete and break away from all things that would attempt to bind us to chaos. We all have already been provided with all we need to be whole and complete – Jesus Christ has accomplished everything for us to come to peace with God, with ourselves and those around us. Therefore, this watchword for 2019 is an encouraging call for us to take heart and not let fear take over our hearts. Indeed, a fearful heart won’t recognize peace and wholeness. On the contrary, it will see danger and brokenness everywhere. At times, this observation may, in fact, reflect the reality experienced in many of our contexts at a personal and a global level.
Peace seems elusive today. Hardship, sorrow and grief, hatred and conflicts are ravaging in many places. Many of our sisters and brothers are witnessing to Christ in contexts marked by conflict.
As a congregation and churches in communion, we share our joys and sorrows as we journey together. It is my hope and prayer that those of us who suffer through hardship will always find comfort in the knowledge that we are never alone! We are surrounded and supported by our faith community, our congregation and our church expressed through prayer and solidarity. The watchword for the year 2019 – “Seek peace and pursue it” - reminds us that we should not loose heart and abandon the pursuit of peace. For people of faith, it underlines, that the absence of peace is not a reason to forget about peace but a call to pursue it with determination.
Sometimes, this will mean working towards preserving existing peace. At other times, this will mean restoring peace, bringing it back – for ourselves, our families and communities. Let it be the ministry of all of us to stand together and be the ones who bring peace, never adding to existing divisiveness and fear. Because God so much wants peace, because God brought it to us through Jesus Christ, and because we ourselves and the world need it so much. When we remember God’s gift of peace, and when we root ourselves in Christ, we are well equipped to engage in this ministry of peacebuilding. So, let’s pursue that peace, which shouldn’t be taken for granted, but needs our prayer, and sometimes our action. Shalom be with you!
A Prayer for Peace
Oh Lord, sometimes my insides feel like a battle zone, where missiles are falling too close to home. Other times I'm caught in an endless storm, with thoughts flying out of control. Confusion reigns, and defeat creeps in to steal my joy. I need your peace—the deep-down-in-your-heart kind that stays with me day and night and speaks confidently into the wind. Calm my anxious spirit, Lord; all the attacking "if-only" and "what-ifs" fill me with overwhelming worry.
I know that trust is a big part of experiencing peace and that fear has no place in my life. Most of the things I worry about or dread don't even happen. Help me to put my trust in You. Help me to always return again to You to find the all-encompassing peace that only You can give.