Living Christ-Like Peace
Stephen M. Veazey, president of Community of Christ
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. -John 14:27
(Excerpt from President Stephen M. Veazey’s 2008 Peace Colloquy sermon, “Signal Communities: The Hope of Zion”)
In 2007, the World Church Leadership Council went on a spiritual formation and community building retreat at Conception Abbey in northwest Missouri. The abbey is home to Benedictine monks who provide a place of hospitality, learning, worship, and peace for anyone who wants to come. They always welcome and serve the “stranger” in whatever form the stranger might appear at their door.
Around 8:00 a.m., June 10, 2002, a mentally ill man came in to where the monks live. He shot two of them to death and wounded two others. He then went into the sanctuary of the Basilica, sat down in back, and took his own life. A shocking, unimaginable tragedy had unfolded in a few brief moments of time.
What happened next? How did the monks respond? Apparently, they were so grounded in the gospel of Christ-having dwelt regularly in scripture, spiritual formation disciplines, sacraments, and community life-that they instinctively knew what to do. They moved as if they were one body with one mind and one spirit-the body, mind, and spirit of Jesus Christ. Though naturally stunned and grief-stricken, they did not retreat behind locked doors. They brought healing ministry to one another, the staff at the abbey, and upset people in nearby towns. Amazingly, they even reached out in love and forgiveness to the family of the man who had inflicted such horror on them, offering to conduct his funeral and bury him in their cemetery.
As people in surrounding towns saw this genuine living of the gospel, their fear and anger were quieted. That community of disciples signaled to the larger world an alternative way to respond to violence and the impulse to seek revenge. Jesus, in the form of a community, was teaching once again the Sermon on the Plain. The news media covering the story asked whether they would change their customs of hospitality, welcoming the stranger, and living peacefully in the aftermath of such tragedy. The Abbot or leader of the community responded that hospitality was such a part of who they were it was “inconceivable” they would change their welcoming, Christ-like ways.
I am both grateful for and deeply unsettled by the living witness of the monks of Conception Abbey. What would I do…what would we do… what would our congregations do if faced today with such a violent interruption of our individual and collective lives?
In God we all belong.
Sustaining Our Connections
Many find themselves isolated around the world to protect each other and the most vulnerable during this global pandemic. Spend time prayerfully imagining those people that you might normally come into contact with on a regular basis, known and unknown. Remember all the connections that sustain our lives each day. Even in this time of intentional separation, how are you experiencing deep, intrinsic belonging in God?
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.