‘Peace is not just the absence of conflict; peace is the creation of an environment where all can flourish…’
These words of Nelson Mandel resonate with me this week. As we prepare for the remembrance 75 years on from Victory in Europe Day (May 8th), and as we live through a time where there may not be war within our lands - there is definitely not much peace in which all may flourish.
Flourish is a funny word. It is not used very much any more and is maybe only used in church circles or in gardening books but it is a word that I think we need to recapture for our own lives. Flourishing speaks to me of thriving more than surviving, it conjures up images of abundance and energy and strength and resilience. Peace and Joy and Love flow from someone flourishing in their life, in their work and in their faith.
In the Anglican Church we talk about mutual flourishing as a way of encouraging others to grow and be close to God even if the way you do it or the detail of what you believe doesn’t quite match where I am at or the way I would choose. Mutual flourishing talks about placing no barriers for you and celebrating your faith and the pouring out of God’s love in your life, and being at peace in the knowledge that you will do the same for me.
In many ways we see that in our celebrations of colleagues and friends and family who succeed in things that we find hard to fathom.
We see flourishing in those who find love, find joy and find peace in the life-choices, career path and their sense of self-worth.
But I’ve mentioned Peace and it seems hard to find in lockdown for many people.
Luckily Paul has a lesson on peace in the letter to the Philippians. The words of part of it are below. They teach us to rejoice in God and keep on rejoicing. It might mean remembering times when you have felt like you were flourishing and that things were good. It suggests we share our gentleness with others – generosity trains our hearts and minds to be open and have a sense of freedom, it trains us to love and be loved in return.
The words remind us not to worry about anything but to bring everything to God in prayer. All these things are begin the ways of gaining a sense of peace within. We are then promised that the peace of God – which surpasses, goes above and beyond, is immeasurably more than we could even think about – will guard our hearts and minds.
We probably all need that peace these days. In a busy world where the news fills up our heads. In an overwhelming world where figures and words consume our hearts. We need some peace today.
If you can, carve out a few minutes in your day. Sit, breathe and listen to some calming music if that helps you. Close your eyes and ask for God’s peace. Try and stop thinking of the world outside. Slow down your thoughts and turn down the volume of the sounds around you that distract you. Repeat some words that bring you peace: All shall be well (Julian of Norwich), The Lord is my Shepherd (Psalm 23), I can do all things through God who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). Smile and breathe.
I pray that today you will find peace. I pray that today you will remember a time when you were flourishing that you may find it again soon.
Share your peace and your gentleness generously with others. As you flourish, help others flourish too.
And May God’s peace that surpasses all understanding guard and keep you this day. Amen
5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.