Flowers and Candles
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Matthew 5:9 (NRSV)
Even though a vast ocean separates us, the attacks in Paris have stirred up terror and fear in this country, in this state, and in this community. Terror and fear motivated 29 governors to declare that their states would not resettle refugees from Syria in the coming days. These declarations, however, ignore the fact that The Washington Post reported that all of the assailants were citizens of European Union countries. Furthermore, refugees resettled in the United States undergo a thorough vetting process that can take months, if not years. Terror and fear have a way of blinding us from seeing the truth. Not only can terror and fear prevent us from seeing the truth, it can prevent us from extending a helping hand to those in need. One governor even stated that Syrian orphans under the age of five should not be allowed in this country. Allowing terror and fear to render us ignorant and callous to suffering children and their families is precisely what the terrorists hoped to accomplish. The blindness and cold-heartedness that terror and fear precipitate will lead to greater unrest, if not war.
I was fearful that Friday evening. As I watched what was happening in Paris downstairs, my children were sound asleep upstairs. I do not believe I have ever been more worried about their futures than I was that evening.
A couple days after the attack, I came across a video online in which a French father was speaking to his seemingly four or five year old son about the attack. The father and son stood near where one of the attacks took place. The son was visibly upset. He asked his father if they would have to leave France because now bad guys lived there. The father said “No. Bad guys are everywhere.” The son wondered whether or not they now needed guns to fight the bad guys. The replied, “No. They have guns, but we have flowers.” After some further conversation, the young boy said, “The flowers and the candles are here to protect us. I feel better now.” The next day, France’s President announced that France would fulfill a promise made before the attacks to resettle 30,000 refugees.
Peacemaking is dangerous, risky work. It demands faith that flowers and candles, love and grace, hospitality and kindness, are more powerful than guns and hate. Hearts full of peace and people extending hands of help in the midst of their own fears, however, is how peace will prevail and we will all know that we are God’s beloved children.
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, when fear swells within us, help us to remember that our world is too small for anything but truth and too dangerous for anything but love. May our lips speak your truth and our hearts be filled with your love so that all your children will know peace. Amen.