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Amazing Peace

Dec 16, 2022

“…It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time. On this platform of peace, we can create a language, To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other. At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ Into the great religions of the world. We jubilate the precious advent of trust. We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope. All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices, To celebrate the promise of Peace. We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers, Look heavenward and speak the word aloud. Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud. Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves, And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.”

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem, Maya Angelou (2005)

For People with Bishop Rob Wright

The podcast expands on Bishop’s For Faith devotional, drawing inspiration from the life of Jesus to answer 21st-century questions.

Read the Transcript:

Peace is really the first cousin of so many things, and not the least of which is love. And by love, we don’t mean sentimentality. We mean love, the genuine article, the sole force, as I’ve talked about many times before, the most durable chemical in the universe. God self, I don’t like to say God Himself. I like to say God, God self. So, peace is connected to all this. So, the deeper we go into God, the more we increase our peace quotient.
Easton: This is For People with Bishop Rob Wright.

Melissa: Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m your host Melissa Rau. And this is a conversation inspired by For Faith, a weekly devotion sent out every Friday. You can find a link to this week’s For Faith and the link to subscribe in the episodes description.

Good morning, Bishop.

Rob: Good morning.

Melissa: This week’s devotion is based off of Amazing Peace, which is Mia Angelo’s 2005 Christmas poem.

Rob: Yeah.

Melissa: And I’m excited to talk about it. It’s chock full of incredibly rich themes. I’m curious, I mean, I know it’s the third week– No, it’s the fourth week of Advent.

Rob: Yeah, we’re almost there.

Melissa: Right. So, why this poem?

Rob: Yeah. Well, first of all, you know, Mia Angelo, you know, full stop. I mean, that’s the whole answer, right? Point number two, I think, you know, this is just an excerpt. And what I would want to do is point people, and we’ll have the link for people to this, Amazing Peace, a Christmas poem that was read in the White House. But, you know, we don’t have white Christmases here in Atlanta. So, for our listeners, if you’re having a white Christmas, that’s fantastic. I used to remember as a child growing up in Pennsylvania, how the snow would just sort of fall and quiet things.

Melissa: Yes.

Rob: There would a quiet, a reflective quiet. And I think that’s more than just childhood memories and sentimentality. It would sort of quiet things. And I would appreciate that even as a rambunctious kid. And it speaks to me, at peace, one part of peace, which is stillness. And her words just get you there. And so, I just wanted to revive her words. You know, peace is also a one-word prayer. It’s shalom. Its wellbeing. It’s not contingent on the day to day. It’s not contingent on the market. It’s not contingent on the weather. It’s not contingent on our relationship status, or what the doctor says. Peace has everything to do with being connected to the power of God.

And I think Mia Angelo distills that idea that there is something beyond the trappings. The trappings are fine. We don’t condemn the trappings. We give thanks for many of the trappings, in fact. But there is something else. There is another layer. It’s that layer when the faithful woman who is on her deathbed says to me, that she already knows God and doesn’t need the chapel to over function at her death bed. She knows who her God has been, how her God has been to her, and where she will rest. It is when the survivor meets God in that process through a nurse who cares for her and gives her medicine. And somehow knows that in all of the brutality of the world, there’s a kindness. There is still a reservoir of kindness, that is a peace that Mia Angelo points too.

So, there are a lot of reasons. I can go on and on. There is something there that I want to resurrect now. Just speaking of brutality, a brutal political season, thank God those commercials are over. And now, maybe some of us are open to thinking deeply about God coming among us as a vulnerable, colonized, brown, poor child of a day laborer.

Melissa: When I think of the word peace, though, and I feel like this is something that I’ve gained in my Christian maturity. Let’s say, I still have a long way to go, yet. Peace to me, is not a product to an outcome but like love, it’s also actionable. And so, I’m wondering what your thoughts are on the nuances that you might be discovering about that very concept of peace.

Rob: Well, you know, the great biblical prophet, Jimmy Hendrix said, when the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace, right? And so, Jesus and other people have their versions of that. Certainly Dr. King and others. Getting down to the genuine article of love gives us peace. And in all of our unruly affections that we talk about in the Episcopal Church gives us everything but peace.

My ego is so fragile. And my ego is in the driver seat. I have to try and wield control and oppress others. If I am so caught up in the throes of scarcity, even in the face of abundance, I have to sort of try to accumulate all the toys to your exclusion, I don’t know, peace. But somehow, when I understand that I’m sibling with you, and the co-equal child of a loving parent that we call God with you, somehow, I can have more peace. Now, of course, these are the words but then there is life application. So, there is a gap between this reality that we have met some people through time who have gotten closer to that than some of us. But nevertheless, this is the invitation to the journey. So, in the face of, you know, divorce, what does peace look like? What does love look like? In the face of scarcity, you know, real hardship, what would peace be like?

St. Paul talks about, I’ve been a bound, been abased, I know how to be content in the state. In other words, this peace I have is not contingent to what I have, right, in terms of material stuff. Peace is really the first cousin of so many things, and not the least of which is love. And by love, we don’t mean sentimentality. We mean love, the genuine article, the sole force, as I’ve talked about many times before, the most durable chemical in the universe. God self, I don’t like to say God Himself. I like to say God, God self. So, peace is connected to all this. So, the deeper we go into God, the more we increase our peace quotient. The more we take on the mind of God, the more we increase our peace quotient. The more we die to separateness and superiority, the more we increase our peace quotient. We don’t breathe freely or deeply because our lungs are coated with something. And those coatings can be bias. They are often fear in some form or fashion. The more we figure out how to cough that up, the more we can breathe deeply. That’s what Shalom is, peace is. It’s a wellbeing. That has everything do with breathing. And so, what in our life right now is stealing our peace?

Melissa: Well, you just raised a big question because peace, Shalom isn’t just a wellbeing for a person, the individual. It’s the peace that you are extending to the other. And it’s often the greeting that many cultures use to say hello. You know, you have the Shalom, you have As-salamu alaykum. All of that is rooted in extending peace to one another.

So, this is an excerpt of the entire poem, but it starts with: You chose to make this snippet. It’s Christmas time, a halting of hate time. On this platform of peace, we can create a language to translate ourselves, to ourselves, and to each other.

That’s powerful right there. I’m just curious how that hit you, the language to translate our ourselves to ourselves? How does that hit ya?

Rob: Well, you know, I playfully always talk about my mind and my behind being in line, right? What I’m trying to say is, as Paul Tillich said, to will one thing is the only way to get peace, right? So everything else is bifurcation. Everything else is duplicity. And so, what we’re trying to do is we are trying to get to ourselves, the self that God has created and the self that God is inviting us to to find the courage to get down to be who we actually are. And when we get down to be who we actually are is we find that we have peace, right? And then, we can have peace with others because then we can experience others as being on their journey to have peace. Peace is also, we need to say, not only just wellbeing, because we can individualize that. And sometimes we do that too much. We read God’s word and we read words that are based on God’s words, and we individualize. This is my sort of personal health check-in or something like. That’s cool. But just not full.

What full is that peace is connected with love. Therefore, peace has to be connected with justice. There is no– As the protesters have said, white, black, male and female alike, no justice, no peace. That is not a pledge of, we are going to antagonize the hell out of everybody. They are saying, as long as injustice prevails in the land, as long as the profound disparities happen, and we don’t interrogate them, and we don’t try to make progress on them, the society, the communal health will not be full and healthy and peaceful.

And so as long as we are as wealthy a nation as we are, and we have the poverty that we have, we will never know true peace. As long as, you know, one child who looks a particular way has a better shot at success and good outcomes, and another child living miles from that child, has limits and low ceilings, and has inferior education, inferior healthcare, and has all of the negative health effects of poverty. Until we do something about that, close that gap, then our nation will never know peace. It’s interesting. We go back again and again.

It’s interesting that Desmond Tutu tried to give his nation peace, as they faced apartheid. And what’s interesting in America, as far as I can tell, we think we’re going to find peace, if we negate the fact of who we’ve actually been. People say, you’re being political. No, the Gospel demands that we try to tell the truth and love. So, it is ludicrous for me to hear people talk about the fact that we came to this land. Americans came to this or what would become Americans have come to this land, and there was nobody here. We didn’t do any violence to anybody. We just simply sort of built-up societies in a whole sort of country. We didn’t diminish, did not denigrate anybody. And that’s just a bold-faced lie.

And as long as we bear that lie up, as we think about our Native American forebears in this land, the first Americans, then we will never know peace. We will sort of not have the fullness of peace that we need to have. I think what we’re afraid of, and what we don’t trust, I mean this has to be said, if we don’t trust the fact that if I tell the truth there is peace for me on the other side of it. It’s better to nurse the lie and perform peace. But see, it doesn’t seem like God’s economy works that way.

Melissa: Okay, well on that note, Bishop, I have one more question that we’ll get to right after this.

Easton: Hi, listeners, thank you for listening to For People, the space of digital evangelism. You can keep up with us on Instagram and Facebook @BishopRobWright. And now, back to For People.

Melissa: Welcome back to For People. Bishop, you just dropped a big bomb of the idea of God’s economy. And you know, the other part of that no justice, no peace is also the know justice, know peace, right? I’m mindful of the Luke passage that says, Peace on Earth. And then there’s more, Goodwill toward men.” I feel like sometimes we get wrapped up with the idea of comfort, being peace. And so, how do we like make this all come together? What are we doing when we’re extending goodwill towards others and how is that actionable and spreading goodwill? How does that go hand in hand?

Rob: Well, Mia Angelo, she touches it. This is what I love about her writing. She’s so thoroughly influenced by Scripture. It’s just coming out of her pore with her own little twist and her own little refinement on this platform of peace she says, “We can create a language to translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.” There is another dimension of here of peace. That is peace within myself. So, that’s why I go back to the question. What is stealing your peace? And I think this is one of the reasons why we keep so busy. We keep so busy that I don’t have to confront the silence that will beg that question, right? As long as I keep busy, I keep noisy, I’m not going to get quiet, come to myself, and get the question, which is, Rob, is this real? Is this where you really want to be? Is this the room that you want to be in? Is this the work you want to be doing? There are so many inconvenience conversations that we need to have with ourselves that we are stonewalling and therefore don’t have peace.

So, then, I don’t have peace with me, I haven’t developed that competency or thirst. And so, it’s easier for me to not have peace with you, or simply to perform the peace with you. And see this is not sustainable. And this is not lasting. And it certainly is not what God has intended for us. So, a language, Mia Angelo says, “To translate myself to myself, and also to you,” is about genuineness. And you know, as a 58-year-old man, right? I look back now and think about all the little cul-de-sacs of falsehood that we sort of stayed in too long on our journey because of self-consciousness, because of fear, because of wanting to belong and be accepted, rather than being these colorful, audacious creatures of God, who are calling us to be ourselves. And that’s how we make the world rich, right? And we meet this in people. We have met this in people. We have met these people on this Podcast. I think about Sister Helen Prejean, who didn’t come to her awakening until she was in her 40s.

Melissa: There is hope for us, Bishop.

Rob: And then realize she had a voice and a mind and a heart. And it started with just being a pen pal to someone on death row. And she changed Catholic teaching about death and life. So, she came to a peace. And when you met her, in Jesus’s words, you meet salt and light. She is at peace, let me tell you. She is going to die with a s mirk on her face, let me tell ya. I think that’s what we want. And maybe afraid to go after. I want to die with just a cat that caught the canary kind of smile on my face. I knew God. I was known by God. I was known by brothers and sisters. And I’m on my way somewhere else. That’s true peace.

And so, it’s interesting how Mia Angelo ends this thing, right? So, she takes these beautiful flights and all this sort of language that for some may feel far away from places like Ukraine, or the Gaza Strip, or downtown Atlanta with its violence, or lots of places in the country with its antisemitism. Or all the uptick in antisemitism and hate speech in the new Twitter. You know, we wonder what her words have to do with any of that. And then, she she lands the entire poem by saying, “Peace, my brother. Peace, my sister. Peace, my soul” I can tell you, if I’m honest, really, really honest, I’ve been a husband for a little while now. And before I was a Bishop, you know, I’d be in my congregation and my whole family was there and my wife and kids there. And in our tradition, in the Episcopal tradition, you know, after the confession, and after the absolution, right? The confession, we say that we are sorry to God, we missed the mark. We say we are sorry to neighbor, we missed the mark. And then, the absolution the priest or if it’s the bishop, has the ultimate privilege of pronouncing, not his or her, God’s absolution over all that are assemble. And then what we do after that tells us a lot about what peace is. Then we say, the peace of the Lord be with you. Now that we are freed. Now that we have our second chance, we say peace.
Now, let me just be a little bit too revealing here. I know, and I’m not the only one, I know that there have been times when my wife was sitting right there in that congregation. And we had been sideways with each other. Maybe not as kind as we could have been to each other. And I know that that awkward time would have been prolonged were it not for this invitation to greet one another in Christ’s peace. And I also know very personally here, not some highfalutin theological sort of stuff, but how that invitation puts one hand inside another hand or arms around somebody else and you feel like you get a fresh start. You feel like you can at least soften. You can let the wall down. Again, we have laughed, my wife and I about all of that. About truly this God is to be trusted. Because truly this God knows us best.

And so, you know, in big and small ways, Mia Angelo is leading us to that, which is peace, my brother. Just peace to you. I suspend my animosity. I suspend my judgment. I confess to you. I don’t see well. I don’t see everything. I see through biased eyes. Peace to you. Peace, my sister. Peace my sister. And Peace to myself. I think those are the building blocks fo the things that I think we want to do and be in this new year that is racing at us.

Melissa: Well, Bishop the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Rob: And also, with you my sister.

Melissa: Thank you so much for listening to For People. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook @BishopRobWright. Please subscribe, leave a review, and we’ll be back with you next week.

Maravillosa Paz

“…Es Navidad, un alto para el tiempo de odiar. En esta plataforma de paz podemos crear un idioma para traducirlo entre nosotros y a cada uno. En este Instante Sagrado, celebramos el Nacimiento de Jesucristo en las grandiosas religiones del mundo. Celebramos la preciosa llegada de la confianza, vitoreamos con voces gloriosas la llegada de la esperanza. Todas las tribus del mundo alzan la voz para celebrar la promesa de Paz. Nosotros, ángeles y mortales, creyentes y no creyentes, miramos al cielo y decimos la palabra en voz alta. Paz. Miramos al mundo y la decimos en voz alta. Paz. Nos miramos los unos a los otros y a nosotros mismos y la decimos sin temer, disculparnos o titubear.

Paz, hermano mío.
Paz, hermana mía.
Paz, alma mía.”

-Maravillosa Paz – Poema Navideño, Maya Angelou (2005)