CHIPS – Harvest of Peace

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Reading James 3:3-18

CHIPS are Christian peacemakers.
They join with communities to help build sustainable futures free from violence and division. They operate in Ghana for peace amongst communities, and in London, UK working with the young to turn away from truancy, gangs, and knife crime.

Elfrida Calvocoressi, Chair of Trustees for CHIPS talks the charity:

Thank you so much for inviting me to preach at your Harvest festival this morning – it is a great honour, and always a joy to return to All Saints and to represent Christian International Peace Service (CHIPS) of which some of you so kindly support.

The familiar parable of the sower is as true for the farmer, as for the evangelist, and as it is for the peacemaker.

Sowing the seeds, having regard for the ground or soil, reaping the harvest: Sowing seeds of peace, in the right place at the right time, in the right way; reaping a harvest of righteousness – it has surprised me how closely the agricultural cycle and its evangelism metaphor also fit the process of peacemaking.

Seeds do not all reach the good ground – the Word of God is easily snatched away, or short-lasting, or choked by the demands and worries of everyday life. But if people are ready to hear the Word of God, the harvest of those who have come to believe in Him can be plentiful.

In terms of peacemaking, it is no good sowing any seeds of peace unless the peacemaker is sowing them in peace (v18) – so what does that mean?

The peacemaker needs first to have an understanding of what peace we are talking about here – it’s not calm and tranquillity, an absence of sound or fury. It is Jesus’ peace which enables each of us to be at peace within ourselves, whatever is going on around us, to overflow that sense of peace to others, and actively do something creative to harmonise the situation.

Jesus is our peace, (Eph 2:14) and from him we can draw on all that we need, and follow his example – as did the Apostles and all the saints down the ages who were steadfast in adversity, demonstrating from their suffering that ”IN all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Rom 8: 37).

So being at peace with God within him/herself first, the peacemaker has to prepare the ground for sowing seeds of peace.

The path and the stony ground are indeed the first things we come across – where no-one in a conflict is listening, least of all to an unexpected peacemaker turning up. So any words which mention peace or peacemaking, especially at the outset, will be ignored, or quickly snatched away by the situation.

Similarly, if the peacemaker tries to sow seeds of peace among the thistles and thorns of selfishness, envy, ambition and bitterness, the mistrust and lies that lead to deep divisions, the seeds will be choked. The Epistle outlines for us those things that lead up to violence and fighting, and is in no doubt that these things arise from earthly “wisdom” – from thinking we know it all – but in fact come from the devil. All the unbelievable anger and vitriolic divisions going on all around us in the public sphere now, are the unwelcome evidence of those whose fields have not been ploughed and weeded, nor sown with the seeds of the gospel of peace and nurtured.

Verse 17 of James 3 has a few clues about the heavenly wisdom needed for sowing in peace.

Heavenly, or God’s, wisdom is pure, so our hearts need to be washed out from the sins of natural selfishness, and pride in our ability to do everything without God’s wisdom and help. This is essential for preparing the ground and sowing the seeds of peace at the right time and place:

First, “Peace-loving” – there needs to be a desire for peace – hopefully by both sides, but one side is a good start!

2ndly, by having consideration for those in conflict – for their feelings, their suffering, often their poverty and immediate needs. Jesus said “If your enemy is hungry, feed him!”

3rdly, “Submissive” – having the humility that comes from wisdom – that quiet willingness to listen first and to understand the situation, which helps those in conflict to calm down, and to share more openly about the causes and different factors at play.

4thly, Mercy is listed there, another seed of peace – we don’t hear much about mercy these days, but it does indeed drop like the gentle rain from heaven on the earth, as Shakespeare said, and blesses those who give and those who take its benefit.

Jesus went even further, commanding his followers to be merciful and then to love their enemies. Mercy is the quality that does not exact revenge, or even justice, nor equality in the first instance. In fact, the peacemaker will usually suffer Injustice from standing in between the conflicting parties, and peace itself requires some compromise, inherently a measure of injustice.

4. Another hallmark of peacemakers, is to be “without partiality” as the word actually means – without taking one side over the other. In other words, as CHIPS strap-line says – CHIPS takes sides – both sides!

Jesus – while divine – became a man before making peace between mankind and God. But in make peace between groups of people, although he made it clear he had come first of all as a Jew for the Jews, he went out of his way to praise, and give prominence, to their immediate enemies the Samaritans, who attracted his attention, like the woman at the well of Sychar: many in her Samaritan village believed in Jesus after they met him there; he commended the one leper out of ten who returned to give thanks, noting he was a Samaritan.

And of course the story of the Good Samaritan says an awful lot more.

These and many others were the seeds of peace that Jesus sowed all through his life between the Jews and the Gentiles, with stories of the Romans, Greeks, and a Syro-Phoencian woman.

In trying to follow Jesus’ example, do we go out of our way to meet those who are a bit outcast, a bit “not one of us” outside our circle? It may take quite an effort, but it’s worth it for the joy of understanding the other person that it brings.

Lastly, from v 17, we need to be people who are sincere, wholehearted in their approach, and genuinely meaning what they say.

Jesus said ”Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone, but if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:18)

Can this really be so? Yes! When CHIPS first started in Cyprus in 1964, and these principles of HOW did Jesus make peace? How did he come? Were put to the test, gradually relationships across both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot were made, and through practical projects, the presence of the team and daily prayers and study, deep friendships were formed which have lasted til this day, and stood the test of the 1974 ‘war’ and subsequent partition. Now there is an annual “Inter-communal Picnic” in the mountain forest youth centre which I was thrilled to attend in 2017. It brought unbelievable joy to each person there to experience such reunions, and real sorrow when they had to part at the end of the day.

In Uganda, after 24 years of CHIPS living and working along the border between two tribes, helping to bring water, encouraging agriculture, training veterinary paravets for animal welfare, etc, the authorities themselves declared that “This peace is irreversible”.

There have been hardships and sorrow along the way, but as we know, it was only by dying that Jesus was able to make peace – mankind to God, and peace between neighbours, family, and other groups of people who are naturally opposed.

Let us be sure in our hearts too, that Jesus IS our peace; let us be those who demonstrate this in our own difficult situations, and in love be willing for God to lead us into situations he may want us to venture into, to drop his seeds of peace from a heart of love, with all godly wisdom.

Let us be those who nurture and water the seeds of peace that we sow, with prayer and our presence, who leave a harvest of righteousness for others to reap in due time, with thankful hearts, and changed lives.

For more information about CHIPS or to donate to their Christian peacemaking mission click here to their website.

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