My adolescent and teenage years were spent living under the peace symbol. You know the symbol I'm talking about—three lines inside a circle.
My brother, Paul, and his buddies welded a large, rod iron peace symbol together on a friend's farm and painted it black. My parents must have liked it—they hung it above the fireplace in our living room. Every pre-homecoming dance or prom photo shows me standing awkwardly with a date—the peace symbol looming large above us. I'm sure it didn't fit my mother's decorating scheme, but it remained there until they moved from that house years later.
This universal peace sign turned 50 on Easter Sunday. It was originally designed for and used by the British nuclear disarmament movement: specifically an Easter march to ban the bomb. Gerald Holtom designed the symbol, which became so much more when it was adopted by an international peace movement and the 1960s counterculture. He explained the genesis of his idea this way: "I was in despair. Deep despair. I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of [artist] Goya's peasant before the firing squad."
As his daughter, Anna Scott, also an artist, explained, "I don't know whether the despair was to do with his personal situation or whether it was to do with the world situation, and sometimes these can be muddled up, can't they?"
Indeed they can—even in the joy of Eastertide.
Jesus' words of peace come to us week after week. Last Sunday we heard Jesus telling the fearful, locked-away disciples, "Peace be with you" (John 20:19). And each Sunday we hear the words scattered throughout the liturgy: "In peace, let us pray to the Lord." "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God's people on earth." "Go in peace. Serve the Lord."
Then there's the sharing of the peace: "The peace of Christ be with you always." "And also with you."
I don't know anyone who's against peace, but I know plenty who are against sharing the peace as part of our liturgy. I read many reader responses for the "Hugger, shaker ... peacemaker?" story in The Lutheran's April issue.
But despite our preferences—a handshake vs. a hug, for instance—our Lutheran Book of Worship designers clearly knew what they were doing when they reintroduced the ancient sharing of peace into the liturgy. As the new Evangelical Lutheran Worship handbook explains:
"The peace functions as a kind of seal on our prayers, a sign that we are serious about our praying. It is as if we were saying, with our gesture, ‘O God, help the world with the very peace and mutual forgiveness we are trying to show here.'... And yet, God has helped and is helping the world with a heart far bigger than our own. The peace is also a proclamation of the presence of a down payment on the very things for which we pray .... As Christ stood among the disciples saying, ‘Peace be with you,' so we speak this very same gift to each other .... Because of the presence of Jesus Christ, we give to each other what we are saying: Christ's own peace. Then having been gathered by the Spirit around the Risen One present in the word, we turn to celebrate his meal."
So if you're experiencing despair—global or personal, fleeting or that which seems never-ending—may you also know peace in this Eastertide. Live in and under its symbols: a handshake or hug, the gifts you offer and people you love, the feast of bread and wine—and even a 1960s cultural icon. Let "symbols" of peace hang in your living room and in all the spaces of your life. In many ways it's what all people yearn for and need most. And it's often accompanied by joy.
This week's front page features
Baby boomers: Where are they? In transition and looking for something "real."
It began with a wave: Virginia congregation focuses on those 50 and older.
Some Souper ideas: Youth collect food and funds for hunger projects.
Also: Opportunity knocks.
Also: Acting our age.
Worship opinions needed
Participate in an upcoming cover story in The Lutheran by responding to one or more of these questions:
1. Worship: What do congregation members want? What do worshipers need?
2. Worship in ELCA congregations varies, but essential elements remain. What are those elements for you?
3. How do we both honor traditional liturgy and make room for other worship styles?
Respond (500 words or less) via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 20.
Please include your congregation, city and state.Or respond online ...
Don't believe everything you think
Guest blogger Justin Baxter (right) writes about "doubting" Thomas and how he would love to "disbelieve" some things he's thinking about: the economy, crime, hatred and violence.
Baxter, a student at Pacific Lutheran Seminary, Berkeley, Calif., is serving an internship at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Oakland, Calif.
On our staff blog
Andrea Pohlmann asks: "How do people envision the Lutheran church, the ELCA, in 40 years?"
Elizabeth Hunter blogs about church names.
Kathleen Kastilahn (right) urges: "Don't push 'send.'"
Sonia Solomonson writes about the stigma of depression.
The April issue of The Little Lutheran has arrived:
Don't let them miss another issue.
The Little Lutheran helps children 6 and younger learn about God's love for them and the world in which they live. It teaches them about Jesus, their friend and savior.
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