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Dr John Frederick. Photo: Supplied

Offer a form of peace defined by the Gospel

We live in world where the quest for peace and togetherness is ubiquitous, and where the paths put forward to achieve it are seemingly infinite.

Every world religion, every political ideology, and sometimes it seems like every individual person, has their own idea of peace and their own particular plan for how it can be best brought about. Yet, when peace becomes an empty cultural shell that we fill with our own ideological content, it loses its redemptive context in the story of God and thereby becomes a merely generic virtue.

Sadly, history shows us that “peace,” whenever it is co-opted and wrongly recontextualised to serve another story, often fails to deliver on its promise for wholeness and harmony and instead creates cultures of inequity, terror, and oppression under the cover of an imposter costume disguised as “peace”.

As the church we must offer a form of peace defined by the Gospel and a way of practising togetherness that embodies the reality that it is only by belonging to one another and to the triune God that we will ultimately discover who we are in ourselves. The concept of achieving peace with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a profoundly transformative truth and it is central to our faith! Yet, to say this truth is one thing, but to sing it is another thing altogether. Of the many ways that we can live into the mission of God by living out the Gospel through life together, perhaps one of the most tangible ways to do so is to strip away all of the noise of our media-saturated lives, and to simply make space for the word of God to literally resonate in our communities. I’ll show you what I mean.

A unique and simple treasure exists in a Reformational worship practice of the Presbyterian churches, namely the singing of metrical psalms. In this tradition (still practised by many Reformed churches in Scotland), the biblical Psalms are organised—paraphrased really—into singable, metered arrangements. So often in the church, we realise and affirm the reality of peace but what we really need for it to do is to resonate in us, literally. One of the ways this can happen is through incorporating unaccompanied, acapella, metrical psalms into our life together.

Metrical psalters abound online, and they invite worshippers both young and old to not merely listen to a worship performance, but to be, with their bodies and their voices, the actual instrument of corporate worship. What better way to feel and experience our need for one another in order to find the wholeness that we lack on our own than to let peace resonate, not in an audio speaker, but in the unified resonance of every congregant’s voice? What better way to notice a brother or sister’s presence or absence, that they need us and we need them, than to experience the sonic felt presence (or absence) of one another through the harmony that we experience as the body of Christ at peace through song?

In a world where presence is so often mediated through an iPhone rather than through face-to-face personal engagement, perhaps one small beautiful way for the church to gift the culture with Gospel peace in the times that we can be together, is to let all people know: God is for you, we need each other, and you are part of it, by the way we worship and by the harmonic sanctification that sonic inclusion creates.

I invite you to try it out for yourself! Sing aloud wherever you are (this could get interesting) the following metrical version of Psalm 118 to the tune of “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”. Let the word of God seep into your soul and into your space, and then invite others in, so that peace can not only resonate in your soul, but resound into the “soul” of our society. A peace that comes, as Christ says, not as the world gives, but through his own precious blood and by the mighty power of his resurrection life for the abundant life—and peace—of the world.

“O thank the Lord, for he is good;

His steadfast love endures always.

Now let the house of Israel say,

‘His love will last through endless days.’

I cried in anguish to the LORD;

He answered me and set me free.

The LORD is with me; I’ll not fear.

What harm can people do to me?”

This Psalm 118 excerpt is available in Sing Psalms: New Metrical Versions of the Book of Psalm (Edinburgh: Free Church of Scotland, 2003), 308-310.

Dr John Frederick

Dr John Frederick is the Lecturer in New Testament at Trinity College Queensland

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