And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.” – Luke 19:41-42

A POPULAR World War II song made famous by Vera Lynn in a 1942 recording was “There’ll be Bluebirds Over…the White Cliffs of Dover.” Actually, it was written before America joined the war, during the Nazi bombardment of Britain. The lyrics looked toward a time when the war would be over and peace would once more rule over the White Cliffs of Dover – Britain’s essential border with the European mainland:

There’ll be bluebirds over

The white cliffs of Dover


Just you wait and see

There’ll be love and laughter

And peace ever after


When the world is free

POIGNANCY AND deep longing infuse our hearts even today when we linger over the words: “There’ll be love and laughter…And peace ever after: Tomorrow …When the world is free.” And God knows there are people all over this planet who wake to each new day wishing it could be so: That the world could be free of its ethnic and racial divisions, its nation-baiting and war-mongering, and that pervasive willingness “to get mine” no matter how in my getting mine I infringe upon the rights of others.

IF PRESENT EXPERIENCE is any clue, then no matter how deep our longing, there will never be a tomorrow with peace ever after. Never has! Never will! Peace in this world always will be partial and transitory. In this world, we shall always need to pray, “Thy Kingdom come…Thy will be done.” Our prayer arises out of our longing for the peace inherent in God’s Kingdom. That prayer, however, is recognition that peace shall in the last be a peace that God will orchestrate.

RECOGNIZING THE “mean-while-ness” of our lives, however, there may be value in considering the Scripture which heads these musings: “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.” At first, Jesus’ words “the things that make for peace” beg from us some kind of interpretation. The Gospels taken as a whole show Jesus presenting himself as the way to peace, that through him we might come into right relationship with God: “I am the way…and the truth…and the life; no one comes to the Father…but by me.” He meant something like, “Look how I have lived among you. Let my life example how you are to be together. As I have lived before my Heavenly Father so ought you to live.”

JESUS FOUND reasons for his way of life, at least in part, in the Hebraic faith of the prophets and wisdom teachers who had already marked out the way to peace. The biblical writings show a “through-the-centuries” maturing of spiritual insight culminating in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Isaiah 2:4). Biblically speaking, peace will be God’s gift to all.

FOR THE TIME BEING, present reality, shaped by the blind doings of science and technology with their unintended consequences, complicates and threatens humanity’s ability to rein in the resulting chaos. Events are not orderly and relationships between nations and peoples continue to evolve imperfectly, creating ragged edges where order and disorder interlace into systems wherein human suffering is further compounded. So the question: Is God actively among us or not? Christians speak of God’s providential care – that God creatively invests every situation with a resourceful and saving possibility that cannot be destroyed. That God’s work is hidden, though always offering a precarious saving edge to events, means however that it is never going to be easy entrusting ourselves to Jesus’ saying, “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. But take courage; I have conquered the world! (John 16:33).

DOSTOYEVSKY, IN COMMENTING upon his chapter “The Grand Inquisitor” in his book “The Brothers Karamazov,” said that his “hosanna of belief” was forged in the crucible of great doubt. How else can it be when we live in a world where wars and their consequent devastations ravage the planet, where economic disparities undermine the fabric of societies, and even closer to our persons is the fact that guilt, innocent suffering and bad luck mix to make disaster and despair for so many folk? What saves and witnesses to our faith is the conviction that God is indeed in this amalgam that is our life, that the world as we experience it hides another world; hence this world’s sacredness.

HERE FOR ME IS the end of the matter: Scientist and theologian John Polkinghorne allows that the world’s evil must be thought of within the wider context of God’s ultimate purposes in giving us being. Human suffering and the transitory nature of peace in our world is to be viewed as the ground of a greater good. What is to be rejected in Christian thought is the idea that suffering and goodness are ever wasted. That is the cornerstone of Christian theodicy – the defense of God’s ways relative to evil. Having faith means that I can in the presence of a great “in-spite-of” affirm my life as meaningful, ultimately open to that destiny assigned to me by God from the beginning. That peace which is consequent of my faith arises out of a dawning conviction that after doing the right as I know the right there remains always aspects of life over which I have no control. Having faith is to regard this world’s doings not as ends in themselves but as a magnificent beginning leading through death to the Kingdom of God. I have learned to think of my faith as a wintry kind of spirituality. Still, it is this wintry faith that enables me to be at home in the universe!

The Rev. Merle G. Steva is minister of visitation emeritus, First Parish Church, Saco, and may be reached by email at [email protected]