Today we are celebrating peace. Second Peter describes an aspect of peace often overlooked. Peace typically conjures thoughts of pacifism, anti-war, anti-fighting, etc. What Peter wants to talk about is peace as the mindset of confidence and strength especially in times when the world and life seem to be falling to pieces. This is the peace many military members know. It’s the peace that in a moment of attack reveals who is ready for combat. It’s the peace that, when the attack missile sirens are going off, empowers you to stand at attention, go to your station, and be ready to do your job. Peter highlights a peace that empowers us always to be who God calls us to be even in times of great tribulation.
Peter’s argument is made on the crux of history. The writer uses ancient examples beginning from creation to remind the church and us that God’s promise is coming. There are plenty of examples in Scripture, faith tradition, and American history to remind us of what Peter means with the call to be at peace, live holy lives and hasten the coming of God. One such example is Susan B. Anthony and the long arduous history of women in America.
As we look at such an example it is good to fully acknowledge the need in our time of remembering and learning from history. Our country is overwhelmed with the tough reality that how we treat and view women in every aspect of life is often abusive. The “MeToo” campaign has revealed all too well the pain and suffering. We know this is not new or yet resolved within the church. In fact, it is our responsibility and duty, our holy calling, to recognize how the Bible has inappropriately and maliciously been used to justify assault of men toward women, including young girls. These are daunting and disruptive issues. We need at this time to recall Peter’s guidance and the examples of those who came before us. We need stories from both our faith history and cultural history such as Susan B. Anthony.
Susan B. Anthony was a phenomenal leader and American. Someone correct me if I am wrong, but she is one of two women on American currency. Her life and work for justice could take all Advent and we still would only be skimming the surface. One story I want to highlight about her and this concept of peace as fortitude in character is about an attempt to vote. Ms. Anthony and droves of women in Rochester, NY attempted to vote. The story goes many were actually successful. (I imagine something. Our women’s fellowship is a passionate group. Imagine someone like Nancy Sobien, Linda Ramsey, and Linda Miller assertively coming to vote. If I was an election official I wouldn’t stop them. I like my nose too much.) Anyway, these women in Rochester go to vote. When Susan B. Anthony goes to vote it becomes a national controversy. She is arrested, tried, and convicted. During the trial, the judge instructed the jury to find her guilty. Here’s where Ms. Anthony demonstrates what Peter calls a holy and peaceful life.
Susan B. Anthony addresses the judge who clearly has a bias against her. She boldly proclaims there is no fairness in her trial. She stares right at the judge and calls him out for not allowing her a genuine jury trial. Ms. Anthony even proclaims that such a trial by a jury of her peers is impossible because women are not allowed to serve on juries. The steadfast resolve, the willingness to proclaim truth and justice in the midst of being called a criminal is the peace Peter calls us to live.
Our lives and our world are wrought with destruction and chaos. The community this letter was written to had become weary and began to follow teachers who told them Jesus was not coming back, and God was indifferent to their behavior. The people no longer felt a sense of hope for the coming of Divine justice and universal transformation. It would have been as if Susan B. Anthony, in the moment of the women’s movement being attacked on all fronts, had thrown up her hands and assumed the country would never change. When we are in places of pain and loss it is difficult, if not nearly impossible, to find peace. The disruptive silence of a house without the ones who used to give us so much love makes us wonder where God is and if God cares.
The holidays with one less person to give a gift to tempts us to think nothing we do matters or is worth it. Our heroes, communal stories, and our own lives remind us God is coming. Susan B. Anthony proclaimed that the women’s revolution was the greatest one the world had ever seen 50 years after she had been fighting it. We still yearn for the justice she called forth. Peter reminds us that our peace is about being committed to the everlasting promise of God’s love, especially in times of fear and struggle.
Our own stories the ones of our own individual lives, the stories of our country, and the stories of our faith reorient us in God’s steadfast promise. It’s the moments of love. It’s the awareness that it’s never been easy. It has always been worth it. We may, and more than likely will not, find fulfillment when we want it. Susan B. Anthony did not. The Christians Peter wrote to did not. What they found was fulfillment of how their lives, their commitment to God’s coming and already revealed presence, could bring forth Divine transformation. Let us be at peace that our yearning, our steadfast commitment to the path of justice, hope, peace, joy and love will lead us to God’s full revelation.