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The God Above God, the Peace Beneath Peace

As Paul writes eloquently about peace in the second chapter of Ephesians, I am drawn back to Paul Tillich's great work, The Courage to Be, which was written in 1952 -- and which I read in college. And which had an enormous influence on me. Tillich writes just as eloquently about the "God above God," which is the God beyond the God of our projections, beyond the God of our creation -- the God that we think (wrongly) we can control. The 'God above God' is the God who exists beyond our knowing -- who is beyond our sentient world of space and time. That is the God with whom we should be in relationship, Tillich writes. In the same vein, St. Paul's invitation to peace is -- for me, a peace beneath peace. It is a peace beneath the peace of a brokered deal or the absence of hostilities; it goes further than moments when the shouting and insults stop. Paul's peace is a deeper peace. This deep peace doesn't make conflict go away -- but enables us to see conflict differently. And not be consumed by that conflict. And to imagine (which means to create an image) of disparate positions or groups coming together in unity: "...that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it." (2:15-16) That is the peace with which we should be in relationship.


Dearly Beloved,

This morning comes the distressing news about the suicide of Mark Madoff, the son of convicted swindler Bernie Madoff. Suicide is always an unsettling way to leave the world. A conscious decision to bring an abrupt end to ones life is startling in its finality and disturbing to loved ones left behind. It often condemns the bereaved to a lifetime of pain, apprehension, confusion and guilt from the unanswered questions that will forever remain unresolved.

Suicide seems to be the ultimate insistence of ego and will. The anxiety and pain being experienced by the person overwhelms their emotional and mental capacity to deal with it. They lack the ability to accept life on life's terms. They cannot accept their inability to control the people, places and things in their life. Life on life's terms becomes an unbearable task. The world refuses to conform to their expectation of how things should be. Ultimately suicide is a kind of failure to truthfully assess oneself, identify problems and summon the courage to make the necessary changes to address them.

In the rooms of AA we use the Serenity Prayer to help us deal with challenges and problems. One line from the prayer asks to "give me the courage to change the things I can." The courage to change requires a deep commitment to acceptance of life on life's terms, not my terms. Courage to change requires the ability to be fearlessly honest with ourselves about our shortcomings and the steps we must take to address our problems.

The courage to change requires deep trust in a higher power. Acceptance of the fact that I can't control everything in my life is truly liberating. Letting go and letting God take control allows me to focus on changing the things I can and develop a plan to change. Doing the work to make the necessary changes is the next step of personal recovery and restoration. Doing the actual work to address my problems is the grace of courage my Higher Power confers upon me as I undertake the journey of recovery.

Friends and family of Mark Madoff will surely search for answers to this self inflicted death. They will ask why. They'll ask if he only could reveal the depths of his pain perhaps we could have helped. If only he could summon the courage to change?

We offer prayers to the family and friends of the dearly departed.

GodSpeed beloved.


Peace and prayers to all the beloved,


True peace, which does seem lacking in so many ways, is not "monitored" or "managed." In so many c ases, in our modern view of brokered peace deals and negotiations, the two (or more) sides seem to be poised to jump as soon as the other party breaks the deal. That is a truce, not really peace. Whether political factions or family members who can push each others buttons like no other, parties in peace need to LET IT GO.

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