In February this year I spent a week in Israel. It was a helpful and stimulating experience – a window of opportunity that seems to have closed for the moment.
There is one Hebrew word that goes a long way in Israel. Whether you are talking to the bus driver, a shop-keeper or the hotel staff, one word is the key - shalom, peace! After that opening, the conversation may well continue in English.
For us "peace" means stopping a war, coming home from a day’s work, getting the children to sleep, finally "dropping off" ourselves... And at the end, the headstone inscription, "Rest in Peace", even suggests death may offer ultimate peace.
Shalom is much more positive than that. It speaks of wholeness, well-being, prosperity... - not life at a standstill, but everything working as it should.
Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem...
"If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you" (Luke 19.42-44).
We need to know what brings peace as we pray for our world and as we work together for the Burdekin community.
Lord God, we make an ugly mess of your world because we don’t understand what brings peace!
Lord, give wisdom and insight to President Bush and all world leaders as they seek justice and an end to global terrorism. Grant that the world community may be led towards lasting peace and not increased conflict.
Lord, we pray that the Burdekin will know the peace that is deep and strong, functioning and caring. Guide us as leaders of this community with all wisdom in our discussions and decisions today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin Shire Council Devotions, 25 October 2001
Scripture quotations from New International Version © International Bible Society 1984.