O pray for the peace of Jerusalem : they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls : and plenteousness within thy palaces. (Psalm 122:6-7).

Psalm 122 comes from the section in the Psalter called the pilgrim psalms. There are fifteen such psalms (psalms 120-134) which were sung by the pilgrims as they journeyed annually to the Temple in Jerusalem for the festivals of the Passover, Tabernacle and Booths. Having arrived in the city, the pilgrims were urged to pray for its peace and prosperity and by its extension the country; “O pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace is within thy walls: and plenteousness within thy palaces.”

The Psalmist prays shalom for the city. Shalom which means peace is more than the absence of war. It describes a living environment characterised by reconciliation, justice, protection from one’s enemies, prosperity, wholeness, completeness, right relationships and the like. In today’s psalm the Psalmist is asking the pilgrims to pray for the well being and welfare of Jerusalem.

Like the psalmist Christians have a responsibility to pray for the peace, prosperity and well being of the nations where they live. During their exile in Babylon some of the Jews questioned the rightness of praying for the Babylonian state and its people. The prophet Jeremiah spoke to the exiles and advised them that were obligated to pray for the nation: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7).

Just like the psalmist we pray this morning for the peace of our nation and its prosperity. Righteousness is the prerequisite for peace and prosperity in any nation. It therefore goes without saying that if our nation is to enjoy true peace we must do all we can to create a righteous society. In this context righteousness can be seen as a bahaviour that is informed by certain morals and values that promote the good and welfare of each person. These morals and values must ensure that the rights of our citizens are respected, that our citizens are treated with dignity and that our people are afforded the opportunity to live a decent life. Without these our nation will not experience a life of peace.

Peace challenges us to establish a just society. The just society is one that provides a level playing field so that all people can make the fullest of their lives. The just society provides equal opportunity for all its citizens. It is a society that minimises injustice and enables all to enjoy life free from any form of discrimination in whatever form it comes. If our people experience victimisation of any kind, if they are oppressed, if the system does not allow them to provide for their basic human needs or if they suffer any kind of disadvantage it raises the question “Is this a just society?”

If we are honest we must confess that that at times we do not always act justly as people and we compromise the peace of the nation. Some of the unease, discomfort and rumbling moments in our society have to do with the fact that some of our people believe that there are the victims of injustice, prejudice, unfairness and wrong doing. This affects relationships in our families, homes, churches and places of work. Many of our people do not always see our nation as a just society and this gives rise to anger and despair. The pray for peace is really a call for the establishment of a just society. We must heed the words of Amos: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).

The prosperity of the nation is linked to its peace. Peace ensures stability; right relationships, good will, joy and happiness, in this environment prosperity will come and be a blessing to its people. No society can truly prosper if its people are not at peace. The prosperity of the nation is bound up with the prosperity of its people and the prosperity of people is bound up with the prosperity of the nation. The prayer for ‘plenteousness within our palaces’ will remain a dream and nothing but a dream if we as a people do not work for the removal and destruction of all those evils that hinder the establishment of a truly peaceful nation. Material prosperity without peace is a sham.

The prosperity we seek is one that allows us to live in harmony with God and our fellow citizens. It must recognise the centrality of God in our national life and motivate us to love our neighbours. The psalm has no interest in a prosperity that promotes inequality, encourages class and social discrimination, widens the gap between the rich and the poor or restricts its benefits to a chosen few of any particular colour, race, religion or political affiliation. The psalmist speaks of a prosperity that serves the common good.

The psalmist’s call for peace is symbolic of his love and patriotism for the nation and Jerusalem. St. Peter echoes a call for patriotism: “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the emperor” ( 1 Peter 2: 17). I would like to see this psalm as an appeal to us to have a great love for our country and to be true patriots, especially, at this time as we go through some trying times. This does not mean that we will not have our differences, we will, but we will not allow our differences to prevent us from promoting the good of our country, from being loyal and dutiful citizens. At the same time patriotism does not mean we will close our eyes to evil and pretend that all is well. Rather, the true patriot is the person who offers constructive criticism for the good and well being of the nation.

The Trade Union Movement has a critical role to play in establishing peace in our society and ensuring its prosperity. As trade unions advocate for workers rights, organise activities for their moral and physical development, educate workers about their responsibilities to employers and look after their general welfare, they act as agents of peace. The trade union movement has served our country well and has made a unique contribution to its total development. As the NUPW begins its week of celebrations we pray God’s blessing on its work and we are confident that it will continue to play a critical role in the life and development of the public service.

All that I have said this morning might me encapsulated in the scripture “righteousness exalts a nation”.

I shall take the liberty to rewrite the text to read: “O pray for the peace of Barbados : they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls : and plenteousness within thy palaces.” 

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