A well known story, told in many ways in many places (google it, it's all over the place...) goes a bit like this:
There was rich man who lived in the desert. He had so much stuff, and one of the things he was very proud of was that he had 17 camels. These camels were a sign of status, a sign of his riches, a sign that he was a man to be looked up to and respected.
The rich man was coming to the end of his life and came to the point where he thought he had better make a will. He decided to leave half his wealth to his only child, a third of his wealth to his only grandchild and a ninth to his only nephew. This seemed fair and everyone was very happy with this.
The rich man grew older, and one day the inevitable happened, and he sadly died.
A few days later his will was read and his riches began to get distributed. It was all going very well, but then they got to the camels - the rich man's pride and joy that he spent hours looking at and admiring.
The child came up to the camels and began to claim his share..... but then stopped.....
Eight and a half camels? Not possible..... what do we do with the half?
The grandchild decided to give it a go.... but then stopped.....
Five and two thirds of a camel? Who gets the hump?
The nephew then counted and calculated and thought about his ninth.....
One and eight ninths of camel? I've definitely got the hump....
And they stood and they faced one another - what would they do? Would they have to have some sort of a sharing agreement? Should they cut two of the camels up and have them for dinner?
A poor man who lived next door had been listening to what was going on and watching the comings and goings and he tentatively knocked on the door.
What's the problem? How can I help?
The child and the grandchild and the nephew looked at him in disgust - they were rich, he was poor, what could he do?
He said "I tell you what, I will give you my one camel, everything I own, and you add it to my old neighbour's estate, and it could help".
The three inheritors shrugged their shoulders and muttered under their breath, but each of them decided an extra camel couldn't do any arm so they took it.
And they tried again:
The child..... a half - of now eighteen camels.... 9 CAMELS
The grandchild.... a third - of now eighteen camels..... 6 CAMELS
The nephew..... a ninth - of now eighteen camels...... 2 CAMELS
They looked at each other and began to grin, and then the noticed in the corner a camel, just standing there and waiting to be taken.... the poor man's camel left over.....
And they led it next door and tied it up for the poor man to re-claim.
Whats so important about this story?
Well it reminds us that in the midst of conflict, that sometimes it takes a different perspective to bring peace.
It reminds us that sometimes to bring peace we need to give up something of ourselves.
It reminds us that if we sit down and think, that the solution might be easier than we first thought.
The world at the moment is full of conflict and instability and war. This kind of instability doesn't start with someone waking up one day and getting their guns at the ready. It starts with a culture of my, a culture of want, a culture of take. Violence starts in our hearts and gets bigger and bigger and bigger. For the three inheritors the solution was simple, but their feeling of entitlement meant they couldn't see it.
In our services we are beginning a new series looking at the teachings of Jesus and we are starting with the sermon on the mount - a very good place to start. Jesus is telling everyone about a new reality - the new kingdom coming through him.
On Sunday we reflected on what it means to be a peacemaker. Jesus said in the beatitudes 'blessed are the peacemakers' - but do we really believe that? In our world it seems that we believe the winners are those who are blessed - those who have won the war, the argument, the race....
As we talked through being a peacemaker in our service, we were challenged by the children, who suggested that to bring peace, we should play together and we should sit down and talk together instead of always wanting things our own way. The solution was simple, but as adults we often find it too difficult to comprehend.
When Jesus says 'blessed are the peacemakers' he calls us to be more like the poor man in the story - the one who gave up everything in the name of peace. When Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers he invited us to participate in a challenging process that starts in our hearts.
Being a peacemaker might mean giving away our only camel.
Being a peacemaker might mean not jumping to the obvious conclusion.
Being a peacemaker might mean becoming like a child.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" Matthew 5:9