“My peace I give to you. I do not give peace as the world gives it. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
One of the most difficult aspects of God’s word is it can be both frustrating and comforting at the same time.
Last week-end I was working on the newsletter. Don’t be fooled by that statement. Jamie does most of the work and deserves all of the credit. I simply contribute a piece on the second page and, at Jamie’s insistence, write a whimsical reflection on health issues near the back. While they are quite different I enjoy writing both. My “musings” are often topical, giving you a chance to get to know me a little better.
Those of you who have opened this month’s edition of Spreading the Word are aware my musings sometimes raise questions as well as blood pressure. My purpose is not to plow old, worn out ground but to encourage us to inject our faith and our understanding of the Biblical text into our conversations.
When Jesus says, “My peace I leave you,” how are we to understand that difficult concept. When Jesus says, “Let not your heart be troubled,” I find myself confused my the very thought of not being troubled by bombs in Boston, drones in Pakistan, and the threat of violence all over the world.
Monday morning, with thoughts of editing and rewriting on my brain, I pulled into the parking lot at 7:30. The Bible Study group had already begun to gather. Before we could begin my cell phone rang and I heard the trembling voice of Mary Gurr share that John had died early that morning. I got in the car and headed to Charlottesville. I had 35 minutes to prepare myself, to think of some words of comfort that I might share with Mary. You already know the words that occupied my soul. “Let not your heart be troubled. My peace I give to you.”
Those of you who are biblical students are well aware of the context of the 14th chapter of John. It begins with a discourse in which Jesus explains the significance of what is about to happen. He said, “I will leave, but I leave to prepare a place for you.” Jesus predicts both his death and resurrection. He promises to come again and take us unto himself. All through his ministry Jesus insisted that we not worry about those things for which God was responsible. God is reliable because God is love. It is this love that compels God to act on our behalf, even in the midst of death itself.
As I traveled to Charlottesville Monday, and as we will come this afternoon to celebrate John’s resurrection, it was and will be the assurance of Jesus’ words and Jesus’ promises for tomorrow that brings us comfort and eventually joy.
But today, bombs ignited by hate, faith, patriotism, fear, anger, outrage, revenge and political reasoning still disrupt the peace we so desperately desire. Does John 14 offer a hope that might quell our trembling hearts?
I have always believed that a separation of church and state does not mean a separation of ethics and theology. One cannot read Isaiah and Jeremiah without understanding justice to be the moral test of spirituality? One cannot read the gospels without being overwhelmed by the universal love of God. One cannot cling to that love without wrestling with the undeniable demand of God that we love one another.
How is that possible in this complex world in which we live? God calls us to forgive as well as love. Some of you have come to me this week stating you can find no forgiveness for the men who ignited the bombs in Boston. Wouldn’t it be easier to be people of faith on the Sabbath and people of the world the other six days of the week? Isn’t it easier to trust our leaders and not complicate the issues with our moral ambiguities? Isn’t part of patriotism trusting others to figure out these messy, complicated matters of life?
Bill Coffin preached there are three types of patriots. Two are bad and the other is not only good, but critical for the moral fiber of our nation. Bad patriots are one, the uncritical lovers of their country and the two, loveless critics of their country. Real patriots are those who partake in a lover’s quarrel with their country, reflecting God’s eternal quarrel with the entire world.
Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled.”
My brain struggles, “How is that possible?”
Jesus continued, “My peace I bring.”
My soul complains, “Peace always seems a weary way off.”
God pledges, “My peace, not the world’s peace, I give you.”
My heart questions, “What does that even mean?”
And so the conversation continues. If you expected some great definitive words of wisdom I really have none.
But I believe, or at least I hope,
That God desires to be part of our conversation.
I believe, or at least I hope,
That the peace of God is not just about tomorrow.
I believe, or at least I hope,
That the peace of God is about this day and every day.
For to give up on peace is to give up on God.
Sometimes, all I can do is come to the table of our Lord. With a heart both bruised and burdened, I come to lift the bread and the cup, letting my fears intersect with God’s promises.
This is where I come to remember.
This is where I come to hope,
This is where I come to pray,
Lamb of God,
Who takest way the sins of the world,
Have mercy on me.
Lamb of God,
Who takest away the sins of the world,
Grant me your peace.
This is where I come to lift the bread,
This is where I come to lift the cup,
This is where I come to lift my heart,
This is where I come to remember The Prince of Peace,
Not just the peace of tomorrow,
But also for the peace of today.
I come to this table to remember I am loved;
I come to remember I am forgiven;
I come to remember
God’s forgiveness is more than a blessing.
It is a challenge.
I come knowing Christ has taken the first step. I come knowing The Prince of Peace invites us to walk in his footsteps. It takes more than a troubled heart to bring about peace. We are called to will peace, suffer for peace, struggle for peace, and demand peace as if peace is God’s most cherished hope for humankind.
Come to the table and taste the promise of God’s grace.
Come to the table and taste the possibilities of God’s peace.
Come to the table troubled, yet trembling………. With hope.