“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid”
John 14v 27
For my Lent readings I am following Rev David Runcorn’s book “Dust and glory” He is a retired Anglican Priest who now leads retreats and is a Spiritual Director.
As we entered more acutely into this strange time of anxiety and uncertainty about the coronovirus I read his comments on these words of Jesus.
He speaks of imagining the peace of God as like a time when he experienced earthly peace. Only surely it would be deeper and more wonderful and longer lasting. But this is precisely what Jesus is NOT saying. He says it is NOT as the world gives.
Any reading of the actions and words of Jesus show they were often provocative and caused furious conflict and division. He said “I have not come to bring peace but a sword”(Matt 10v34) He did a lot of peace breaking. It seems as if the peace of Jesus can only be received once the peace of the world has been exposed as false and shattered.
So to speak of Christian peace requires care. David speaks of seeing a poster outside a church – a beautiful scene of a mountain reflected perfectly in the blue of a lake with the caption “Be still and know that I am God” People are absent and ordinary life is not portrayed. The peace is an absence
leave me in peace – go away!”
The peace of Jesus is not an absence of something but the presence of someone. It is a gift in the midst of life at its most burdensome and stressful, not an escape from it. That’s why it is good news for hearts that are troubled.
Peace that is not as the world gives may not be easy to recognise. It may feel contradictory. The peace of Jesus disturbed comfortable people when he confronted ways of living that were based on privilege, exclusion or avoidance. Praying for peace is not about seeking the quiet life. It may actually be the peace of Jesus that is doing the disturbing. For the peace of Jesus to reach me he must break through all my self created securities and refuges, They must go.
But the peace of Jesus comforts the disturbed. Encounters between disturbed people and Jesus are among the most moving in the Gospels and such encounters still are today. There is a prayer which speaks of Gods peace as passing all understanding. (Philippians 4 v7) That IS good news. To be held secure in Gods peace does not require our understanding, which is beyond us anyway!
These are troubling times and our anxiety levels are bound to have risen. But we are held in Gods peace which is not what the world understands. Shalom is a word which can just mean peace but its true meaning is broader than that.
It is not about feelings but is concerned with harmony at all levels of life including international relations and within society and communities. Its gaol is reconciliation of humanity and all creation in God, and establishing Christ’s rule of justice and mercy.
At the end of our services we often hear the words “Go in peace”. But this does not mean go home feeling peaceful, but is an invitation to something bigger and wonderful and more challenging.
Go in Shalom. Go into a place where God reigns, may you enter into place where his love and justice is known. May his peace keep you on the journey. Go from here and be part of the means by which his kingdom of peace will come on earth.
How does that help us as we face our present time? I am always called back to Mother Julian of Norwich who lived through horrendous times herself but was able to say “All shall be well”
Ok we will not experience a “pie in the sky” feeling of tranquillity. But the peace Jesus offers us is not as the world gives and is beyond our understanding. But it WILL sustain us, comfort us, encourage us, challenge us and lead us through to whatever lies ahead in the sure and certain knowledge of his love and care for us all.
We are fast approaching Holy week and we walk with Jesus as He approached Jerusalem. He suffered doubt and distress as he wrestled with way ahead. We have a Saviour who knows what we are feeling right now. He knows how it feels. But still he offers us peace.
All shall be well my friends