Sunday, May 05, 2013

Sermon, Easter 6C, John 14:23-29

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.

I’ve been pondering that verse.  What is peace?

Several recent events have conspired to make these two sentences stand out in my mind.  And these events, like those sentences, still ask us to ponder the question, “What is peace?”

Spinning off from Paul, there are varieties of peace, and varieties of definitions.  Noah and the disciples experienced peace when the rain and storm ceased.  Within the Roman Empire, people experienced the Pax Romana – the Peace of Rome; a peace that came with military occupation.  There is some measure of peace that comes at the end of a conflict, whether personal or military.  We might gain a sense of peace at the beach or in the mountains or watching the sunset after a hectic day.  And being an anxious, less-than-ideal pregnant dad, I had a sense of peace when my daughter was finally born.

What is peace?  As I said, several recent events have conspired to make me ponder that question.

Two weeks ago I preached on hope.  One of the things I said was that hope is the belief, or confidence, that God’s promise to work in the future is more important than what has been done in the past.  This belief and confidence that God’s promise to work in the future is more important than what has been done in the past can be summed up in one word: resurrection.  Resurrection is our hope in God’s promise.

This hope can help us through trying and difficult times – such as death, divorce, illness, or other personal struggles that threaten to overwhelm us.  This hope that is based in the resurrection leads to the peace that Jesus is giving us, the peace that passes all understanding.

Like most people, I followed the events surrounding the Boston Marathon:  from the initial bombings and the early misidentification of suspects, to the chase and final capture, it was my main source of background noise.  During those events, I prayed for the victims, for the police, for the people of Watertown who were on a police-ordered lockdown, and, yes, for Dzhokhar.  Immediately after his capture, there was a sense of peace in the Boston area and beyond.

This is not the peace Jesus was talking about.

Jason Collins has a sense of that peace Jesus is talking about.  If you don’t know, Jason Collins is an NBA player who recently came out as openly gay.  I watched his interview immediately after the news broke, both in snippets while at clergy conference, and again when I got home.  I was struck by how comfortable and self-assured he was during the interview.  I was also struck by his sense of peace.

He has said he is a Christian.  I have to believe that his hope in the promise that what God will do in the future will be more important than what God has done in the past helps give him this sense of peace.  Regardless of his difficult path so far, regardless of his personal struggles, regardless of the death threats and hateful judgments people have made, the man seems to be at peace.  It is a peace that flows from his hope in the resurrection, and it is a peace that will remain through difficult times.

I believe the K's also have a sense of that peace, because they have a resurrection story to tell.  D and M’s story is long, difficult and painful.  But it is also grounded in the belief and confidence that God’s promise to work in the future is greater than what has been done in the past.  It is a resurrection story grounded in hope which leads to a measure of peace.

There were times when Mrs. Ref and I visited that we could see the sense of peace overtake them.  Whether it was because she had someone to talk to, someone to go to lunch with, someone to pray with, or someone to share Communion with, the peace that Jesus is offering came and settled on them.  In M’s thank you letter, which is in today’s bulletin, you will get a sense of that peace.  These little things we do – visiting, cooking, creating, praying – has helped bestow on them a sense of peace and it has reinforced the hope that God will be working in their future more than God has worked in the past.

Note that Jesus never promises a life of ease.  He never promises we will not be challenged or hurt or will not face trials of any kind.  What Jesus promises is peace.  And it’s important to remember that this gift of his is given not as the world gives.

The peace of the world is often short-lived.  The Armistice of November 11, 1918, that put an end to the War to End All Wars didn’t.  The peace of post-Boston is only temporary, as there will be another attack somewhere in the world.  There certainly hasn’t been any peace since Newtown, as at least 3800 people have been killed by gun violence since then.  And a military enforced peace is no peace at all.  In essence, what the world gives as peace is short, fleeting and often fragile.

The peace of Christ, however, goes deeper.  It is a peace that comes from hope, based in resurrection, with the confidence that what God will do in the future is greater than what has been done in the past.

Our congregation has recently been beset by illness, cancer, injury and death.  These things are stressful and they can take their toll.  But, going back to Paul again, I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate from the love of Christ.  This is resurrection hope.  This is confidence that God’s promise to work in the future is more important than what has been done in the past.  This is the peace Jesus offers.  And this is the peace we must be grounded in, not the short-lived peace of the world.

May the peace of the Lord be always with you.



First time comments will be moderated.