Picture Jesus and his disciples: the triumphant entry into Jerusalem is behind them; they are gathered together around the table, preparing for the Passover feast; Jesus has washed their feet. Now he is talking-- sharing with them what lies ahead. During this conversation, he says,
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
I wonder what the disciples were thinking as they heard those words. From the questions recorded here in John, it appears that they really didn't understand what he was saying at so many levels.
What, then, is this peace that he's talking about? They're about to see him arrested, tried, and crucified. They were about to run for their lives in fear…
God, where is Your promised peace? For them at that time? For us today?
We face so many challenges—wars and unrest in so many countries; weather calamities in so many places—tornadoes, hurricanes, rain, rain and more rain; shootings around our country and in our own city; teenagers in rebellion; sickness in so many homes; too much to do before Christmas….
How has this time of year taken on such baggage? My friend talks of this “crazy time of year”. Was it supposed to be like this? Searching for the perfect present; decorating the house inside and out; planning parties, sorting out who is doing Christmas dinner where…
What picture arises in your mind when you see the word, peace?
Serenity and tranquility...
absence of war or conflict...
calm or absence of chaos
right relationship with God...
Have you ever thought, “Ah, peace at last!”, as you've tucked the kids into bed, and they are asleep?
Or the peace that follows a conflict, when apologies have been offered and received, and understanding has come from both perspectives?
That peace relies on external things and is, at best, fleeting.
That is the world’s peace.
Yes, peace is more than an absence of conflict. More than quietness and calm.
More and more I realize that, when we in a moment of inspiration called this Advent series “God’s Upside-down Kingdom”, I wasn't as aware as I am now of what Kingdom really means.
God’s peace is different. This is an inside job!
Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is within you”.
Can we recognize that God coming as a baby invites us to look at everything differently, including what His peace really is? That God's ways really are upside-down to our ways?
The way God gives is not in the outward circumstances. God's gift of peace is constantly present with us, but we must want it, be willing to receive it, and, at some level, practice allowing that peace to guard our heart and mind.
Does that sound at all like the hope we talked about last week? There is a giving up that procedes the receiving!
So, what can you do when peace flies out the window; when life serves you an unexpected punch; when someone triggers you and you react in anger…?
Something that has been helping me in the past few months has been practicing this habit of pausing and centering into my heart where God’s Spirit dwells. Here are some thoughts---- stay with each one as long as you need:
P pause: take a deep breath, and another, and another; settle your racing heart.
E examine: ask yourself, what is really going on here? Why am I reacting as I am? Name the
A accept: accept that how you are feeling is real for the moment; allow the moment to be what
C calm: come to stillness in your body and your mind; let go of anxiety and fear…
E Emmanuel: rest in the confidence that God is with you: recognize that God shows up as your life... that He has a gift for you in these circumstances... that God comes in unexpected ways (remember that baby!)... be willing to see differently...
God is always present with us.
The challenge is to accept that;
to know that, even when we don’t like ourselves or our circumstances,
His love is constant.
His invitation today is to accept the gift of His peace
and then to become a peacemaker to everyone around you.