Peace Be With You
Immanuel Lutheran, Chicago
The words we read today are among the last spoken by Jesus to the disciples. He is preparing them to carry on without him. Life is about to radically change for the disciples—again. His death would be a shattering experience, one that would shake the foundations of their lives. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” Jesus said. (John14:27a)
They learn all too quickly the peace Jesus gives will not bring an end to conflict, or tragedy, or loss, or finitude, or mortality. Jesus was not giving the Disciples peace and quiet, or a little vacation, or much needed rest and relaxation. No. Instead, they discover the peace Jesus gives can come even amid hardship, struggle, conflict, and disruption.
Let’s remember what was happening that night. Jesus’ gift of peace comes as Judas is preparing to betray him, hours before his enemies arrive to take him to be executed. And still, even in that moment, Jesus not only senses peace, but also gives peace to others. (David Lose) Paul writes to the Philippians, “…the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
This is not peace as the world gives, but only as God can give it. This is peace for when our dreams don’t come true, when the plans we set for ourselves are changed, when doors are slammed in our face, and for when new doors are opened.
This peace, this unbreakable shalom, connotes contentment, fulfillment, and a profound wellbeing from basking in God’s pleasure. This peace comes from being held tightly to God’s bosom and joined there with the One True Undying Life we share in Christ Jesus. Peace.
Jesus’ explanation makes him sound a bit like Master Yoda in Star Wars. “If you love me, you will keep my word, and my father will love you, and to you we will come and a home with you we will make.” (John 14:23)
The peace of Christ is not the absence of conflict, but the assurance that life’s storm do not have power to undo us. And there’s another thing. This peace of Christ comes with the presence and counsel of the Advocate to help propel the disciples and the new church in the right direction.
The famous 19th Century English philosopher and political economist, John Stuart Mill reportedly once lamented his father’s decision to exclude any religious instruction from his early education. It was a waste of time, his father had said. Yet Mill declared he felt his soul was starved. Without the guidance of a personal God known through prayer and faith, he likened himself to a “well appointed ship, but with no sail.”
Without a means of locomotion no ship can safely put out to sea. Yet, many attempt to navigate life with nothing to propel them. They are drawn by the siren song of popular culture. In the Tragedies of ancient Greece, the siren would begin to sing and everybody in the audience knew the entire cast of characters was doomed.
‘My peace be with you. A home in you we will make.’ Jesus said. Paul set sail from Troas and planted a new church in Phillipi. Lydia listens from beside the river and responds to the gospel. John envisions a tree of life with leaves to heal the nations in the city of God, the New Jerusalem.
“Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed. (I Cor. 15:51) By blessing the disciples with peace, Jesus offered them his life. Joined together by Christ in this way, we find shelter in one another. Unlike the lonely ship without a sail John Stuart Mill described himself to be, we in the church are united in Christ like the great wooden beams Noah lashed together to build the Ark. We lift one another above the waves. We have become living members of the body of Christ, belonging to one another and to God.
The peace of Christ now has become our dwelling place. God’s peace encircles us wherever we go. God’s indwelling peace widens from the inmost depths of our soul to encompass all who believe with God’s shalom. It is a home-making peace intended to comfort the grieving, to warm the hearts of those who are afraid, to be a light in the darkness, and for the healing of the nations.
We do not perish, but with the gift of the Advocate avoid hidden dangers, while strengthening communities, welcoming strangers, lifting up the poor, embracing the marginalized, joining the long struggle for justice, and dispensing the mercy and forgiveness of God that is the only real antidote to fear, shame, and hate—the true beginning of lasting peace between peoples and nations.
This is why we are here. This is why we do what we do. Here at Immanuel our mission is to be a living sanctuary of hope and grace like the saints of old. We do this by welcoming each other to the Lord’s Table on Sunday and by welcoming children and families throughout the week who need a place to play, to talk, to connect, to share resources, or get some help with their homework. We are doing this in the way we are all working together after the fire to put this place back together and preparing to open new program space to the community in the ministry center this fall.
Joined to one another in Christ, we hope to bring peace as Jesus did in the midst of hardship, struggle, conflict, and disruption. Gathered at the Lord’s Table we have prayed each week throughout the Easter season, “Grant us such life, the life of the Father to the Son, the life of the Spirit of our risen Savior, life in you now and forever.” We pray for God to grant us peace, not as the world gives, but only as God can give it, so we may become a sign of peace among our neighbors, partners and friends.
Let us prepare once again for Jesus to abide in us by welcoming his gift of peace (14:27). Let us respond again to his presence with faith in the absence of sight (14:18). Let us receive again new life in Christ Jesus, so God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit will come to us now, and a home in us they will make. May the peace of the risen Christ be with you always.