Sunday, April 12, 2015

Peace like Peanut Butter - it sticks with you as you go

O God of peace, you bring tranquility into our conflicted lives. You raised Jesus from the still tomb; yet we continue to be entombed behind the closed locked doors of our fear. Open wide our doors and windows to the fresh air of new life. As Jesus showed his disciples his hands and feet, may we show ours to those waiting for our love. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen
Shalom aleichem. Assalam alaykum. Peace be with you.
What do you think of when you think about peace? Lack of war? Lack of stress?
I would like you to close your eyes for a moment
think about your favorite place to relax.
Remind yourself of how you feel when you are there.
The happiness,
the undisturbed feeling.
The beach,
the mountains,
the lake.
The vacation home,
the smells,
the wind in your hair,
let your muscles go for a moment ...
Now if you'll rejoin me and return to this room.
Was that peace?
In some ways, it was peace. But its not the kind of peace that Jesus speaks of when he speaks with his disciples. In an interesting situation, locked in from the inside, hiding, tense, and afraid, Jesus walks among the disciples and offers them peace. A normal greeting for the culture, but one with a little bit of situational irony. They wish they had some peace. But they are not feeling peaceful. They are sad, grief torn, confused. They are feeling alone. The loneliness that comes after the person they followed and put their hopes in has walked out of their existence, seemingly never to be seen again. But we know this is not the end of the story. The disciples, for all their fear, do not stay in this room forever. In this great resurrection story, Jesus fills them with his peace and with the Holy Spirit. They do not respond right away, we find them in the same place the next week. But they do respond, they don't stay locked up forever.
A couple of months ago, when we were preparing for my ordination to the priesthood, I had a total liturgical geek moment when I was reviewing the service plan. I realized that the first official act of my priesthood would be sharing the gift of peace, sharing the gift of God's peace that I have been given, with you. There is that line in Matthew where Jesus says, go make peace with your brother before you make your offering. Liturgically, we do the same thing. We hear the words of the bible, we reflect (hopefully) on them in the sermon, we pray for the things that come out of that reflection in the prayers of the people, we confess our sins, and having been reminded of the abundant forgiveness of God, we are asked to share that peace with everyone around us, and then! we make our offering, in money, bread, wine, to God, as a response to the forgiveness and peace that we have been given. And we share all that has been offered in the act of communion with the community of peace we now have in the room, as Jesus did. We don't always take enough time during the peace to actually make peace with the fellow members of our parish with whom we have fought, but that is the purpose. In a ritual sense and in a practical sense. Its not just about giving everyone near you a hug or handshake, its about saying, we have just been forgiven by God of our sins and now we forgive each other. Its a wonderful moment.  The Christians who put together our worship service knew what they were doing. We are here to worship God, but there is an arc, a movement of the service which also teaches and moves us. There is a reason things are in the order they are in. The service hinges on the peace, we move, through the peace that is within because that knowledge, that faith, allows us to come to the rail for communion, knowing that we are not worthy, but that it does not matter. God loves us and grants us the peace to be courageous.
Peace in the midst of tension is not the peace of standing on the sea shore or on the mountain trail or sitting in your bathtub. God's peace is not the peace of 'yes, I've been on vacation for a week and I have another week to go.' A wonderful peace that is, but that is not God's peace. God's peace is being able to stand in the midst of tension and say, yes, you are a human being and despite all the tension and anger and stress, I am going to treat you like a beloved child of God. I am going to look into your eyes and know that you are more than the problem at hand. That is peace of God. The peace of God is a peace that sticks to your bones, even when bad things are piled all around. A peace that endures and at the end of the day reminds you that God created and it is good. A peace that allows you to breathe deeply and remember that God loves you. That peace doesn't look for conflict, but it doesn't run away from it either. Peace in the midst of the doubt, confusion, and tension we live with. Each of us has moments, maybe many moments, when we feel trapped by our fears, by our tensions. The only peace in that moment is the peace of knowing God's grace. Knowing God's love for us. This fills us with a peace that stays with us throughout all the tension, or conflict, or fear.

 We don't sit in a locked room, but we sit locked inside of our selves. Wondering what will happen next, what is going on, why we feel frustrated. Yet, Jesus comes into our midst this Sunday morning saying, peace be with you. Not the peace of the beach, not the peace of the mountain forest, the peace which passes all understanding. The peace that walks through seas on dry ground, the peace that allows us to walk the path set before us even though we know it will be hard and will be frustrating. The peace that allows us to walk with our community in respect, no matter how much of a mess we are. With peace from Jesus, we are encouraged to step outside of our locked doors. To open ourselves up to the forces outside of ourselves, despite the risks, despite the pain, despite the vulnerability. We are the disciples in the world being sent. Jesus gives us the peace that allows us to be sent, to go. We cannot sit locked inside ourselves any longer. It may not happen right away, we may find ourselves in the same mental and emotional place next week, as the disciples did. But we WILL also come to know the peace of God. Jesus fills us with peace and sends us out. We drink in the peace that we have been given and we know that we are sent into the world to proclaim this good news.
Jesus walks among us, speaking to us: "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you."