Thursday, November 28, 2013

Season of Peace? by Greg York

Season of Peace?


We’re entering the season where we sing about Jesus being the “prince of peace” a little more than usual, the season when the phrase “peace on earth” becomes more a part of our conscious vocabulary.


Peace, though, is one thing most of us do not have much of these days. There’s always someplace else to go, someone else to contact, something else to do. Our lives become stretched to the breaking point, stressed to the limit, and our margins are paper thin if not non-existent.


This is one area where even Christ-followers seem almost without a fight to have yielded the field to the dominant culture around us. If our ministers or elders or other “model Christians” are not “busy” all the time, then they must not be doing their job. With cell phones on our hips or in our pockets or on the nightstand next to our heads, everyone now seems to “have to” be available 24/7/365. And, if not, the level of “commitment” is suspect.


In that mix of “chosen busyness” our relationships easily become as frenzied and fragmented as the people in them, whether those relationships are within our families or within our church family.


Our understanding of the world, then, is built on sound-bytes and all that can be communicated in no more than 140 characters and this moment’s “next big thing.” Very little about our lives is “whole”—and it appears to become more and more fragmented with each passing year.


But, to borrow the theme of our current sermon series, that doesn’t have the aroma of Christ about it.


Jesus just didn’t seem to be in a hurry, could sleep in a storm, brought calm to harried situations, stopped to take time with people “along the way.”


In short, he was a man of “peace.”


Funny, then, that we who are in such a hurry, in such a frenzy, say that we are following him.


Remember what he said to his closest followers the night before he was killed, what he said to them right before he was arrested (don’t you think that would make you feel a little harried and frenzied?!?)—John 14.25-27: I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27Peace 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.


And again, a few minutes later—John 16.28-33: ‘I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.’ 29 His disciples said, ‘Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! 30Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.’ 31Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe? 32The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’


But, with all due respect, we might say, what can Jesus teach us about “peace”? After all, he lived in a world without cell phones, “must see TV,” or Twitter. He did not have children who come equipped with their own schedules. He did not have your boss. Or, your clients.


It’s a legitimate question. But, relatively speaking, did Jesus not have more important things to “get done” than we do? All he had to do was live a life that was exemplary in every way, train some hard-headed people to carry on his work, and die for the whole world. No pressure there.


And yet he lives God’s peace, God’s shalom.


He gives us a big clue how he does that in that last quote from John’s Gospel, there in vv. 28 and 32. Came from the Father, going to the Father. Not alone because the Father is with him.


Jesus did not live a life of peace because he had cleared his schedule, avoided certain people, and gotten enough rest. Maybe he did all those things at times, but they were not the core of his “peace.”


Jesus lived a life of peace because he had learned to live every moment aware of the Father’s presence.


Jesus carves out grounding time in prayer with God over and over. Not just as an “example for us,” but because that is where he found his peace.


Carve out some grounding time with God. Even for just a few moments. Feel the peace of the Father’s presence. And then let the peace of those moments start to spread their “contagion” throughout all your moments.


…let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3.15).

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