Laying in the Haitian rubble, the words “God’s peace to us we pray” were sung by Ben Larson as he took his final breath. In the last moments of his life, Ben mustered up all the strength he could to still ask for peace in the midst of the world as he drew his final breath.//As I am reminded of Ben’s final words, I can’t help but reflect on our gospel reading for today when Jesus proclaims: “Peace 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 (John 14:23-29).”// What does this peace look like? //In other words, what is the peace Jesus gives?// Where and how is it that we see peace in our world today?//
It seems to me, that to most of us, peace is the absence of violence and war, but is that the peace that Jesus speaks of in today’s text?//According to Webster’s 9th New Collegiate dictionary, peace means “ a state of tranquility or quiet; freedom from civil disturbance; state or period of mutual concord between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity; or harmony in personal relations.// In all actuality, it seems to me that the peace Jesus gives reaches far beyond these definitions. The peace Jesus refers to is the peace that connects each of us to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; knowing that God will bring healing and wholeness to all who ask for peace while keeping God’s Word front and center.//
This peace Jesus offers to us is a communal peace; a peace that asks us to try and get along with each other despite our agreements and disagreements. It is a peace that opens our hearts and minds to joy and celebration even in the midst of our own struggle and strife knowing that God will always be with us. God will never leave us or forsake us.
However sometimes it is extremely difficult for us to trust in this peace; this shalom, that Jesus offers especially when we cannot feel that peace in the midst of our struggles and strife. Yet Jesus asks us to trust in the promise of the Father who promises to bring joy and peace into our present lives through the reign of God.//
In the book “Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America, edited by Darrell Gruder, the author writes, “A definitive answer to the question, What is the reign of God? cannot be given.// But we can at least sketch some of its contours by listening to the Old Testament’s prophetic forecasts of the coming day of God and the prophets’ expectations of God’s intended future for the world.// In lectures given in the early 1980s, philosopher Arthur Holmes summarized that prophetic vision as shalom.// It envisions a world characterized by peace, justice, and celebration.// Shalom, the overarching vision of the future, means ‘peace,’ but not merely peace as the cessation of hostilities.//Instead, shalom envisions the full prosperity of a people of God living under the covenant of God’s demanding care and compassion are rule.// In the prophetic vision, peace such as this comes hand in hand with justice.// Without justice, there can be no real peace,// and without peace, no real justice.//Indeed, only in a social world full of peace grounded in justice can there come the full expression of joy and celebration (P.90-91).”// Shalom is the peace that opens our minds and hearts to the full reign of God who comes to bring us a peace that passes all human understanding; a peace that comes to us even in the midst of fear and doubt.//
Just weeks earlier, while the Resurrection is still a mere rumor, Jesus comes to the disciples who are gathered in fear in a locked room. He meets them in their fear, shares his peace and sends them back into the world to spread his word.// Again Jesus speaks this peace to us on the eve of his death. He reminds us that God has come to bring us comfort for troubled hearts and courage in the midst of fear.// Jesus will embody the peace he offers throughout the events of his arrest, trial, crucifixion and the resurrection.// Luther Seminary professor Mary Hinkle Shore writes, “As the events of the immediate and distant future unfold, Jesus’ followers will be able to trust that the One who loved them enough to send the Son still loves them and still seeks to dwell with them.// They will know they are not orphaned.”/ Jesus will bring peace to us even when we are afraid. In all actuality, Jesus’ presence provides hope and promise, comfort and peace.//
Ben’s widow Renee and cousin Jonathan later reported that the last words Ben sang where more than likely sung to the tune of the hymn, “Where Charity and Love Prevail.”// Looking at these words, it seems to me that this hymn captures what it means for us to trust in the peace that passes all human understanding.// Listen for a moment to these words from the hymn: “Let us recall that in our midst dwells Christ, God’s holy Son; as members of each body joined, in him we are made one;// Let strife among us be unknown; let all contentions cease, Be God’s the glory that we seek; be his our only peace.”//
God is our own only peace; our only peace who comes to us in God’s Holy Word, who comes to us at God’s Holy Table,// who comes to us through the power of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,// and who brings shalom to all those who trust in this One who brings the only peace that passes all human understanding.//
So God’s peace to us I pray….