Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Gift of Peace - An Advent Meditation

Some questions about peace that were on my mind as I considered this gift of Advent were: What is peace? Where does peace come from? What does it mean that Jesus is called the Prince of Peace? Is Christ’s peace different somehow from other types of peace? Is peace only the absence of violence, war, or conflict? Is peace more than a state of mind? Is it possible to BE peace in a world filled with non - peace? How can the gift of peace given by God through the advent of Christ permeate our lives, our thoughts, and our actions during the next few days and weeks and throughout the year?

As I pondered these questions I wondered what Jesus had to say about peace and since we're reading from Luke in the lectionary cycle, I decided to find the passages in Luke that speak to us of peace. When I shared this message in worship, we had different voices read the scripture readings and I responded with the words in bold type. We paused between each set to leave space for quiet meditation on the words. It was a beautiful expression of peace in worship.

When John the Baptist was born, his father Zechariah spoke these words: “Such is the tender mercy of our God, who from on high will bring the Rising Sun to visit us, to give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)

Peace is a journey, a process, a way out of darkness and into new life. Peace is the fulfillment of a promise and a gift of God’s mercy.

On the night of Jesus’ birth, the angels spoke these words to the shepherds: “Glory to God in high heaven! And on earth, peace to those on whom God’s favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

Peace is a gift from God that comes through Jesus. Peace is a blessing.

The high Priest Simeon prayed these words while holding and blessing Jesus in the temple on the day of his circumcision: “Now, O God, you can dismiss your servant in peace, just as you promised; because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the peoples to see – a light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

Peace is comforting. Peace is the fulfillment of a promise. Peace is a prayer heard and acted upon.

Jesus sent 72 of his disciples in pairs to every place he intended to visit, to prepare the way for him. In preparation for the journey Jesus gives them these instructions: “And whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be upon this house!’ If the people live peaceably there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will come back to you.” (Luke 10:5-6)

Peace is a blessing we give to one another. It is also a way of life and of living that is rooted in hospitality and openness to the coming of Christ.

When Jesus spoke to the woman who had anointed his feet with oil and with her tears and dried them with her hair, he said: “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7:50)

When Jesus spoke to the woman who had suffered with a 12 year hemorrhage and who was healed when she touched the hem of his cloak, he said: “Daughter your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” (Luke 8:48)

Peace is the result of salvation and of healing. Peace is a by-product of faith, the outcome of an encounter with Jesus. Peace comes when we glimpse the realm of God breaking into this world.

During his sermon on the plain Jesus tells the crowds gathered to hear him teach: “Do you think I’m here to bring peace on earth? I tell you, the opposite is true: I’ve come to bring division.” (12:51)

God’s peace isn’t always the same as earthly peace. The peace of Christ is transformation, new life, an in-breaking of the realm of God. These things often lead to conflict as we are invited to repent, to change our way of being, to turn from our old lives toward a new life in Christ. Sometimes we must choose between the ways of the world and the ways of God’s realm in order to know peace. Jesus doesn’t bring peace – Jesus is peace!

Jesus wept over Jerusalem after his triumphal entry saying; “If only you had known the path to peace today!” (19:42)

Jesus is the path to peace.

When Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection he greeted them saying: “Peace be with you.” (24:36)

Peace is the assurance of Christ’s presence.

The peace we receive from God is not merely the absence of conflict, strife or war and it is not only an invitation to calm, quiet, tranquility, harmony, or an undisturbed state of mind. God’s peace is a process rooted in historical realities as we struggle for all these things. God’s peace is also a process that exists outside of linear history. It is an assurance of God’s presence and God’s blessing, a fulfillment of promises, an invitation to transformation and new life in God's time, not ours. God’s peace is found in the community of God’s people, in the stories about who we are, who we have been and who we will be and in the very fact that we are never alone. God’s peace is rooted in God’s love, a love that blesses and adores us just as we are and that pulls us always toward God’s vision of who we are becoming.

Let us give thanks for the gift of peace. Amen.

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