Yesterday the minister stood in the pulpit putting plainly the state of this world, from attacks in Boston and Syria, gun violence, earthquakes in China, and buildings collapsing in Bangladesh, and the words rippled and reverberated like aftershocks through my fragile heart.
And on top of all these things, the passage for the day (John 14: 23-29) was one in which Jesus speaks about leaving his disciples and the world behind. At a moment of great uncertainty not unlike this one in our own world, what must it have felt like for the disciples to hear that Jesus was leaving them far behind?
Sure, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit and peace, Jesus says, “I am going away, and I am coming to you,” and Jesus urges them to not let their hearts to be troubled and to not be afraid. I’m sure they felt like very empty words and promises to those left behind. There are times when the most brilliant, comforting words feel hollowed out of all holiness, because life has delivered such a bitter blow.
Perhaps that’s why Jesus sends his Holy Spirit to advocate and to teach, and leaves a peace that’s unlike the hollow, bitter circumstances of our lives. I’m sure the disciples didn’t realize it at the time, but Jesus’ leaving, his death, would unlock for them a new identity, a whole new life.
I feel like I’ve been picking on Tanya Luhrmann a bit lately, but she’s right about this: being a child of God makes all the difference in the world. When darkness enfolds you and nothing in the world speaks of grace or hope or beauty anymore, it is an enormous truth to know that we’re not defined by this world, but by God. We’re not only created in God’s image, and children of God, but we’re being made new. We are new creations in the midst of destruction, desolation, and brokenness.
As the minister spoke this Sunday he encouraged us to reflect on the grandeur of the gift of peace. It’s been said many a time that peace isn’t the absence of war or violence or pain, but the presence of God in the midst of these things. But I think it’s even more powerful to reflect on what a gift peace is and those in our lives who give us this holy peace and not as the world gives.
The minister spoke of peace as what allows you to keep your footing in the midst of the tremors. Peace is the people who sit beside us, taking deep breaths with us when even breathing feels like work. Peace is companionship and grace and abundance in a world of scarcity. But most of all, I think peace is the eternal Spirit that allows us to marvel at ourselves as children of God even when the world is crumbling.