Give Peace a Chance
John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance" has become a ballad for anti-war movements. Other than the Hare Krishna like refrain, it's not much of a song. But that refrain is inviting and even fitting for Christians. Many of us go through life troubled and timid, and we're convinced that as long as we're in this body we're doomed to worry, fret, and be anything but peaceful. Jesus says otherwise; Jesus says, "Give peace a chance."
Peace is a gift Jesus leaves His disciples. It's His bequest to them on the night before His death, and it's His gift to us because of His death. Right before communion though the mouth of the pastor, Jesus says, "The peace of the Lord be with always." After we commune, He says, "Depart in peace." And the service closes with our Triune Lord blessing us, keeping us, and giving us peace.
Peace is Jesus' gift to His disciples, but we seem to have little of it. Think of the 12. Jesus gave them peace, and then in a matter of hours they watched as Jesus was arrested, convicted, tortured, and crucified. Where was the peace? Is it any different for us? In service after service, by Word and Sacrament, the Lord gives us peace, but what do we find when we go out of here? War in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, Pakistan, and more. In all of history, there have been only 2 minutes of peace for every year of war.
It's no different right outside these doors. In here Jesus gives peace, but out there there's war. We are attacked by an army of facts and figures about the economy, social attitudes, and health risks. What peace is there in these numbers? And say you do get past them? What do you find at home? Maybe not out and out war, but how about smoldering discontent? How about tension? Where's that peaceful easy feeling?
Worst of all your lack of peace might have nothing to do with any real conflict. You might not even know why the peace of the Lord escapes you. Everywhere you look there's only anxiety. You can't point to a particular problem in your life but everything seems wrong. Even though Jesus bestows His peace on you time and again banishing trouble from your heart, still you're upset, still you're worried, still you're afraid. As another 60's era anti-war song says paranoia not peace starts when you're always afraid.
We would like to give the peace that Jesus gives a chance, but we just can't find it. That's because we're looking for the wrong kind of peace. When Jesus gave His peace to the disciples, He made a point of telling them that the peace He was giving was not like the world's peace. The world's peace is a child in a boat lazily drifting across a placid pond with not so much as a ripple on the water. To the world peace is smooth sailing, a full bread basked not only for today but for tomorrow and the next day too. Peace comes from having a job you like, trouble free cars, a happy home, and absolutely no wars or even rumors of war.
If you had all these things, you could be at peace, couldn't you? But in a sinful, fallen world where will you ever find such peaceful conditions for more than a day or two? Only in a drug induced state. In a sinful, fallen world, how long do you think people, be they countries or households, can live at peace with one another? About two minutes.
I know what you're thinking. Some people have peace in this sinful, fallen world. No, some people have made peace with this sinful, fallen world. The world loves its own; the world takes care of its own, but not forever, not even for that long. Into everyone's placid little pond, not only some rain must fall but some rocks. It may be the big rock of disease or death that hits your pond, or it may be a very small thing that robs you of your worldly peace. It doesn't take much of a rock to make waves on a placid pond. A broken car or a harsh neighbor can do it.
The peace that Jesus gives is not based on how placid the pond of your life is. His peace is not based on external conditions. Picture His peace this way. There's a roaring waterfall. Behind it a small tree grows. In the tree is a bird perched singing away as the water thunders all around. The peace Jesus gives doesn't change the world around you into a peaceful place. It gives peace despite the world around you. As Jesus will say later on in John, "I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."
In Jesus, not in the world we have peace. You want peace? Go to the bloody, ugly cross that the world turns away from. Want peace? Go the Man stricken, smitten and afflicted that Isaiah points to: "The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed." Want peace? Go to the blood Jesus shed on the cross that's on you in Baptism, in you in Communion; and all over you in Absolution. As Colossians 1:20 says, Jesus "made peace through the blood of His cross."
Apart from the body and blood of Jesus, apart from His suffering and death, God will certainly hunt you down and punish you for every last one of your sins. Apart from Jesus, you can have absolutely no peace with God. Apart from Christ and Him crucified, you must constantly look over your shoulder for the just punishment of your sins that nobody knows about but you can't forget. Apart from Jesus, God right this moment has His sights on you and His finger on the trigger.
But you dear friend, aren't apart from Christ. You are in Christ. In Christ, God is not angry with you; He's on your side. In Christ, you have the peace of God that passes all human understanding.i.e. it doesn't make sense. So you'll never get your head around this peace. The devil, the world, and your own flesh can always point to 100 things all about you and in you that should rob you of peace and they are real. There are real fightings within and fears without. You really are guilty of this or that sin and that or this person will not be at peace with you. A waterfall does thunder around you.
You won't find peace in the roar by telling yourself to be peaceful. You won't find peace in a feeling inside of you. Peace remember is in Christ. You find peace where He is. He's there in that font, there on that altar, and here in these words. Ever see a bird that can't find a perch? It flits from branch to branch but none will hold it. The bird doesn't sing then waterfall or not. But once it has a good, solid perch, it sings.
Despite the things all about and in us, Jesus says our hearts don't have to be troubled or afraid. It's the wicked according to Isaiah that are like the troubled sea which can never rest. It's the wicked according to Proverbs that flee when no one is chasing them. It's the wicked according to Leviticus who run in fear from the sound of rustling leaves. You are not the wicked. You are the righteous. God views you in, with, and under the body and blood of Christ, and therefore sees you as holy, redeemed, and righteous. And Proverbs 28:1 says, "The righteous are bold as a lion."
Whatever situations you face that rob you of peace, you can take heart and have courage. Jesus commands you literally, "Don't let your hearts continue to be troubled; don't continue to be afraid." He commands you not to fear, not so you can feel guilty when you do, but so you might know how earnestly He wants your heart to be at peace.
You are to believe Him, not your trembling heart that you can be at peace. You are to believe Him because He knows better than you do. Jesus knows all the fearful, troubling situations you face. He knows the end of them from the beginning, and He says, "I've looked ahead and I see no reason for you to be troubled or afraid." Now how on earth can that be? It can't be on earth, but it can be in Christ. How? I don't really know how; I only know if the disciples didn't have to be troubled or afraid though they were facing the suffering and death of Jesus only hours away, then with a living Jesus by your side you don't have to be troubled or afraid when you're facing any suffering and death.
An African saying is, "When the mouse laughs at the cat, there is hole nearby." You can laugh at the cat because you have a hole nearby to hide in. Our hiding place is under the outstretched arms of Christ. He is the Rock of ages that cleaves, opens, to shelter us from the storms of life. This is a safe place to hide because Jesus is no lowly carpenter from Nazareth. He is Lord of all. He told the disciples that they didn't need to be afraid because He was going to the Father. Being with the Father, He would rule over all things for the good of His followers. The disciples had to wait for Jesus to ascend to the Father. We don't. Right today we can hide in Him.
If you've ever chased a mouse around, you know that it needs little encouragement to dart into the first hole it finds. In fact, it would be one crazy mouse if it didn't. If you've been following the stories out of Kansas, you know those people didn't need encouragement to seek shelter from the approaching storm. Proverbs 18:10 says, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous run into it, and are safe."
We've already established you are the righteous in Christ. So when the wild cats of life are on the prowl, when the tornadoes of life barrel down upon you, run to the safety, the security, and the peace that are yours in the name of the Lord. Make the sign of the cross over yourself to remind yourself that you've been Baptized in His name, forgiven in His name, and fed His Body and Blood in His name, so why even on earth, shouldn't you be at peace in His name? Give His peace a chance. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
The Sixth Sunday of Easter (20070513); John 14:27