Category Archives: Pentecost

Peace is no possession (Pentecost, Year C, 29 May 2016)

Reading
John 14.8–27

Jesus says, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.’ Peace is his gift to us. Yet many of his people lack peace today.

Why, I wonder?

A sense of peace of mind, peace at heart, brings confidence and abolishes worry. A sense of peace enables us to overcome difficulties. People sense it when they are around a person who is at peace. Such people can radiate peace to others. It’s a great gift, left to us by Jesus himself. So why hasn’t everyone got it? Why would anyone lack peace?

Well, it’s got to do with what Jesus says next.

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.

We can’t have have peace when we let our hearts be troubled, or afraid.

The trouble is, we’re targets for troubling messages. They zero in on us like heat-seeking missiles. Especially during an election campaign. The messages we receive are worry bombs.

We worry about asylum seekers, who are wrongly called illegal immigrants. We stop the boats to stop the worry, but then we must close our hearts to people whose lives are made unendurable in offshore detention centres.

We worry about climate change, and wonder what we can do.

We worry about tax, about jobs, about our security as we get older.

The more we worry, the more troubled we are, the less peace we have.

Jesus says,

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.

What is peace? We say that there is peace when there is no war; but in the scriptures, peace is so much more than the absence of strife.

Peace is wholeness. Peace is wellbeing. Peace is the result of justice and righteousness.

The Apostle Paul encourages us to live in peace with others (Romans 12.18):

If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Paul knows we can’t be at peace with everyone, all the time; but he says ‘if it is possible, so far as it depends on you’—be at peace with everyone.

There is no place in the Christian life for a believer to be a troublemaker. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’

Peace is meant to characterise our lives when we belong to Jesus. It’s his gift to us, not something that we can ignore or throw away.

We sense that we have this gift through the Holy Spirit who is our Advocate, our Comforter and Counsellor. Jesus intercedes for us at the right hand of God; the Spirit intercedes for us from within our spirit.

Jesus is no longer here in the flesh, but he has not left us alone. His Spirit is with us.

It seems to me that life in the Spirit has two dimensions. We receive, so we can give. It’s like breathing in the peace of Jesus Christ, then breathing out peace to others. In, and out. In and out. It is no accident that in Hebrew and Greek, the languages of the Bible, the word for ‘spirit’ and ‘breath’ are exactly the same.

A man told me a while ago that he is a Buddhist because Buddhism is a path that you walk, while Christianity is about what you believe. But that’s a false contrast.

We need to walk a spiritual path if we want to feel the peace of Jesus. We don’t screw our eyes up and believe ourselves into walking the path; we walk the path and find our faith strengthened. Jesus put it this way:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments…They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.  (John 14.15, 21)

What is the path of the Spirit? It is simple: it is receiving so we can give.

We receive Christ’s peace. It’s already ours, it’s a gift. So we receive it. We allow the peace of Christ to be real to us, more real than all the troubling messages that are thrown at us. More real than the very real difficulties we may be facing. We receive what we already have, Christ’s peace.

And we receive so we may give it out to others. The peace of Christ is not ours to hoard up!

The Lord doesn’t want me to have peace in my heart all alone; he wants us to be at peace with one another. He doesn’t want me to keep ‘my’ peace all to myself alone in my room; he wants me to be a peacemaker.

Peace is not a possession, a ‘thing’ that we ‘have’; peace needs to be exercised like a muscle. The more we exercise it, the more we have to give away. In fact, peace is like a river that flows through us to others.

Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

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Come Holy Spirit: a text from the 13th century

It is Pentecost on Sunday. This prayer is attributed to Stephen Langton (†1228), Archbishop of Canterbury. The original Latin text and this translation from Leonardo Boff, Come, Holy Spirit: Inner Fire, Giver of Life and Comforter of the Poor

Veni, Sancte Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit)

Come, Holy Spirit, send forth the heavenly radiance of your light.

Come, father of the poor, come, giver of gifts,
come, light of the heart.

Greatest comforter, sweet guest of the soul, sweet consolation.

In labour, rest, in heat, temperance, in tears, solace.

O most blessed light, fill the inmost heart of your faithful.

Without your light there is nothing in the human,
nothing that is pure.

Cleanse that which is unclean, water that which is dry,
heal that which is wounded.

Bend that which is inflexible, fire that which is chilled,
correct what goes astray.

Give to your faithful, those who trust in you, the sevenfold gifts.

Grant the reward of virtue, grant the deliverance of salvation,
grant eternal joy.

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