Friday, May 08, 2015

Peace I leave you

At the 12-Step/Recovery Eucharist (which takes place every week on Tuesdays at 5.15pm at our Cathedral (Christ Church Cathedral) on Quadra Street in Victoria) a few days ago I had the opportunity to preside and share a few thoughts on a passage I rarely get to preach on, except at funerals!  These words of Jesus from John 14 "Peace I leave you..."

It had a particular context, that of the healing and recovery that comes through the 12-Step program.  The service is not just for those recovering from addictions but is a peaceful and health-ful shared space for prayer and the recognition of the need we all share for that deepest healing from those things which we do that take us away from well-being and wholeness.  It's a shorter meditation/talk than I would normally do for a 'sermon' so rather than putting it on New Kid Deep Stuff, I thought I would post it here.

Tuesday of Easter 5 – 12 Step thoughts


Peace, I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left – feeling abandoned, bereft.

Those words of Jesus, from the Message translation of the Bible that we just heard are better known to me in the New Revised Standard Version where they are translated “Peace I leave you, my own peace do I give to you, not as the world gives you do I give you”

I’m not saying that one translation is better than another, but that seeing something in an unfamiliar way can bring new life to it.  We often hear in scripture mention of peace, “the peace that passes all understanding” for instance; or “the Prince of Peace.” – one of the titles of the Messiah given by the prophet Isaiah in the Hebrew Scriptures; or Jesus appearing to his friends after the resurrection and saying “Peace be with you.”

But what is that peace? And how is it different from the peace that we so often talk about?  I mean, now I have children – one ten years old and one very much a teenager at thirteen – I get what my mother used to say when she would roll her eyes and tell us to go away because ‘I just want five minutes peace.’  I get that feeling, just a need to be away from the noise for a moment.  Just a bit of space without all the distractions and demands of everyday life.

Then there’s the peace that we pray for in the world, the absence of violence and hatred.  That war may cease and nations will live at peace with one another.

But Jesus doesn’t seem to be talking about either of those kinds of peace.  He’s not talking about having a quiet life, or escaping the noise, or the absence of war.  This peace is a different quality, something that isn’t just outside of us but within.  A peace shared between those who seek to follow and live with Christ, a peace given to each one of us – not something we can strive for, but something we can open ourselves to.

This peace is more than just feeling calm. It’s a deep and abiding sense of the presence of God, of (as it said in our reading) wholeness and wellness.  It’s not a peace that we have to jump through hoops to get to, not a peace that there is an action plan to achieve, not a peace that we have to earn.

It’s a peace we do have to learn to accept, though. It’s the peace that comes from letting go – recognising our own inability to control everything in our lives, and the desire of God to bring us wholeness and healing.

In the Hebrew Scriptures this peace is called  ‘shalom’.  It’s more like wholeness and healing than just ‘peace’ – it’s where everthing is as it should be, harmony between human beings, harmony between us and God, where creation is all brought into God’s wholeness.

It does take work – we all have a calling to bring in this state of shalom in our own way, being people of peace and love – but in the end the work is not ours. It is the work of God within us, the peace of Christ that is rooted deep within our hearts.

And we don’t necessarily get it all at once – it’s not a case of flicking a switch and it all happens.  It’s more a case of opening ourselves to allow God’s peace to flow, to ease into our hearts and minds.

That’s what we do here – we open ourselves to that peace.  We pray, we come to this table, this place of peace and spiritual nourishment, acutely aware of our need of God’s life and grace.  We come to seek and share Christ, as we recognise our part within this process – the process of recovery, healing and the journey of wholeness. We come to receive food for the journey of faith, the journey of peace, the journey of hope, the journey of love.

We open ourselves to the deep deep love of God; here together we share our need – of healing, of forgiveness, of peace, of Shalom.  May God feed us and bring us nearer to one another and to Godself as we open ourselves to that peace which Christ promises.

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