160501 – Peace Out

Yr C ~ Easter 6 ~ John 14:23-29

(a frustrated rant) So I’m sitting at a stop sign waiting to turn left onto a four lane road, and waiting, and waiting. Then it’s finally clear except for one car coming. But instead of being in the outside lane where he belongs buddy is cruising along in the inside lane so I can’t make my turn.  And by then more traffic came and I’m sitting there waiting again.peace-out1

Then later I’m on the 401 in the fast lane and buddy pulls out right in front of me to go around a truck he was following and he proceeds to slow down. Drives me nuts! Then in a parking lot someone parked right on the line and I couldn’t squeeze in safely so I had to park further away! Can you believe these people?!

Traffic, politics, family worries (relationships, health, jobs, kids), job stress, church anxiety, people not answering emails. Aargh!

Then I have the frustration of people and churches not knowing their options, not being able to imagine another course of action or way of being, holding on to what worked once upon a time, nostalgia for a rosy past compared to a cloudy future, afraid of making a mistake, afraid of letting someone/the team down, afraid of it not working, afraid of looking foolish, not sure we have what it takes…Jesus, I wish I could catch a break.

Jesus: Chill out, bro!

14:27 Jesus says: Peace I leave with you; my shalom 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.

Thanks Jesus! I needed that!

So much good stuff in this one verse. First, as you know, our word ‘peace’ in Hebrew is shalom. Jesus is giving shalom to people. Do you realize that you do that too? You did it about 20 minutes ago! Every Sunday near the beginning of our worship time we turn to those near us and offer a greeting of wholeness, wellness, healing, blessing, and peace. We say shalom to one another. We give shalom to one another – just like Jesus!

Jesus says he doesn’t give as the world gives. How is that?
I think he means “with strings attached.” The world, meaning people generally, tend to give with an eye to what they’re getting in return. “What’s in it for me?” But Jesus doesn’t give that way. Jesus gives unconditionally.
Shalom is no longer shalom if it has strings attached. It is freely given, and it is freely received.

So Jesus offers peace because he doesn’t want the disciples’ hearts to be troubled or afraid. Troubled also means agitated here. And afraid means more along the lines of being timid, or cowardly. The word literally means to “shrink up” kinda like a turtle might when it’s startled.

14:27 Peace I leave with you; my shalom 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.

What makes you troubled and afraid, agitated and timid?
When you’re in new, unsure situations?
Facing uncertainty about the future?
When you feel out of control?
When the challenge seems bigger than your resources?

When do you notice that you’re lacking peace?
What do you typically do about it?
Close your eyes and hope it goes away?
Try harder to make it go away?

Where is peace lacking in our Church?
Clearly we’re in a huge state of flux. I mean, Faith United is doing marvellously well but the United Church as a whole is facing all kinds of agitation and troubles. We’ve got structural remits, red ink finances, the constant pressure of buildings in disrepair, congregations desperate to stay afloat, struggling for survival, trying to figure out our place in this weird new world we find ourselves in.

That stuff will take your peace away in a heartbeat. It’s no wonder we’re timid – afraid to do the wrong thing or take a chance because it might just be the very last thing that congregation does.

There’s not much peace in the world either. Apart from the obvious places where bullets are flying and bombs are exploding, there is a distinct unrest in terms of economics, in capitalism run amok that rewards the few at the expense of the many, in politics that seem to ignore the regular citizen and gives rise to questionable candidates, in this pervasive “me-first” attitude that seems to have taken everyone over.
No one is at peace, it seems. Everyone is agitated, troubled, afraid to stick out their neck, afraid to be rebuffed or ridiculed, looking out for number one.

14:27 Peace I leave with you; my shalom 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.

That’s easy for him to say! He’s Jesus!

Thankfully, being seasoned followers of the Way of Jesus, we’re immune to all this! I’m sure that none of you ever feel like your heart is troubled or agitated and you never feel timid, right? No?

So what shall we do about that? If only Jesus offered us a way through this!

14:25-26 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”

At this point Jesus knows his end is near, that he can’t avoid his future, and that these duh-sciples will be lost without him.
So he promises the Paraclete. It’s a fancy Greek word that means “called along beside.” It gets translated in lots of wonderful ways: advocate, helper, comforter, friend – but they all point to the same thing, the Holy Spirit – called along beside.

Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will be with us to teach us and to remind us. Let’s pause a second.

Remember that the Holy Spirit has been around since the beginning of creation.
It was the Holy Spirit that hovered over the waters in Genesis.
It was the Holy Spirit that moved among the people of Israel.
It was the Holy Spirit that revived the dry bones in Ezekiel’s valley.

Interestingly, when the Holy Spirit is alluded to at other times in the bible it’s about power, and glory, and awe-full-ness. But Jesus helps us see that God’s Spirit is also a comforter, a helper. This awesome, overwhelming Spirit will be our teacher, our friend, our guide – like Jesus – sent, or better still revealed, in his name.

In verse 24 he tells us that “the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.”

The same God-ness, the same Spirit that animated and inspired Jesus, that was his life-blood, will continue to teach and remind us about God’s kingdom, God’s love, and God’s peace.
Jesus tells his followers – the disciples, us – that the Spirit will continue to teach us and guide us because it has been that Spirit at work in him all along.

Today’s reading happens long before Jesus’ death and resurrection in John’s gospel, so why are we engaging it now in the aftermath of Easter? Well, if the disciples had some anxieties about where things were headed and how things were going while Jesus was still physically with them every day, imagine how they must have felt after he died. Even after experiencing his Presence after the resurrection in powerful and real ways you could imagine that they are still pretty uncertain about how things will all play out.

Who will guide them?
Who will teach them more?
Who will encourage them?
Who will calm them down when everything goes sideways and they start freaking out?

Two thousand years later those questions all remain. Who will do all those things for us?

In the wake of Easter we look back to when it was more obvious that Jesus is “right here with us” and we are reminded of this teaching.
Who will do all those things for us?

The Spirit! The Holy Spirit.
The Paraclete, the comforter, the helper, the advocate, the friend, the guide, the inspirer.

14:27 Peace I leave with you; my shalom 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.

Ok, here’s the thing! It’s all well and good to say that there is an advocate, a helper, a Paraclete, a guide ready, willing, and able to inspire and assist us, but it doesn’t mean squat if we don’t accept it. If your heart is troubled and timid and you desperately want and need peace the answer is not in buckling down and trying harder.
Don’t try harder; pray softer! Be still. Be open. Be loved. Be. Breathe in deeply. It’s so simple!

Have you ever noticed how you feel when your heart is troubled, when you’re anxious, when you’re upset, when you’re stressed, when you’re frustrated, when you’re not at peace? For me, my chest gets a little tight, my shoulders rise and tense, and I realize that my breathing is really shallow. A deep breath is usually an instant cure.
Try one right now. Take a couple of deep breaths. [pause] Don’t you feel better?!

 

This spirituality stuff doesn’t have to be rocket surgery. It’s simple.

If you want to live with a sense of peace it needs to come from somewhere.
If you want to experience peace you need to first receive it.
If you want to breathe peace out you need to have first breathed peace in.

Peace is one of those things like love.
You can’t manufacture it. You can’t just put your mind to it, work up some courage, walk up to someone and decide you’re in love. Effort doesn’t create love – openness does.
And effort cannot create peace either. You can’t force peace.
As Richard Rohr says, “You can’t push the river.”
Just breathe.

Being at peace doesn’t mean everything’s all sunshine and flowers and you’ll never have any troubles or fears.
It means you don’t get stuck there.
It means when you find yourself there you can trust in some of the most profound words we have: We are not alone!

Breathing-in peace means you get to breathe-out peace.

And while your challenges won’t disappear your anxiety about them might.
And that stuff that paralyzed you before just might seem less debilitating.
And instead of feeling timid and afraid of what might be you might start to embrace new possibilities that you couldn’t see inside your turtle shell.

Do you know what that sounds like to me? Resurrection!

14:25-26 I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
14:27 Peace I leave with you; my shalom 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.

Will you breathe that all in?

Good! Then, peace out!

Amen.