May 1, 2016: 6th Sunday of Easter C
Have you traveled on an airplane recently? How difficult was it for you to get through the security? A few years ago I went to the Holy Land with a few friends. The airport in Tel Aviv requires that you arrive three hours ahead of your flight to go through security. On the night we were departing, we allowed more than three hours to ensure we had time to get through security. We were first stopped at the airport checkpoint. One of my friends was interrogated at length; he is of Italian/German descent, but he could pass for a Palestinian. Then at the airport, I was pulled out of the line for a lengthy search. Mind you, I had my clerical shirt and collar on. Every inch of the contents in my luggage, including my soiled clothing, were chemically analyzed; I could certainly understand that my stinky clothes could cause an explosion. Finally, I was let through. Then at the second checkpoint, I was pulled aside for baggage analysis for another 30 minutes. It took every bit of three hours to get through the security, and all the while I was saying to myself, “Can’t we all just get along?”
If there was peace in the hearts of people and in the world, we would not have to check luggage for potential weapons or bombs. As great as our technology is, we still have not invented a machine to see through our soul and our intentions. We are afraid of what others will do to us. Words such as 9-11, ISIS, terror plots, and school shootings can generate a flood of negative emotions. Jesus says there are two kinds of peace: One kind is offered by the WORLD. The other is the promise that He gives. And when John uses the term WORLD he is not referring to the planet Earth, but to the people who are ruled by unbelief. They are blind to the things of God and want nothing to do with the Christian faith.
So, the only kind of peace that the world can only offer us is a peace that is devoid of the presence of God. It’s a peace that does not have God as its source or as its inspiration. Instead, it’s typically defined by the absence of something. World Peace is the absence of war, inner peace is the absence of conflict. Apart from God the World basically defines peace based upon two factors: control and circumstances.
When a situation gets out of hand the world says, “Maintain Control. Alter your circumstances.” The world says ‘you must take charge of the situation and make it turn out your way’ and ‘you are the only one who can alter your future and destiny.’ According to the WORLD, there is no God to grant us peace – so peace must be a product of human effort.
But the peace that Jesus offers is altogether different than the peace offered by the world. He says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives…” Jesus faced every difficult earthly situation imaginable. He suffered persecution from angry religious leaders and unwelcoming peasants. Ultimately, he was betrayed by a close friend, beaten, forsaken, and murdered. Yet Jesus’ life was characterized by peace, and it’s this peace that he offers us. The same peace he had in life can be ours to the same extent—even in the midst of life’s many trials.
When we read in the gospel about the horrific moments in Jesus’ life, we can’t imagine that he was at peace. Yet he was at peace because of his trust in his Father. What will it take for us to have that same kind of trust in the Heavenly Father. I really like the scripture verse over the entrance of our Ascension Church, “Be still and know that I am God.” Before we frantically try various solutions when we face fear and anxiety, we need to be still and know whose child we are and know whose protection we live under.