“Peace I leave with you” – Br. Todd Blackham
Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
What is it that keeps you coming back? What keeps us here, worshipping and adoring Christ week by week, day by day? Faith, hope, a promise? It can sometimes feel a little fuzzy – like when I’m not wearing my glasses – but I know it’s not just something I made up one day. It’s rooted in something that really happened.
We really synced up in real time with the events of scripture back on Palm Sunday. The time markers became pretty exact. The story says he rode into Jerusalem on a Sunday, and later that week, on a Thursday he had a last supper. He was crucified on a Friday and early on the first day of the week, that next Sunday, he rose again. The liturgies of Holy Week kept us step by step in time with everything going on. I’m a monk so I live at church all the time but it sure felt like a lot of you were living at church that week too. And we kept up with the story, the following Sunday about Thomas. The story says it happened the following week and we were right on time. I love getting to inhabit the story of scripture that way; the way it hallows every moment of my little life.
But it’s been over a month now since those Easter bells rang out and we’ve said and sung hundreds of alleluias and I don’t know about you but the timeline seems harder to track now. I’m fascinated by the forty-day period that Jesus spent appearing to his disciples. Those first bleary-eyed interactions are easier to grasp. Strange happenings at the tomb after three exhausting days, mistaking Jesus for a gardener, foot races to the tomb. They adrenaline and shock are palpable. The instant relief and excitement to know that he’s not dead anymore. The teacher, the leader, the beloved rabbi is back! Can everything just pick up as usual?
But things don’t pick up as usual. Jesus is raised but he’s different, he’s… more. They see him but he’s hidden from them. And they don’t see him and suddenly they do. He appears and vanishes. Locks and bolts don’t bar him but the physical wounds are still there in his flesh. He’s tangibly untouchable by death and decay.
I wonder how that excitement and joy transformed in the next few weeks. How did they spend their days? They spent at least some of their time there in Jerusalem where they had gone for the Passover. But later they’re back in Galilee fishing like old times and that’s where Jesus pulls Peter aside asking, do you love me?
What about you? How has your life been marked by the resurrection? Have you been Eastered? This probably wasn’t your first Easter and I’m sure enough has happened for you in the last month that the day of resurrection seems like a distant memory, but the resurrection of Jesus did something in the cosmic order that leaves nothing untouched. How has your life been hallowed?
The Church, the body of Christ, the gathered people of God still points to a specific chronology of events, the church knows that this coming Thursday marks that day, forty days after the resurrection when Jesus ascended bodily into heaven. When those mysterious in-person visits seemed to stop and a new experience unfolded.
In order for us to make sense of it we turn back to the farewell discourse in John’s gospel, set as a speech on the night of his betrayal. We turn back to look forward because there were some promises made. The quizzical comments about dying and rising turned out not to be obfuscation but promises made and kept. And there are more promises yet to be fulfilled.
That’s where we’re pointed now.
I have to let another preacher talk about the promise of the ascension. And still a different preacher will tell the good news of the promised coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The promise of Jesus that we dwell with today is his peace.
“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.”
There is plenty that would make our hearts troubled, plenty to keep them afraid. The next worst thing to happen may be right around the corner. So, the Peace of Christ can’t just be a cessation of strife. Christ’s peace is more than just things going well on the surface.
It’s recorded as Eirene in Greek although given Jesus’ context, it’s likely that it’s the Hebrew concept of Shalom that Jesus refers to. It’s more like a thriving well-being. A completeness and integrity of being.
Jesus possessed an inner wholeness derived from participation in the life of the trinity. That eternal, self-offering, agape love of the trinity; that completeness of God in three person who each seek first to serve. The Shalom of God passes all our understanding.
It was that peace that Jesus had, being caught up in the divine life that allowed him to empty himself to become like one of us. It sustained him for thirty years of hidden life until his time had come. That was the peace that sustained him in the wilderness and made him bold to withstand the temptations of the evil one.
That inner wholeness allowed him to stand up in the face of injustice, taunts, and humiliation. He could stand before his accusers knowing that nothing could separate him from the love of God. In peace he could pray from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
And when he rose from the dead, that wholeness was more evident than before. Passing through doors and walls, appearing and disappearing. In his wholeness he told Mary at the tomb. “You can’t cling to me now because I haven’t ascended to my Father.” He knew that he would not be able to stay in the same way.
But that same night he promised us his peace. He gave us his body. He offers us that wholeness in the bread we break at the altar. Sanctified by the body of Christ, we participate in his wholeness even as he is ascended to the right hand of the Father.
Jesus does not give as the world gives. It’s not a strictly observable cause and effect transaction. These are theological principles, the truth of the reality of God that doesn’t depend on our physical, emotional, or psychological dispositions but can transcend them.
The day of resurrection may have come and gone but the promises remain. Even when they feel fuzzy and far away, the abiding peace of Christ dwells with us to hallow all of our life and bring us to that city of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
As St. Paul has written,
“The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
May we then remain steadfast in faith, looking towards the promise of that coming kingdom and abiding in the peace that makes us whole.
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