Monday, May 06, 2013

"Receiving God's Peace" May 5, 2013 (Easter6C)

Acts 16:9-15 During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a person from Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them. We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. God opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to God, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.

John 14:23-29
Jesus answered, “Those who love me will keep my word, and the One who sent me will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the One who sent me.
”I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Holy One will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.  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.
“You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Holy One, because the Holy One is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.”

Will you pray with me? Creator of peace, Holy One, teach us to rest in your peace, given to us unconditionally. Open our hearts and spirits to your grace moving within us as we learn to trust and love you in all circumstances. May the words we speak and hear today reflect your joy and peace. In all your names we pray, amen.

Peace. "My peace I give to you...I do not give as the world not be troubled, do not be afraid." What wonderfully comforting words.

Peace. God's peace. It is not the world's idea of peace--what we usually think of peace. I would guess that most of us think of truces between warring nations, or a place of quiet, maybe in the woods or at the lake. But God's peace is different. God's peace is a stillness, the knowledge of God's presence with us in all things. The world's peace is conditional--it depends on governments' willingness to refrain from making war, on every person caring for each other, on the weather and climate... God's peace is not like that, because it does not depend on human beings. Worldly peace does, and is always an uneasy peace. But God's peace is always with us and does not depend on where we are, who we are, what we are doing... God's peace can be found in mansions and jails, in parliament and in grocery stores, in parks and in coffee houses, in 12-step programs and in   hardware stores. God's peace can even be found in churches!

We carry it with us; God's peace is within us., not out there someplace. The difficult part for us, as humans, is remembering that and being aware of it, being open to it. It can be so easy to get caught up in emotional turmoil or even just in the day-to-dayness of our lives, and forget, or lose touch with, that peace.

There are many ways to remind ourselves of that presence, of that peace, in our lives. Starting and ending our days with prayer keeps our focus on that presence of God in our lives.  For some people, a ritual or family gathering for prayer helps them to focus and keep prayer as a habit. for others, that is too confining and reading a devotional over breakfast or saying the prayer Jesus taught us as they drift off to sleep is more helpful. Most of us understand this and can see ways we can fit daily prayer into our routines.
So prayer can help us start and end the day well, and sometimes when we can, during the day as well. In between, though--that is where it can be difficult.

When your boss is difficult to deal with, when your child is sick, when your car breaks down, when a friend argues with you--it can be very difficult, at that moment, to be open to God's presence, God's peace, with us.

Way back 20-something years ago, when my son was born, childbirth classes were required. I am guessing they still are, or highly recommended, anyway. One of the things we were taught to help us moms move through contractions was to go to a place of calm, of serenity, of peace; a place that had meaning for us. It might be a beach or a church or a favourite park--but when we were feeling stressed, overwhelmed by the pain or just plain tired, we were to close our eyes and imagine ourselves into that place of peace. I have found that this helps me in all kinds of situations--when I use it. Whether it is one of those everyday annoyances or a larger trouble, those are the times I need to step back mentally and go to that place of peace.

There are other ways to remind ourselves of God's presence with us. Maybe a stone we carry in our pocket, or a plaque on our wall. I am finding that the focus of yoga is really helping me to remember that God's peace is always with me; it is another form of prayer, really.

I don't mean relaxation, or stress release. What I do mean is an awareness of God's peace with us and in us. Jesus doesn't say that God's peace is available to us or that we can have it. He says that God's peace is with us--period. End of statement.

It is always present for us; but we are not always aware of it. When we are, when we rest in that peace, even a conflict or confrontation will be different, will have a different feel and probably a different resolution.

No, the situation doesn't go away; but my attitude changes. The boss may still be unreasonable, but I am able to be a calming presence. At the very least, it allows me to take a step back, mentally, and to recognise whether it  my issue or the other person's issue.

 Peace. Not merely an absence of conflict, but a certainty that God is present with us even in the midst of whatever it is. Hildegarde of Bingen,  a German nun and mystic of many centuries ago, put it this way: "All will be well, and all will be well; all manner of things will be well."

Go into your week, whatever you have planned, whatever may actually happen, with the knowledge that God's peace goes with you. Do whatever is best for you to remind yourself of God's peace; whatever you need to open yourself to God's peace within you. God's peace is with us all.

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