Peace Not As the World Gives
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.” – Jesus (John 14:27)
It was a beautiful morning on the Sea of Galilee. The sun had not been long overhead, and a low fog was still hovering, as if we were sailing on clouds. The so-called “Jesus Boat” carrying our group of fifty made its way slowly to the middle of the huge lake and came to a stop. Without the noise and motion of the boat’s motor, a calm settled in all around us. The fog had finally dissipated, and the water’s surface was almost like glass. This is what it must have been like, I thought, from storm-tossed waves to this, the moment Jesus said, “Peace, be still.”
Peace. We heard it everywhere in Israel, where the Hebrew word for peace, “Shalom,” is the common greeting. Yet we also heard on the news that morning that the fragile “peace” between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to our southwest had fractured again. Hostilities were intensifying, violence escalating. We passed a sign proclaiming, “Jerusalem-Bethlehem Love and Peace” on our way into the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, entering through the razor-wired gate of a 15-foot wall guarded by soldiers with automatic weapons. The cruel irony escaped none of us. Peace here seemed like a bad joke. Yet this was the very place where the angels had come to announce Jesus’ birth with the words, “Glory to God in the highest and on Earth peace.”
“Peace on Earth” is a phrase we hear often around Christmastime. It can sound empty, like mere words with little or no connection to our daily existence of work, house payments, car trouble, family disputes, and other things that want to rob us of peace. The same could be said of the time when the angels first spoke those words. On the surface, little changed. A baby was born and the world went on much as it had for a long time. Violence and injustice were the still the rule of the day. Jesus’ people were still trampled underfoot throughout His lifetime and beyond. Human beings still hurt each other and themselves and got sick and felt pain and died. But according to the Christian scriptures, after Jesus’ resurrection, one of the last times He spoke with His disciples, He promised them a peace – His peace – not as the world gives. This is the peace I pray for, a peace that can’t be shaken by storms or enemies or crisis or even death. May God grant us a deeper understanding of that peace.
Our God, peace is hard to come by in our world. Thank you for offering us a peace different from anything the world has to offer. We pray for your peace to come into our hearts and that with your help, we would carry it with us into our world. Amen.
-- Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent