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 Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.
On June 26, 1988, during the passing of the peace at Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, Randy Hollerith proposed to me. So now, every Sunday when I pass the peace, I am reminded of that wonderful day, that day that began our journey together as man and wife. And as corny as it may sound, when I am with Randy, I am more at peace than I am when I am not.
Our reading from John this morning is where passing the peace comes from in our liturgy. Jesus says in John 14:27: “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.” Jesus of course is talking about the gift of the Holy Spirit, which will be with us and guide us in our earthly pilgrimage.
The Rev. Anthony Robinson says the world offers three kinds of peace. “There is the peace of palace, of having all the stuff, all the best stuff. There is the peace of fortress, of having high walls, impregnable defenses. And there is the peace of escape, of getting away from it all.”
The peace of God though that passes all understanding, the peace that Jesus leaves to us before He returns to the Father, that peace, the gift of the Holy Spirit, is none of the above. This peace is not what the world gives.
To quote the great preacher, Fred Craddock: “The peace of God is the confidence that God is God and neither our gains nor our losses are ultimate. It is the truth that God loves the world, is for all creatures, and is present with us in every endeavor to make real that love in concrete ways. Hassles as we go through life neither prove nor disprove God’s presence, and therefore neither create nor void the peace of God.”
Hassles as we go through life. Hardships. Pandemics. Cancer. Loss. God’s peace is with us through all of it. There is a reason that the VERY same verse also says: Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. During these long days, where fear can grip us like a vise, and peace seems far away to our troubled hearts, we must cling to this verse. Jesus left us God’s peace and told us not to be afraid. Now we just have to live as if we believe this truth.
And may the peace that passes all understanding remain with you this day and always.
The peace of God, it is no peace,
But strife closed in the sod.
Yet, brothers, pray for but one thing-
The marvelous peace of God.
Author: William Alexander Percy