-April 8, 2018-
“The Power of Peace”
I am a child of the 60s and 70s, so when I hear the word peace I typically think of the psychedelic peace signs common during that era. Yet symbols of peace have been around for centuries; think of the symbol of the olive branch which has been with us since the 5th century B.C.
Today’s passages point us toward the importance of peace and unity. Psalm 133, written by David, uses the imagery of oil used in anointing priests at the time. Oil was a sign of God’s blessing; David suggests that God’s blessing (represented by the oil) is abundant when there is unity. David also cites unity to be like water coming to an arid land (note the reference to Mt. Zion.)
Our passage from Acts describes how well the early church operated because of the unity they experienced. Acts describes the formation and experiences of the early church after the day of Pentecost. It is hard for any organization to operate successfully without unity (think of our government as an example.) The early church, as described in today’s passage, experienced the presence of Christ, the peace of Christ, and therefore embraced unity.
Today’s reading from John highlights Jesus encountering the disciples for the first time after his resurrection. Jesus’ first words to them? “Peace be with you.” These words from Jesus liberated them from the prison they had created for themselves-hiding in fear behind locked doors. Jesus would also offer these same words to Thomas: “Peace be with you.” Before embracing this peace, Thomas was also stuck in place, paralyzed by his doubt and fear.
It is important to note Jesus’ words to the disciples in v. 26: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” In other words, you’ve got work to do! It is very difficult to accomplish much when there is lack of unity. The peace Jesus offers is the same peace Paul writes about in Philippians 4:7, a peace that transcends our circumstances. This offer of peace from Jesus is what is required in order for the early church to experience unity. It’s very hard to have unity when there is no peace.
Jesus calls us as his followers to be the church-to do the work of kingdom building. As was the case with the disciples, there are those today who are living behind the locked doors of fear and darkness. We are the church-we are to be those opening-up those doors with love and grace, bringing people into the light of Jesus’ presence. Yet this is difficult to accomplish without unity. My favorite quote from John Wesley: “Thou we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?” John Wesley’s call was for unity, even despite our differences.
Our communion experience this morning serves as an opportunity to invite the peace of Christ into our hearts-a peace that fosters unity as we seek to be faithful to God’s call on our church.