Sermon “The Lord’s Peace Be with You”
The Rev. Robert W. Landry; DCN.
Second Sunday of Easter
Let us take a moment and imagine a scene of peace, a place, a time or something that brings peace to you. Take this moment and close your eyes, imagine those peaceful scenes describe it to yourself as fully as you can and enter into it as deeply as you can, enough that you can feel its experience of peace.
Now some of you may have pictured yourself on the top of this majestic mountain looking over all of creation as far as you can see, with all its beauty and it takes your breath away. Others may have seen your selves looking at the beautiful face of a little baby sleeping in her crib and the joy it brings to the heart. Still others may have seen yourselves in a place completely void of people, but in that field, you see wildflowers, daisies and all sorts of colorful flowers swaying, as a gentle breeze moves them. Maybe you were beside a stream in the woods with the rolling water making music as it runs over and around stones lying in its course.
Whatever the picture you painted and entered, the chances are it wasn’t like the kind of scene drawn or imagined by today’s gospel text. The text tells us of locked doors, of secret meetings by night, and of internal fear. None of these things would make a person normally think about peace, and probably neither does the presence of one whose body is marked by the signs of torture and death.
However, it seems clear that the evangelist wants us to see the two visits of Jesus to his disciples in the upper room as occasions of peace.
And perhaps they can speak to us about some dimensions of peace that we don’t normally think of, perhaps they can speak to us of peace amid turmoil and of peace, amid fear or the peace amid doubt in times trouble and fear.
I want to tell you that there are false ideas about peace and joy abounding in our society today. These false ideas can distort our entire picture of what life is supposed to be about, and who Christ is and who we are. There is this falsity that some seem to offer as an order for right Christian living, in this idea some have been hurt and moved to leave the church by this very idea.
The idea is this: We are to dress a certain way or we are to behave a certain way whenever we are in the presence of God in the church. Ideas like what we wear, how we worship, how we pray in church, what music we sing. The list can be very long. We put our traditions and expectations before others as how they are to be if they are to be in our midst and we scoff and speak of them as if they are not worthy to have a part in us.
I am here to tell you that God never asks us to falsify who we are or how we experience our faith. Neither does he expect us to express joy when life gets us down, or our demeanor to be different than who he created us to be. Our Risen Lord never waits until we are already happy to come to us and he never wears a false smile.
Think of this for a moment, Christ could have miraculously obliterated his wounds after he was raised from the tomb, but chose not to. He bore the marks of his wounds into the presence of his disciples. In the same way Christ, does not ask us to banish our wounds when we come into his presence, not even at Easter when we are supposed to be full of joy.
The Risen Christ came to his disciples amid their turmoil and fear. He came amid their doubt and their sense of having failed both him and their own selves and said to them: “Peace be with you.” And when he said this he showed them his wounds, the holes in his hands and in his side, as if to say to his disciples and to all of us today: See these wounds, feel them and know that it is all right to hurt. Pain comes to us all, I was hurt as all people are hurt, but that pain and that hurt no longer has dominion over me, I live, as I said I would. I told you that I would suffer and that you, if you followed me, would also suffer, but I told you too that after passing through various trials and tests, that pain and even death itself would lose its power, its power over me and its power over those who believe in me.
The three times that Jesus offers his peace to his disciples in today’s reading, it is done in close connection with the wounds of crucifixion. The enemies of peace had already done their worst to him. They had made cowards and liars of his followers and had mocked his own words and actions. They had humiliated him in the city streets. They had violated his flesh and robbed him of his life. But their war against him failed. On the evening of the first day of the week he came to his disciples and showed them that he lived despite the worst that could happen.
The peace that Jesus offers can be described as the confidence his followers are to take from his resurrected appearance. His return on that first day of the week signaled the fact that his life and promises will endure. His “peace be with you” was more than a greeting to be followed by another good-bye. It was the declaration of a persistent fact. Because Jesus lives nothing can separate his followers from him and from life in him.
The disciples realized this fact and in realizing it received the peace that Jesus offered, the peace that only Jesus could offer, for without him they would have been left to continue alone in the darkness and fear of their locked room they hide themselves in.
The confidence that the disciples received when Jesus came and said to them “Peace Be with You” is demonstrated in the response of the disciples to his appearance. Peace showed itself in their rejoicing and in Thomas’ confession of faith – “My Lord, and my God.” And peace showed itself. Confidence showed itself, inner security showed itself and later the disciples left that room and went into the world to proclaim the love and forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord.
But if there is anything you must remember it is this; notice that none of the external circumstances of the disciples changed when they received and accepted the peace that Christ offered them. They believed in him, they had confidence in him, they knew that nothing could separate them from God’s love after he appeared to them, but they still had to face the same situations they had faced before he broke into the room they had locked themselves in because of their fear. They still had to face the authorities. They still had to risk going out on the streets, they still had to deal with the crowds who had mocked and crucified Jesus. They still had to face trials and tribulations and so do we.
Peace be with you, is the word of Jesus to us. Peace be with you and blessed are you when you have not seen, as the disciples saw, and yet have come to believe. Blessed are you, not because life will be smooth sailing for you, blessed are you not because you will always want to smile and will never have to suffer. But blessed are you because you have linked yourself to a power greater than yours; to a power that wants to sustain you and will sustain you, to the power that raised Jesus from the dead, to the power that will bring you to the inheritance that Jesus has won for us, that inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through your faith.
Finally, I leave you with these words of Jesus. They are the words Jesus spoke to his disciples just before he went out to the Garden of Gethsemane and onward from there to his cross and his death.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you, do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Believe in God, believe also in me. Amen.