Peace is scarce. Peace - that is, tranquility, harmony, serenity, stillness, calmness - it is a rare thing in most of our lives. On the contrary, tension and turmoil, anger and agitation, fear and worry are often ever-present aspects of our days.
There is strife in our politics, bullies in our schools, catastrophes in creation, cancer in our bodies, and worries in the workplace. Even when that which disrupts our peace is not that upfront or outright, we still have to reckon with everyday busyness. We have to-do lists that keep getting longer, schedules that are increasingly packed, and demands that keep demanding to be met.
Look around and you will find a people “on-the-go.” Running from here to there. Multi-tasking at all times. Connected in all instances. Physically in one place, while their hearts and heads are somewhere else.
Peace is scarce. And the consequence of this peace scarcity – of the tension, tempo, and turmoil we live with – is often angst and anxiety that paralyzes hope. Devoid of peace, we become creatures who endure today without thinking too hard about tomorrow. Without peace our focus turns to mere progress. Just keep moving forward, we tell ourselves. Weather this storm. Tackle that obstacle. Keep going. The only hope we do allow ourselves is placed in the vain notion that this craziness and emptiness is not our fault. This is just life and life sure is crazy.
But this reality, let’s remember, while seemingly external – that is, imposed upon us from this chaotic world – it is actually of our own making. We made this restless reality when we accepted the notion of secularization that insisted that God doesn’t have and shouldn’t have anything to say about our everyday lives. We excused the transcendent from politics, education, healthcare, and social ethics and then wondered where meaning, purpose, peace and hope went.
We made this restless reality when we heard the voice of Jesus, when we read those red letters in scripture, and then told ourselves that they were no longer relevant or applicable. “Turn the other cheek,” Jesus says. So we drop a bomb. “Love your neighbor,” Jesus says. We can’t; we don’t know our neighbors. “Give to everyone who begs of you,” Jesus says. And we replied, “But that’s un-American.”
We made this restless reality when we resigned ourselves to decision-making NOT based on doing what is right or what is good, but instead, on choosing the lesser of two evils.
We made this restless reality when we (literally) bought into the ideology that we could somehow buy our way into happiness – that if we could only purchase, acquire or get more, then, we would find true joy. As if the peace we’re looking for is somehow a click away.
We made this restless reality. We made this bed; and now we’re sleeping in it. Or more likely, lying awake frustrated with today and worried about tomorrow.
But thanks be to God that our God does not leave us to our own devices, desert us with our destruction, or abandon us in our depravity. But rather, our God comes to us in the person of Jesus. God meets us through Christ whom the angels announced in the Christmas narrative came to bring “peace on earth.” Time and time again in scripture Jesus finds those in tension and turmoil and whispers, “Peace.”
Peace to the sick. Peace to the suffering. Peace to the storm. Peace to the outcast. Peace to the despised. And thanks be to God that our God does not leave it at that, but rather continues to come to us through the Holy Spirit which still speaks “peace on earth.” Peace in the midst of politics. Peace in the midst of cancer. Peace in the midst of divorce. Peace in the midst of unemployment. Peace in the midst of our storm – whatever that may be.
In his lesson to the Romans, St. Paul reminds a community filled with angst and agitation that they have peace. Peace that doesn’t come from this world, but rather, peace that comes from God. Peace that comes from knowing you are loved now and forever. Peace that comes from knowing you are forgiven now and forever. And because they have that peace, St. Paul reminds them, they have hope. Hope that does not disappoint.
In a world that continues to be peace starved and hope deprived, may we continue to hold onto that which is and always will be ours: Peace that comes from God and Hope that does not disappoint. (Romans 5:1-5)
“Peace I leave with you,” Jesus says. “My peace I give to you.” John 14:27