Pentecost (Whitsunday) St. John xiv. 27                                                       

May 15, 2016 A.D.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer.

 

Peace

 

Text: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” St John xiv. 27

 

In today's gospel reading from St. John Jesus speaks of his gift, and his gift is peace.  In some church's this idea of giving the gift of peace has been added to the liturgy. The giving and receiving of a kiss of peace, is a key gesture in the Episcopal Church. It is a simple sign of greeting and reconciliation. There are many places throughout Europe that a kiss on either cheek is common when greeting one another. In Spain, Portugal and Italy, for example, it is common to brush cheeks and make a kissing sound. In France, the lips never ever touch anything, not a cheek, or lips. You simply touch cheeks and make a kissing sound.  In the Episcopal liturgy the service stops and everyone walks around shaking hands and saying peace to one another. There is no "kiss" of peace and reconciliation. While this is a kind gesture it does not seem to represent the gift Jesus was giving to the disciples nor does it follow the stated doctrine.

The dictionary defines peace as a "period of time when there is no war or fighting". In the bible, the word for peace is shalom. Shalom does not  mean simply the absence of trouble. Rather it means everything which makes for our highest good. The peace which the world offers us is the peace of escape, the peace which comes from the avoidance of trouble and from refusing to face things.

The peace which Jesus offers us is the peace of conquest. William Shakespeare said "peace is of the nature of a conquest; for then both parties nobly are subdued, and neither party a loser." Said differently the peace Jesus offers us is not a greeting it is a life where we have conquered the sins of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. And having done so we have achieved a state of peace and harmony with ourselves and others. Once we have conquered these sins no experience of life can ever take this peace from us, and no sorrow, no danger, no suffering can ever make it less. The peace Jesus wishes for us is independent of external circumstances.

This peace may seem impossible to achieve and I dare say that not many humans have achieved it. So what did Jesus mean when he said "my peace I give unto you". Dr. Kevin Vest has authored numerous books on the seven deadly sins. He suggests that Jesus gave us his peace in prayer. Not just any prayer but the great prayer, The Lord's Prayer. Here is how Dr. Vest explains it:

  • “Our Father” - (we pray to “our” not “my” Father a remedy for envy, which is self-absorbed and saddened by another’s good, since it reminds us we are all members of the same family, brothers and sisters of the same loving Father, and we pray for the benefit of all),

  • “who art in heaven" - (a remedy for sloth, which is mired in earthly concerns, neglecting heavenly things and the holiness of God),

  • "hallowed be thy name" - (a remedy for vainglory in which we seek earthly glory for our own names and neglect the honor due God),

  • “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” - (a remedy for pride, that font from which all the deadly sins flow, in which our will and desires come first),

  •  “give us this day our daily bread” - (both a remedy for gluttony which seeks more than a day’s worth of bread at a time!, and for avarice, which seeks more than one’s share of any earthly goods – as well as a reminder of the greatest of all breads which we receive in the Eucharist),

  • “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” - (a remedy against the unforgiving anger of wrath).

  • “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” - (a remedy against the temptations of lust, and every kind of evil that comes from deadly sins).

Jesus has not left us with prayer alone to struggle with the difficulties of this world and the struggles we endure while trying to achieve the peace he has given us.  Jesus said 'The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I have said'. To the end Christians must be learners and to the end the Holy Spirit will lead us deeper and deeper into the truth of God. There is never any excuse in the Christian faith for the shut mind. Christians who feel that they have nothing more to learn are Christians who have not even begun to understand what the doctrine of the Holy  Spirit means.

In matters of belief, the Holy Spirit constantly brings back to us the things Jesus said. We have an obligation to think, but all our conclusions must be tested against the words of Jesus. It is not so much the truth that we have to discover; he told us the truth. What we have to discover is the meaning of that truth. The Father gave us the Holy Spirit to save us from ignorance and error of thought.

The Holy Spirit will also keep us right in matters of conduct. Nearly all of us have had an experience in life where we are tempted to do something wrong and are on the very brink of doing it, when from the back of our mind comes a saying of Jesus, the verse of a psalm, the teaching we received when we were very young. In that moment, these things flash into our minds. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.

The peace Jesus leaves with us, the peace he gives us is not a greeting. It is a conquest of sin. When we have conquered all the sin within us we will be at peace with ourselves and with others. We must strive to learn every day of our life on this earth, the truth of God.  Each and every Sunday we end the liturgy of Holy Communion with "The Peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord :" as a reminder of what we must focus on in our effort to achieve peace.

As our final act of prayer, we end our hour of prayer and worship together by praying to God that our fellow Christians, "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord." in the hope that we and all who worship with us conquer the sins of this world and achieve the peace which Jesus gave us.

                   AMEN

 

And now unto God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost; be ascribed all might, majesty, power and domination as is most justly due this day both now and forever; world without end.