Thursday, April 12, 2018

Bishop’s Note: April 12, 2018 – Peace

Bishop Eric Menees

Last Sunday, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, the Gospel Lesson reminded us of Easter Evening, when Jesus appeared to the disciples in the Upper Room. Just as he’d promised, Jesus rose from the dead; fulfilling the plan that His Father had put in place in Genesis 3:15, when God said to Satan: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” On that Easter day, Jesus had destroyed death and vanquished Satan.

When Jesus appeared to the disciples, he gave them the gift of peace - which is a lasting mark of a disciple of Jesus Christ:

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)

Of course, “shalom” - Hebrew for peace - was a traditional greeting within first century Judaism (and still is today). However, this shalom was so much more than a simple cultural greeting. This peace was not the Eastern concept of peace, which results from detachment from the world. For example: If I have no attachments to the world, then no matter what happens I will know peace. I don’t believe that is peace, but rather denial. Nor was this the peace that comes from the mere absence of violence.

The peace Jesus offered then, and offers now, is so much more than those things: this is peace with God. Jesus didn’t blame the disciples for abandoning him; he didn’t shame the disciples for their lack of courage. Instead, he said: “Peace to you!” In Christ, the divide between God and man has been bridged by his sacrifice on the cross!

This peace is also peace among and between the disciples. Jesus’ declaration is both a desire and a benediction at the same time! The desire of Jesus is for the disciples, and all Christians, to live in harmony with one another, and with the world! Jesus told the disciples: “34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34) It is impossible to express the magnitude of this peace when it is lived out in Christ’s presence among us!

The Peace of Christ is the “Peace that passes all understanding,”  as St. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:7. This is the peace that comes with the knowledge of Christ’s presence. This is the peace that I recently witnessed with a young mother who was in labor and about to give birth two months early. I met with her in the hospital and prayed with her, and asked her how she was dealing with all that was going on. She simply said she was at peace. She said that she knew that God loved her little baby; that He loved her; that He was at her side; and that He would help her with whatever may come. What a blessing to see that kind of peace and that kind of grace. This is a result of Christ’s promise to us in baptism. Jesus never promises, “Believe in me, and all will be well.”  Jesus promises, “Believe in me, and I will never leave your side – no matter what.”

I’ve been equally blessed to see this across the diocese as congregations have had their property wrongfully confiscated; rather than fear and worry, the people of the congregation have been filled with a sense of calm expectation.

That is the Peace that passes all understanding!

I pray you all a very blessed week!

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