Is there a place in your life where you can find peace? If you’re like me, you find it easy to get pulled into the busyness, noise, and stress of life. I have a sense that many of us are yearning for peace in our hearts and lives. There are the everyday stresses of work and family. There’s the information overload that comes through our televisions, computers, and smart phones. Then, there are the extraordinary stressors like disease, job loss, grief, war, and financial strain. When was the last time you experienced peace?
Every week I get to stand up in front of my church family and say, “The peace of Christ be with you always.” The congregation generously responds: “And also with you.” Then, we share this peace with one another by shaking hands, hugging, waving, or simply saying “God’s peace.” In doing so, we are taking part in the ancient Christian practice of passing the peace.
After his resurrection, Jesus greeted his disciples in a similar way by saying, “Peace be with you” (Luke 24:36, John 20:19). After Jesus was crucified, I imagine the disciples were scared for their lives and grieving for their friend. When Jesus returned to them, his first words were of peace. The early Christians followed Christ’s example by sharing peace with one another. The Apostle Paul, for example, began many of his letters with “Grace and peace be with you.” Likewise, early Christian communities would greet one another with a “holy kiss” as a sign of peace (Rom. 16:16, 1 Cor. 16:20, 1 Thess. 5:26). Our upper Midwest congregations might stick to handshakes and hugs, but the idea behind the gesture is the same as 2,000 years ago.
For the next four weeks, in this column, I’d like to dwell on how we find peace and how we share peace with others. I believe there is a connection between the peace we experience in our hearts and the peace we create in our communities and world. After all, the same Jesus who says “Peace be with you” also says “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
For this week, I simply want to invite you to reflect on how we find peace in the midst of what can be a stressful life. Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (NRSV). But how do we do that?
For me, I return to the story of Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4:35-41. Jesus’ disciples become afraid when a great storm surrounds them and begins to swamp their boat with giant waves. They panic and rush to wake up Jesus who has been sleeping in the back of the boat. Jesus rises and says to the sea, “Peace! Be Still!” We may not be in the midst of an actual storm, but perhaps we can empathize with the anxiety and fear of the disciples. I find comfort in Christ’s words and connect them to the words of Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God.” Maybe one step towards letting Christ’s peace rule in our hearts is simply to find moments to be still. Maybe “Peace. Be still.” could be your silent prayer this week.
The stress of life is real and many people in our communities are hurting. I pray that we find ways to share the peace and grace of God with one another. And in the midst of life’s storms, may the peace of Christ be with you always.
Note: This post originally appeared in the Brodhead Free Press and the Independent Register as part of their weekly “Pastor’s Corner” column.