Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:27, NRSV) When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:19-21, NRSV) Our middle grandson, Wesley (the beach blond between two redheads) was taught a meal blessing at his Montessori school when he was 6. Now 8, he still remembers that blessing, and so do we, because he passed it on to us at a family reunion a couple of years ago. This blessing comes complete with choreography. “May the Peace be above you,” he begins, stretching his hands high above his head and touching his fingertips together. “May the Peace be beneath you,” he continues, sweeping his arms down and joining his fingertips together again, this time just above his toes. “May the Peace go before you,” he intones, with a little smile (as if the thought of anybody or anyone being fast enough to get ahead of him is a bit humorous), swinging his arms into an arc and touching his fingertips together as far in front of himself as his slender arms will reach. “May the Peace go behind you,” he says solemnly, as he twists his arms behind himself and slaps his hands together for emphasis. “May the Peace be in your heart,” he almost whispers, as he crosses his hands over his chest and tilts his head to the side adorably; “and on your lips,” he says more loudly, touching his fingers to his lips as if about to blow a kiss. “Bon Appetit,” he finishes gleefully, flinging his hand out and throwing that kiss after all, “You may eat!”
And then he bows rather grandly, as if acknowledging our admiration for his flawless rendition of the blessing, or perhaps as a way of graciously greeting his table mates. The child is a ham - it cannot be denied. But my heart swells with joy every time I see him offer “his” blessing, every time I follow along, because Wesley has already learned something many of us never figure out: “the Peace” is a companion worth welcoming, a Friendship worth cultivating, a Gift worth sharing with our fellow sojourners. Last week, I texted Wesley’s Mom and asked her to send me a video of Wesley doing the blessing, just to make sure I got it right; which is when I noticed that Wesley has created a brief but important codicil to the original blessing. “May the Peace be in your heart, and on your lips...and to Everyone!” he now proclaims exuberantly. Smart Wesley; if ever there was a time when everybody could use an extra helping of peace, this is it. As I watched (and re-watched!) the video, I got to thinking about the Peace blessing Jesus offers more than once during his Passion and Resurrection. Peace is the bequest he leaves his disciples at the Last Supper; a sort of parting gift. Peace is also the first greeting the Lord offers them when next he meets them, behind locked doors. Neither occasion is what you’d call a Party Hearty experience, though the disciples do get into the spirit of the thing and begin to rejoice a bit once they realize it’s Jesus standing among them, with those telltale wounds still visible on the hands and side of his Risen body. Such an essential identification exercise that was, showing them his hands and his side: how else were they going to learn the truth about that peace Jesus had promised them 3 evenings before? Look here, Jesus says, and the implication is clear: you can nail me to a cross, stab a spear in my side, and watch while my blood drains out...but you cannot take away my Peace. The peace I leave to you, the peace I give you, is a peace the world cannot give. Of course, neither can the world take it away. As long as I am alive, Jesus is saying - and as you can see, I am very much alive! - as long as I am alive, my Peace is your Peace. It will float above you and lift you up; it will be the ground beneath your feet and hold you steady; it will go on ahead of you and get there before you; it will follow behind you and have your back. It will live in your heart and pour out of your lips, if you will let it...to everyone who’s willing to receive it. My peace I give to you, says the Savior; don’t let it stop there. Now it’s your turn to give it away. Pass the Peace.
Let peace begin with me; Let this be the moment now. With every step I take, Let this be my solemn vow: To take each moment, And live each moment, In peace eternally: Let there be peace on earth, And let it begin with me. ( UMH, 431)
O Risen Christ, You are the Maker of peace and the Giver of peace. We call you the Prince of Peace, and then forget whose Kingdom we belong to! In this troubled time, pour out on us a double measure of your peace; and help us to treasure it enough to pass it on. It is in your name that we pray. Amen. Susan PG