Both this Sunday and next Sunday we hear Jesus call out to us with the words "Peace be with you." There are many times in my life, and I am sure in yours as well, that we need this in-breaking of peace. Below is a sermon I delivered two years ago, it was my first time back in the pulpit after my surgery. As I read through this sermon earlier this week I was reminded of many of the similarities between my journey now and my journey then.
I pray God's peace will enter into your hearts.
Peace - John 14: 23-29
The past two months have been an experience, to say the least. It has been a time filled with ups and downs. There have been the emotional extremes of tears to laughter in matter of moments. It has been a time when I walked in some dark valleys and trekked to the highest peaks, a time when I have experienced and seen the face of Christ in amazing ways. It is through this journey that my eyes have been opened to the multitude of ways that I have seen God active in my live and in the lives of others. It has been experience I will never forget
One of the most amazing experiences happened on the day of surgery. Pr. Jennifer and I had arrived at the hospital a little before 5:30 in the morning. It had been a short night, but luckily we had driven up after confirmation the night before.
We didn’t have to wait long before they lined all of us patients up and took us back into these little cubicles. They had me put on one of those wonderful little gowns with the natural air conditioning slit up the back. Then they came and took vitals, drew blood, all of that fun stuff.
After we got settled in, Pastor Pedro from the synod office popped his head in, he sat and talked, shared scripture, and a prayed.
It was getting closer now.
At this point, I still felt rather relaxed, considering everything that was about to happen. Pedro left, and another friend who had driven out from Minnesota popped his head in. He was only there a couple of minutes, and then came the surgical team. Doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologists, just piles of people coming in and getting me ready to go. Then it was time, so I gave Pr. Jennifer a kiss, and off I went.
As I was being wheeled down that very white hallway, the nerves started to set in. I started thinking all of those “what ifs.” You know those. Those questions that pop in your head and bring the deepest, darkest fears to the surface.
Then, as they opened the doors to the operating room and were about to wheel me in, it came to me.
Peace Erik, I am here.
Peace, I am with you.
Peace, I am leading you into this place.
That peace, that sensation that overtook me at that moment was exactly what I needed, for I knew I was in good hands, and I don’t mean only those of that very talented surgeon and her team. But rather I was in the good hands of the God who led me into that operating room and gave me the peace I needed at that time.
Have you ever had a moment like that, a time when you were feeling a little anxious, nervous, or upset? Then, in the midst of that anxiety, this calming peace overcame you, and you felt that presence, that sense of comfort, fill your entire being?
On that early morning that gift of peace sustained me at a time when I needed it the most. It was the gift of knowing that I was not alone but rather God was right there, leading the way into the operating room, carrying me.
Today, in the gospel, we hear Jesus give us the assurance of that peace in our lives. This is taking place near the end of his ministry. It is the last night he has with his disciples, and so he has gathered them around, and he teaches them one last time.
During this teaching he tries to let them know that he will be leaving them soon, but even though he is going, he is not leaving them alone. No, Jesus, their friend, their rabbi, their Lord, he is not going to abandon them. He is sending an advocate, the Holy Spirit, to be with them until his return. But he doesn’t stop there
Jesus goes on and says – Peace I leave with you, My Peace I give to you.
Now the peace Jesus is talking about here is a little different than we might think of today. It is not a peace like end of a war or battle. It is not a peace like the laying down of arms. But rather peace for Jesus is two things. It is comfort for the troubled heart and courage in the midst of fear.
Comfort and courage
These are two things we desperately need in our lives. Comfort and courage, this is what gets us through the dark valleys of life that we sometimes stumble into.
Comfort and courage, it is the blessing of being able to face head-on whatever struggles we have and knowing we are not doing so alone.
Comfort and courage, it is the gift of peace, of God’s peace and the assurance of God’s presence in our lives.
You see, that is why Jesus is talking to his disciples about peace on this night. He is about to make that walk, that Holy Week walk, all the way to Golgotha. But before he goes, he wants his disciples, he wants us, to make sure we know that he will not ever leave us alone. Christ will always be with us.
No matter where we go, no matter what we do, Christ will be there. He will shower us with his comfort, his courage, and his peace, all so we know that we are his children, and we always will be.
To put an exclamation point on his teaching Jesus then lives out his gift of peace during his last days. For throughout the events of his arrest, trial, and crucifixion, as well as in the resurrection, Jesus embodies the peace he offers here. He lives out this peace as he gives his all so that we might live, and live eternally. Yes, Jesus wants the disciples to know that even though he is leaving them in human form, he is not orphaning them. He wants us to know that the love he has for all his children, for all of us, is so great that he will come and give us the peace, the comfort, the courage we need to make it through whatever the world throws at us.
I have no doubt that this was the peace I was given as I was wheeled into that operating room - the comfort and courage of God as I went into surgery.
I remember being wheeled into that operating room, now more relaxed than I was when I was wheeled down that white hallway. I was told to help move my body from the bed to this cold operating table. I remember laying back on this stainless steel, and I felt the nurse strap my feet to the table.
But that’s it. That’s all I remember.
With the exception of the sensation of comfort, of peace, surrounding me.
Yes it was that peace that gave me the assurance that all would be alright, and it was. Yes, God promises he will walk through life with us, every step of the way. He will grant us the peace that we need to celebrate this gift of life and share it with others so we can go out into the world trusting in the fact that our God is a God filled with love and compassion. A God who blesses us with peace, comfort, and courage, and he does all of this out of the great love that he has for each and every one of us, his children, his beloved. Yes, he does all this for you.