The peace of the Lord be with you all…
Peace of the Lord.
What does peace mean to you?
I’m going to show my age here, but when I think of “peace,” I get images of tie-dye and VW vans, and hippies in rose colored glasses and bell bottoms, and smiley faces and peace signs and the Coca-Cola ad wanting to teach the world to sing.
Peace (make peace sign with hand).
I can’t help it. I’m a child of the 60’s and 70’s. To me, peace is harmony, and the absence of war.
Peace be with you…
Our gospel reading today starts off decidedly un-peace-filled. It’s Easter evening. Jesus’ followers are in the upper room. The door is locked because they are afraid that the chief priests and Pilate aren’t satisfied with Jesus’ death and will hunt them down and kill them as well. They are hiding.
Just this morning – Easter morning - Mary Magdalene and the other women burst in the room, breathless and told everyone that Jesus’ body was gone. Peter and John went to the tomb and confirmed the women’s story. Who would have dared to take Jesus’ body, desecrating his final resting place? They are outraged.
The women said an angel told them Jesus had risen. John saw the empty tomb and believes Jesus really is risen. How could anyone who was murdered in such a violent way come back to life? They simply can’t believe it.
Mary says she saw Jesus in the garden. Peter says Jesus appeared to him. And now Cleopas and his wife have returned from Emmaus, ran all the way back to Jerusalem to share the astonishing news that they also have seen Jesus, walked with him, talked with him and shared a meal with him. They are overwhelmed.
The conversation swirls back and forth, between despair and hope, between that which they know and that which they cannot believe.
Suddenly Jesus stands in the middle of the room and everyone falls silent.
“Peace be with you.”
Jesus speaks peace to them, speaks shalom over them.
Jesus blesses them with God’s peace.
What is this peace Jesus speaks to them? It’s more than harmony, absence of conflict, tranquility or all those other things peace means to us.
We say the Hebrew word “shalom” means “peace.” And it does. But peace only scratches the surface of shalom.
all of these - at the same time.
Jesus stands in the midst of the terrified disciples and declares shalom.
In one little word, Jesus proclaims the Kingdom of God is here.
Yes, the kingdom of God, which Jesus has been preaching for the past three years, is summed up in shalom. Listen to the definition of shalom again:
Peace – healing of all brokenness between families, and neighbors, and nations;
Wholeness, wellness – healing for body, mind and soul;
Completeness, Sufficiency, satisfaction – having all that one needs for life, for life lived abundantly;
Kindness – mercy, grace, God’s ever-lasting love;
Salvation - restoration of the relationship between God and humans beings, repentance and forgiveness of sins.
That’s exactly what the kingdom of God is all about.
Jesus shows up in the middle of terror and confusion and doubts and hopes and says “The peace of God be with you – it’s Easter and God’s promises are being fulfilled before your very eyes. God is bringing shalom - restoring the relationship between you and God and you and your neighbor, re-creating creation to bring healing and wholeness to all creation, providing the manna that nourishes mind, body, and soul, pouring out God’s everlasting love and mercy poured always, bringing you to repentance and forgiving sins.
“Easter proves that God’s shalom kingdom is here now, not in some future time but right here and now. Look at my hands and feet. Join me in a meal. I am no spirit, no ghost. God has triumphed over death and the grave! I am flesh and blood, the first in the new creation that God is bringing to the world.
“Hey guys – you know everything I taught you, everything I promised, well, I’m here to tell you it’s all true, it’s all happening here right now, just as God has planned.”
Then he begins to teach them –
- going through the story of God’s work to bring all of creation back into perfect relationship,
- how the Law God gave to Moses and the Word of God spoken through the prophets show how God has been working all along through Israel’s story to prepare for the coming of the Messiah into the world,
- a Messiah sent
o not to conquer the world through power and violence,
o but to bring repentance and forgiveness of sins,
o to usher in the kingdom of God.
To bring shalom.
After teaching them, Jesus tells them that they are God’s witnesses to the world. And those terrified disciples begin to live into the Easter promise, begin to figure out what living as shalom people of God means.
And it’s so awesome, so amazing that they can’t help but be witnesses.
The promise of shalom, the peace Jesus breathed on the disciples that evening made such an impact on those terrified disciples that they do go as Jesus sent them, bearing witness to all the God has done and is doing to reconcile all of creation and bring shalom to the world.
Those disciples spoke peace and forgiveness of sins to those around them. God’s shalom changed their lives also, and they became witnesses. And so on, and on, and on…throughout the centuries to today.
It’s what we preach and teach.
Think about how many times we say “peace” in worship.
It’s all over Lutheran worship. “The peace of the Lord be with you.” I say and you respond “and also with you.” We say it in the beginning, and in our prayers – praying in peace, asking for shalom, affirming the promise of Easter.
When we share the peace with one another, we’re not just saying “Good morning, glad to see you.” We’re speaking Jesus’ words, “May shalom fill your life. May Easter bring restored relationship between you and God and you and your neighbor, re-creation that brings healing and wholeness to all creation, provision of the manna that nourishes mind, body, and soul, God’s everlasting love and mercy poured out always, not in some future time but right here and now.”
And finally, we dismiss with “Go in peace.” Go and take that which you have seen and heard and experienced, God’s shalom, into the world around you. Go, be a witness to all that God has done and to all that God is doing in the world around you.
May the peace of the Lord be with you all.