Peace I Leave

John 14:25-31
Graduation Sunday
Tricia Dillon Thomas

So while we are most definitely here this morning to bring glory to our risen lord, Jesus Christ, today is also a celebration of our beloved sister, Catherine Deibert, as she graduates from high school and makes the transition to life in college. So I’d like to invite, not only Catherine, but all our Senior highs, to come down and sit here this morning.

Let us pray. Sing “Spirit Divine.” Amen.

My family and I call it Highs and Lows. The Sunday school class, thanks to Kim Adams, has aptly renamed it Blessings and Bummers. But the gist is the same. We each take turns sharing the joys and concerns of the past day or past week. And lately, well, always, but more so lately, I have become increasingly aware of how stressed our young people are… how many worries and anxieties they hold. Sometimes they skip blessings all together and just go straight to bummers. Holding their head in their hands, slouching over, and I hear words like stressed, tests, sucks, stressed, study, really sucks, stressed, homework, stressed.

One early morning last week, after I dropped Mason off at school, and waited with the other parents to pull back out into traffic, I sat back in my seat, flipped on NPR and listened as a columnist from Fort Meyers, began to read her piece, “Why I didn’t get to write this week’s column.” Or why I didn’t get to do last week’s homework.

I’ll paraphrase: I got up early that morning, sat and my desk to write, when my son pulled at my pants leg to join him outside. And after we had studied the yard, the dewy grass under my feet felt too good to leave just at that moment. And I knew I needed to get back to that desk, but I heard the horses calling to be fed, and I had to stop and stroke each of their noses. By the time I pulled into my driveway tears were falling from my eyes. She never did write her piece that day, but what she did do was enjoy God’s good creation. She finally put away the anxieties of the world, and lived in the very present reality of Christ’s peace.

So it is with these young people in mind, and in particular Catherine as she begins a new journey that we come to today’s scripture.

John 14:25-31
25 "I have said these things to you
while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate,
the Holy Spirit, whom the Father
will send in my name, will teach
you everything, and remind you of all
that I have said to you. 27 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. 28 You heard
me say to you, 'I am going away, and
I am coming to you.' If you loved me,
you would rejoice that I am going to
the Father, because the Father is
greater than I. 29 And now I have told
you this before it occurs, so that when
it does occur, you may believe. 30 I will
no longer talk much with you, for the
ruler of this world is coming. He has no
power over me; 31 but I do as the Father
has commanded me, so that the world
may know that I love the Father. Rise,
let us be on our way.

To truly get at what’s happening in this passage, I think we need to surround it in its context, talk about what was going on before and after this passage because I think it will make a difference to your understanding.

So we’re in John, and Jesus and his disciples have entered Jerusalem. Remember Palm Sunday, Jesus was on a donkey, people put down palms, everybody was excited, waving their arms, shouting Hosannas. I mean, people are pumped up!

And then we get to our scripture, where Jesus has washed his disciples’ feet, and they have shared what we now call the Last Supper. He has just said one of them at the table will betray him. And the disciples are all “not me” “not me” (sound familiar?). This passage takes place. And immediately after this conversation in the Upper Room, Jesus leads his disciples out to the garden, where Judas brings the delegation from the Pharisees to arrest him.

Verse 27: Peace I leave
with you; my peace I give to you

You know how sometimes we greet one another with a peace. The Scott girls have it down. It’s a hit the chest and peace. That’s not what’s going on here. It’s not a “peace.”

It’s peace. It’s a prayer. In verse 30, Jesus tells his disciples, ‘hey, this is pretty much it. These are our last moments together, and what I leave you with is Peace.

It’s his peace. And it will come from him.

Jesus knows Judas is out there setting him up, Jesus knows Peter will deny him. Jesus knows his fellow Jewish brothers and sisters will shout “crucify.” He knows he will be beaten. He knows he will die. He knows he will descend into hell for 3 days…and yet his final words are do not be troubled, do not be bothered by things of this world, it is my peace I give to you.

I find it hard to live into the idea of this peace that Christ talks about. I think that’s why I cried when I listened to that story. Besides the craziness that is happening around the world daily with this crisis and that crisis, I also have to take the kids to school, cook dinner, take care of my mother, go to my chemotherapy appointment, bring dinner to my sick friend…I don’t have time for peace. It sounds like a luxury.

And Catherine, here you are embarking on a new path. But it’s not the final path, it’s a step you take to get to where you want to go next. And in this step you’ll be measured. You’ll have deadlines to meet. You’ll be graded on your performance. And you’ll have to graduate with a decent GPA, and then you’ll have to find a job…good luck with that one…oh and in the midst, make friends, go to campus ministry once a week, date, do your work study….

And you begin to wonder, perhaps, like me, when do I have time for peace? How can I live in peace when my life is about the next step and not living into the present?

What is peace? What is the peace of Christ?

I know I’ve felt “at peace.” And I imagine that each of you have too. I can sometimes recognize the peace of Christ in others too. Often it’s in the dying.” Like that elderly woman who recited the 23 Psalm that Richard filmed at hospice. With such faith, she recited. Or my grandmother, lying in her hospital bed, who confided in me as a pastor, “I’m not afraid.” I’m not afraid of death.

That story I listened to in the car, spoke of a peace that’s about living in the present. But I think the peace of Christ is more than this Zen like state. Remember again this was Jesus’ prayer to his disciples while filled with the knowledge of the present and future.

It’s more than the “don’t be troubled don’t be afraid” that Jesus announces at the beginning of the passage. We also have to listen to verse 31 but I do as the Father
has commanded me, so that the world
may know that I love the Father. Rise,
let us be on our way.

But the Greek, in this scripture’s original form doesn’t have that last verse, “Rise, let us be on our way,” as a separate statement.

It reads more like, “So the world knows that I love God, I do as God does, and you being roused by this, come and do the same.” Or ‘come let me lead you to do the same.’

The peace of Christ is confidence and comfort in our and God’s salvation, or as Jesus says, “to live our life without fear of death.” But it’s also a response. Living into the peace of Christ, knowing that Jesus defeated those powers that set us back that hold us captive, when he rose from the dead, those chains that hold us in fear were shattered. Because Christ’s death was not the final word, we are free us to live. Living into the peace of Christ, it frees us to serve, it frees us to be a witness to the world.

And when we let go of our fears, and live into the peace of Christ, I think we are able to then meet Christ, to recognize the Spirit in others, and in our world.

The peace of Christ is a gift. It happens through intentionality. It is habit and discipline. It is faith and trust in our Lord Jesus Christ.

And it doesn’t happen alone. We can’t forget that Pentecost is right around the corner. It doesn’t happen alone—we are called to be the church.

Every Sunday we pass the Peace of Christ.

The passing of the Peace of Christ isn’t about stretching our legs, or telling someone we like their outfit or new haircut. It’s not an opportunity provided in the middle of the service so you can give someone that message you weren’t able to do earlier in the week.

Have you ever received the peace of Christ from Elizabeth or Richard? Or Grant or Mickey? You are caught. You are embraced. Sometimes I don’t think you could get out of that hold if you tried. There is nothing but the moment, the present. The peace of Christ isn’t just announced at our service, it takes the whole body corporately to live into it. That’s why we all pass it.

It’s the time for us to say, may the peace of Christ, the parting prayer that Jesus gave to his disciples, the knowledge of Jesus’ death and the power of his resurrection, may all this be with you. May all of this be with you on your journey. May you find this peace that can only come from Christ.

Passing of the Peace
We have been washed in the water and born in the Spirit, May the peace or our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Affirmation of Faith