Category Archives: Christian

Pass the Peace, Please

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. ~ John 14:27

This devotional meditation was originally written in December of 2019 and published in the Devotions for Lent booklet created and distributed by The Church of the Good Shepherd UMC — before the world changed for us all. It appears as the reading for today (April 4, 2020). I pray the words may offer you a peace that passes all understanding in your time and place this day.

I’m well acquainted with sweeping things under the rug to “preserve the peace,” buttoning my lip in order not to “disrupt the peace” and occasionally inserting myself to “restore the peace,” but I confess that being asked to “pass the peace” during a church service leaves me somewhat uncomfortable. While others seem to revel in the greetings with warm handshakes and hugs, I suspect there is more to this than well-wishing and the opportunity to visit with those in the next pew or across the aisle.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. When Christ offered these words of comfort to his disciples he was preparing them for the days he knew lay ahead. We are heirs to this same peace, one that is both personal and relational, a shalom. Because the Light of Christ has come into the world we are invited to enact that peace, offering it to each other in an expression of warmth, comfort and welcome.

This is such a simple act, yet brimming with faithfulness and trust, because how well do I really know you? True, you are my pew-mate, my neighbor, my co-parishioner or perhaps my guest, but what about the politics you practice, the parenting style you’ve adopted and the lifestyle you lead? Whoa, what a risk Jesus took in leaving His peace with us!

I do not give to you as the world gives. This is not a worldly peace – nothing so temporary as a ceasefire or a cessation of hostilities, nor so transient as a handshake or a hug. The peace Christ gives is insurmountable and uncontainable, yet when I hold it in my hand it weighs nothing and means everything. It is the peace that settles on a prayer-filled room where everything is at stake but there is nothing left to be done. This peace passes all understanding, yet it extends tangibly and undeniably from hand to hand and heart to willing heart.

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. As I extend my hand to offer the peace of the Living Christ to you, my friend, my neighbor, my companion on this journey of faith, may the weight of our world be lifted and the love of Christ take its place both within us and between us. For there is nothing in the universe as constant as the presence of Jesus who promised that “where two or three are gathered in my name I am there with them.” (Matthew 18:20)

Today: Consider these words of remarkable dialogue from the beautifully conceived play, Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson: “I choose to measure you in light.” If the hand we extend is filled with the peace of Christ, how now may we see the other by the Light of Christ? Blessed indeed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.

Hand Washing as Prayer

How kinesthetic is this act of hand washing? Of soap and water sudsing, hands a-rubbing, fingers folding, interlocking, palms compressing and releasing, slipping one past the other, slick even slippery, signaling finally that it’s time to rinse.

What if, instead of counting obediently 1,2,3… instead of singing happy birthday mindlessly… we prayed intentionally?

The Lord’s Prayer, as we who follow Christ have been taught it, takes just over 20 seconds to pray if we rush through like a Sunday morning congregation. But what if, in the privacy of our own sinks, in thanks for the soap and the water, in fulfillment of the commandment to pray, in facing the world crisis which meets us today, we each gave God thanks for the cleansing?

I dare you to try it. Then, prepare to be blown away by the A-MEN. Speak AHH–, as the clear water rinses one hand completely and –MEN as you rinse the other. Forgiveness has never felt so real.

Here is my friend and sister-in-faith, Yoon, washing her hands as she prays the Lord’s prayer in Korean, her first language. How great must this chorus of voices praying in all languages sound to the ears of our God.

Today, I witnessed a resurrection

Today, I thanked a tree for its shade, pausing under its broad branches for a moment’s break from the late morning sun. I even blew it a kiss, the only gift I could think of to offer back was this bit of extra CO2 for its respiration. A very small bit, to be sure.

On a normal day, I wouldn’t notice this tree or at least I would pay it no mind. But these aren’t normal days, are they? These are odd days, co-opted by the novel corona virus. They have us thinking a-new about every thing and thinking more about everyone. Paying closer attention and taking more care.

Unannounced, this had me attending in a different way to many things I passed in my outing. This tree was the first of many trees I thanked, along with the woman riding toward me on her bike who got off and walked it wide so I could pass at the prescribed social distance. I returned the favor to a cyclist where I had room and he didn’t.

Not all were happy things. I lamented the loss of the life of a turtle who, in departing his pond in search of a distant and deeper shore, didn’t make it that far. This invited sudden thoughts of people who were now in peril because they had embarked on a similar trip. What was it like in the face of this virus if you were in close quarters, in a homeless shelter or detained as an immigrant seeking asylum?

Further on, from another resting spot in the shade, I could see a family of Sandhill Cranes walking along the shore. Mom and Dad mate for life; each year their brood is only two fuzzy yellow crane-lings. This family who only had one saddened me; I had watched two chicks with these parents only a day before. The danger to the young and the defenseless is real in all species.

******

Actually, that today was yesterday.

Today, I thanked the rather the tall hedge who provided me shade as the sun was still early in the sky.

The walkers gave me less leeway, so I swung wide for them.

The early bikers preferred the roadway to the path, as auto traffic was far more sparse than pedestrian.

The turtle now rested on its shell, having provided sustenance for scavengers nearby.

The cranes pecked their way along the familiar shallow hillside. Mom, Dad, and baby.

I paused then to appreciate the cool shade offered by the trees by the pond. I marveled at the majestic blue heron fishing, the glistening snowy egret so still, and the black bird in flight whose red wing patches gave it away. It landed in the reeds near the cranes who paused in pecking their way along shore’s edge.

Mom, Dad, baby and… another spot of yellowish white. From my distance I couldn’t be sure, but perhaps. If it moved I would know. I waited and watched. No one sped me along. No one called me home. No one pushed my pace or bid me hurry. I waited and watched, craning my neck and squinting into the quickly brightening day.

The spot moved; I was almost certain. As I looked on, it did move and then, sure enough, it straightened into a gangly, yellow fluff of a walking thing. It wasn’t dead; it was alive. I had witnessed a resurrection! Praise be!

In the times we are living, these 2020 times, this corona virus time, this Lenten time that will now almost surely conclude in canceled Easter services, this chick come to life felt like a sacred moment.

I have heard some quip that “This Easter Jesus will stay dead,” but watching the baby crane I wondered if things had turned their way around. Perhaps resurrection is happening among us, so that this Easter, in the very midst of the hardship and sacrifice we’re witnessing, we will be the ones telling the stories of all that God is redeeming and bringing back to life.

And that tomorrow will be all our todays.

%d bloggers like this: