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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.

Every Mind Matters: What are you feeding yours?

Bet you can’t eat just one! Remember that slogan from the Lays Potato Chips advertising campaign? They knew that if they could just get us to try one, we’d find the rest of the bag hard to resist. These days, satisfying our cravings has gotten more complicated; we feed not only on a steady diet of processed foods but also consume a constant stream of print and online media. Those producing it know that once we click, we’ll find the rest of what they have to offer hard to resist.

While most of us know that too many chips are bad for our waistline, most of us don’t know the risk to our minds when subjected to so much media. That’s because brain science is a newly emerging field. Just twenty years ago our text books taught that the structure of the brain never changed. “Alcohol kills brain cells,” I used to admonish the college students I taught, “and you won’t get them back.”

IMG_0479Now, thanks to new techniques available to study the brain, we know the textbooks and I had it wrong. The brain is actually a highly ‘plastic’ structure; it is changing all the time in response to the stimuli in its environment. Our brains actually create new pathways when we explore new things and establish preferred routes for things we think about the most. As remarkable as it sounds, our brains are constantly being sculpted by how we use them.

No wonder scripture advises us: whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8) Perhaps Descartes in proclaiming, “I think, therefore I am,” was more right than he knew. Of course, the God who designed us knew it all along.

So, as the apostle Paul writes to the believers in Rome,

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. ~ Romans 12:1-2

encouraging us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, we don’t just set our minds aside. That’s where the renewal happens! Especially during this season of Lent, as we draw closer to our God by His invitation, we ask, how can I offer my body and mind in ways that are holy and pleasing to You? In doing this, we make ourselves fully available to His sculpting hands and shaping will.

What a joy to discover that we are designed with renewal in mind. Setting our minds on the things of Christ will help us test and approve what God’s will is for us. That doesn’t mean that the world isn’t going on out there. It simply means that what’s going on in us and in front of us – where we can have the most impact — will get accomplished by our efforts, in accordance with the will of God. Thy Kingdom Come.

What if, instead of consuming the news, we set our sights on making it? Surely, that would be a sacrifice both holy and pleasing to God.

Consider fasting from all online and print media today and, instead, make your own news. Then share it with your friends, family, neighbors or community.

Author’s note: This writing appears in the 2018 version of the Lenten Devotional booklet published and distributed by the Church of the Good Shepherd, United Methodist, in Vienna, Virginia.

Morning Has Broken ~ welcome Spring!

In 1931, celebrated English children’s author Eleanor Farjeon wrote a poem for children to celebrate the first day of Spring. Set to a Gaelic melody, it climbed the pop charts as a Cat Stevens recording in 1971, and it remains one of Christendom’s favorite hymns. What a power lyrics have when we read and speak them!

MORNING HAS BROKEN
Morning has broken
like the first morning;
Blackbird has spoken
like the first bird.
Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning!
Praise for them, springing fresh from the Word!
Sweet the rain’s new fall sunlit from heaven,
like the first dewfall on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,
sprung in completeness where his feet pass.
Mine is the sunlight! Mine is the morning born of the one light
Eden saw play!
Praise with elation, praise every morning,
God’s recreation of the new day!
—Eleanor Farjeon

I’m told that Eleanor Farjeon’s inspiration was

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” ~ Lamentations 3:22-23

What words speak especially to you in this poem/hymn? Me? I love…

Mine is the morning born of the one light Eden saw play!

Happy Spring! And thank you to The Church of the Good Shepherd UMC for their devotional post today.

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