Peace Amidst the Doubts

To the surprise of no one, the ‘Lockdown’ has been extended. We continue to have restricted movement outside, and, for the most part, we still remain inside.

While we know that, eventually, things will get better, we are warned that it won’t be anytime soon. I’ve lost track of the number of times we have been told that ‘we’re in it for the long haul’; and so it’s easy to feel down.

In our New Testament passage at this time (John 20: 19-31), we read that the Disciples were more than just feeling down, they were frightened.

It is the evening of the first Easter Day. It was a day that began with the astonishing encountered of Mary of Magdalene meeting and speaking with Jesus while Peter and John, when they entered the empty tomb, realised what had happened; Jesus had risen.

Not only was Jesus alive, life was coming back to these people and they were feeling good. Yet, in the opening verse of John’s account of that first Easter Evening, we see little signs of new life in that room that night. The disciples were in a terrible state.

Why hadn’t they put all the harrowing events of the Crucifixion behind them and, instead concentrate on the future and what now lay ahead. But that was the problem. What did lie ahead? They had no idea!

And they also had to contend with the fear that they too, as followers of Jesus, might be arrested and possibly executed. So, they hid behind locked doors to stay safe. They were, in effect, ‘self-isolating’.

It is into this situation that Jesus appears. And the first words He speaks are (20:19), “Peace be with you”, the familiar words of welcome and greeting. But now, after the Resurrection, these words of “Peace be with you”, took on another dimension.

Because of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice on the Cross, His death and His rising, Peace, reconciliation and life from God is now realised.

“Peace be with you”. This is the Peace of the Father. This is the Peace of God. It is a Peace that brings calm and tranquillity. It is a Peace that brings fellowship with God. It is a Peace so powerful that the Apostle Paul said, “it transcends all understanding”. (Philippians 4:7)

It was a Peace that brought an immediate transformation to the Disciples. When they hear his blessing, when they see he is alive, the fear, the worry, the concern and the confusion evaporate. Yes, they could still have been arrested at any moment. But it no longer held any fear for them. With Jesus in their midst they experience the Peace of God.

And when John (20:22) describes how Jesus blessed the Disciples saying, “he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit”, doesn’t that resonate with the moment in time when God the Creator brought Adam, the first human being, to life?

In Genesis (2:7), we read, “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being”.

With the gift of the Spirit, the Disciples too are brought to life; to new life. This was, in effect, the spiritual kiss of life, to those who had died in spirit.

There can be times in life when we lose our way a little. We don’t know where to turn or what to do for the best. We tell ourselves that we should be stronger in faith. But sometimes we don’t feel strong, we feel weak and afraid. Like the disciples, we can have anxieties, even fears. Like Thomas, we can have doubts.

Yet, in the same way Jesus came quietly to the Disciples and stilled their anxiety and their fears by blessing them with His Peace, so He is with us.

He offers to us too that same blessing of Peace in our difficult situation. He blesses us with the very Peace of God. (John 20:19) “Peace be with you”. When we can commit all our cares to God in prayer, we need be afraid no more.

Amen.

On this day, when we especially remember Jesus’ blessing of “Peace be with you”, let us share together with thousands of people across Scotland who have been answering the call to join in prayer during this time of sacrifice, difficulty and bereavement.

Let us Pray.

Living God, speak into the depths of our experience,
Speak the word that stills our fears
And calms our anxieties:
‘Peace be with you.’
Speak your word to the lonely and to the broken,
To the bereaved and to those whose world has crumbled:
‘Peace be with you.’

Faithful God, speak to us behind locked doors
As we remember others, who risk their own safety,
In order to serve others:
Peace be with them.
Carers and nurses, doctors and ambulance drivers,
Delivery drivers and shop assistants:
Peace be with them.

God who inspires Hope, speak to us in the present
And speak to us of the future,
For though the doors are locked, in time they shall be open:
Peace shall be renewed.
For those who lead the life of our Nation: Our Queen Elizabeth,
First Minister and Prime Minister, and all who shape our common life,
For us all: Peace shall be renewed.

God whose name is love and whose gift is love,
Open our hearts to know you and to love you,
To love you and to love our neighbour
And as we do, to hear again: ‘Peace be with you.’
May we find our strength in you,
And hear again:
‘Peace be with you.’

Amen.

Peace and God’s blessings on us all.

Alan.