Meditation: "Peace of Mind"

'by Debbie Celsie

Second Sunday of Advent, December 4, 2022

          Hope, peace, joy, and love. Each of these four themes we are exploring this advent leads us into a rediscovery of the meaning of Christmas, and all that we celebrate. Out of the four Peace, is the one which proves most challenging because if we look around it may seem the most elusive here on Earth.

 

          You will have noticed a gravestone does not say rest in love, or rest in joy, or rest in

hope. Rather, it says rest in peace, an admission of our deep yearning that at long last, perhaps only in death, one will find, what they could not quite grasp here on Earth.  

          For whether it is interpersonal peace, inner peace, world peace, all of these often prove

precarious at best. A newborn sleeps in the arms of their father or mother, until they get hungry and begin to wail. An international conflict is resolved, until another tenuous alliance breaks. We get a few oblivious hours sleep, until our alarm wakes us with the day’s realities ahead.  

           Yet, the first advent of Christ, when Jesus was born, we are told that suddenly “there

was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”. Many may be asking, where is that peace the angels spoke of?

 

          If we look at the news for today, what do we see? What dominates our headlines?

Indeed, it is difficult to embody that sense of peace when we look around us only to see yet another shooting, another tragic example of police brutality, another child abused, road rage happening more and more often, one un-peaceful thing right on top of another is happening in our world along with war, hunger, famine and disease.

 

          Of course, Peace would be the answer to all of this.

 

          Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist who supervised the creation of the first atomic

bomb, appeared before a congressional subcommittee. He was asked if there was any defense against this awesome new weapon.  “Certainly,” was his reply. “And that is…” and he paused, looking over the hushed, expectant audience and said softly, “peace.

 

          But Peace is a rare commodity in our world. a statistic taken in 2003 stated, that out of

the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, they say it is about just 8 percent of all recorded history. And 8,000 treaties have been broken in this time.

          In 1919, after World War I, President Woodrow Wilson drew up terms of peace including his design for a League of Nations, a body to settle future conflicts among nations. saying “it was the only hope of mankind.”  World War II followed 20 years later. After World War II, the United Nations was formed in 1945 with the goal, “To have succeeding generations free from the lash and pain of war.” Well, that did not work so well, since its formation, there has not been one day of global peace.  And although they may be dozens of peace monuments all over Washington D.C. there are there because we build one after every war.  

          September 21 was established in 1981 at the International Day of Peace. On that day, everyone around the world is supposed to stop fighting and honour its meaning. September 22, you once again pick up your guns. The only peace the world knows is that brief, glorious moment when everyone stops, to reload. You see, the peace the world brings is external, it is temporary, it is not real, it is not lasting, and it is fake.

 

          You can get people to put down their guns, but you cannot keep them from hating each other. You might be able to get them to quit hitting, but they are still raging.  You can get them to stop yelling and screaming, but you cannot make them love each other. You might even be able to reduce the crime rate by locking up criminals, but you cannot do anything about the corruption of the heart. And you cannot do anything about the inner, gnawing sense of unrest.  While the world cries for peace, there is no peace.  And the truth is, you do not have to go to a global or even national level to find this lack. Some of us do not have to go outside of our own homes – beyond our own hearts, to know – there is no peace. 

 

           Even Jesus Himself said in Mathew, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  That sounds a little at odds with Christmas cheer, doesn’t it?  It does not sound quite right. What, then, did the angels mean?   In what way has Jesus become and been the Prince of Peace that Isaiah proclaimed He would be?  In what way did His first coming bring this peace among men?

          It gets even a little more confusing, when Jesus was getting ready to leave this Earth, He told His disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you…these things I have spoken so that in Me, you might have peace.”  No wonder we question which is it, Jesus?  Did You bring a sword, or the peace the angels promised the night you were born?

          But Jesus is not the one we need to question here; we must question what we think peace is! What do WE mean by peace? If asked that question most likely we would say it is an absence of conflict, an external peace that results when everyone gets along, and no one says anything mean to anyone else and when we stop shooting each other.  Right? Yet, Peace is linked to many different things: peace of mind, peace and quiet, peace-making, to name but three.

 

          Everyone wants peace, yes, it is one of the universal longings of the human heart and we can define that peace in different ways, we want peace in the world, no more fighting, no more wars. We want peace in our own lives, in terms of our own personal relationships, our friendships, harmony in our homes and our families. We want peace in our hearts.

 

          Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834 - 1892) was an English Baptist preacher known as the “Prince of Preacher”s who is highly influential even to this day among Christians of various denominations, preached a sermon on this, and he called the sermon “The Jewel of Peace.” The reason is because, he said, peace is like a gem, with many different facets or aspects. Indeed, that is a good metaphor for it. If we look into the doctrine and theology of the United Church, which we do not often do, we will see that the angels were not mistaken.  The birth of Christ did bring peace on Earth.

 

          In John 16:33, as Jesus was preparing His disciples for His immediate departure, He said this, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation but take courage; I have overcome the world.”  The peace Jesus came to give has nothing to do with conflict or tribulation in the world.  It has nothing to with temporary feelings of goodwill toward men.  Because the Peace Jesus brings is not external.  The external Peace the world seeks is not real, remember, it is temporary, it is a façade.  You can choose not to shoot someone and still hate them, that’s not peace. And, if this peace is not external, it must be something else – and it is, it is internal.

 

          Going back to the farewell discourse Jesus had with His disciples the night He washed their feet, gave them communion, on the night we see evidence of this .He was to be betrayed, arrested and tried, he knew what those around him most needed He said these words in John 14, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”  Jesus is about to be arrested.  He’s about to be beaten, mocked, scourged, crucified.  And He says, “My peace I leave with you.” Those disciples must have been thinking, no thanks, Jesus, we will find it somewhere else.  

          Just think about that. Before his death, Christ told his disciples they would be scattered, leaving Him alone to be killed. Then he said something quite curious: “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace.”   You see, until we realize the peace Jesus brings is internal – it is a matter of heart and mind we will never get it. It is all about a non-troubled, non-fearful heart. Does that sound like good news to anyone?  That’s the peace Jesus came to give – a peace that affects the inside – that brings a calmness, a confidence, a courage, an assurance in the face of everything. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard what? Your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Do you see?  It’s an internal peace that affects the heart, the mind.  Look at Paul who wrote from prison.  Absence of conflict.  No way – his way of life brought conflict.  But did he have peace?  You bet – an internal, untouchable, unquenchable peace.  You see, it does not really matter what is going on out here.  It does not matter if we are at war.  It does not matter if bombs are going off.  We have an internal peace that the world cannot touch.

 

          In 1871 there was a terrible fire in Chicago. Over three hundred people were killed, over 100,000 people were left homeless. There was a businessperson in the city who had invested much in the city, and he suffered great financial loss through this fire.

Tragically, about the same time as the fire, his one and only son died. Yet for two years this man, who was a Christian, joined hands with D.L. Moody to serve the homeless, to volunteer his time, to help those who were impoverished and grief-stricken who had been ruined by this fire.

          After two years of volunteer work, this man decided it was time for a vacation, so he and his family were to accompany Moody to England for one of his evangelistic campaigns, and then they were to take a vacation together into Europe. The man was delayed by business, so he sent his wife and his daughters ahead on a ship. So, they were sailing to England, and tragically, their ship collided with another ship, and after this collision it was only 20 minutes before the ship sank. Out of all the hundreds of people that were on that ship, only forty-seven people survived, and out of this man’s family, only his wife. His four daughters were all lost.

          When his wife finally made it to England, she sent a telegram to her husband that said simply, “Saved alone.” This man, now grief-stricken himself, having lost much of his business two years before, his finances, his fortune, having already lost his son, now having lost his four daughters, sailed to England to join his wife. The ship captain showed him where it was that they believed that the ship had sunk, where his four daughters had been drowned. When he finally arrived in England, this man met with D.L. Moody, and he said, “It is well; the will of God be done.”

          The accounts vary as to when this man, Horatio Spafford, wrote the words, but he left behind one of the greatest hymns in the English language.do you recognize these words?

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way; When sorrows, like sea billows, roll.

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’

“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control:

That Christ hath regarded My helpless estate And hath shed his own blood for my soul.”

 

          Do not be confused about the peace Jesus came to bring us. It is not in a peace treaty, it is not the laying down our guns, it is not even necessarily smiling and saying Merry Christmas. This peace the angels sang about lies in…Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  From this verse, we see the definition of Advent peace. Peace is reconciliation with God, and that reconciliation comes through justification by faith. Justification, in Christian theology, is the act by which God moves a willing person from the state of sin to the state of grace. Having been justified, by God, we have peace with God. Advent peace is not man being at peace with man, it is God reconciling with man, peace on earth and in Heaven. It is from sins cleansed and forgiven by faith. You cannot earn it, and it cannot be found anywhere else.  Is this peace for everyone on earth? In a manner of speaking, it is, but it must be accepted and taken for one’s own use. That is what Christmas peace on earth, goodwill toward men, is all about. Just as Mary accepted God into her body,

we accept this and respond with a yes!

 

          I do not know every hardship you are facing today, or every pain you are feeling But God does. He is there, bringing peace to calm your heart. The Apostle Paul explained it as an inner calmness, a serenity, a confidence to face life’s challenges.  It can guard your heart from continuing wounds. It can protect your mind from the onslaught of anxiety. “That sounds nice,” you might be thinking. “But you don’t know how bad things are.” No, I am sorry, I do not. I can only imagine how awful things might be for you, and I can only agree with how unfair life can be. But let me encourage you that there is a peace that is deeper than what you are feeling and all you have gone through. We must begin to look at the world not through eyes and minds that seek to conquer but through hearts that want to mend and heal. If we do not have peace within ourselves, it is useless to seek it anywhere else. It must start with us. It is about us, right here and now, and how we carry this peace in our lives when we go out this door. As the words of the hymn, we will later sing say: ……

 

          “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me. Let There Be Peace on Earth, the peace that was meant to be. With God as our Father, Brothers all are we, let me walk with my brother, in perfect harmony. Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now. With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow, to take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally, let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”

          Paul did that. He was experiencing a time of blackness, a winter season of the heart. He

expected to die soon and to die the death of a criminal. Paul was living in a time of withdrawal, isolation, and darkness. In one of his letters, he writes that only Luke is with him, and he asks for Mark also to come to Rome. Paul and Mark had quarrelled and gone their separate ways. Did Paul sensing his impending death feel the need to be reconciled with Mark in this part of his life, did Paul believe that this step was something he could do to bring peace to him, to Mark and into the world?

 

          Take a slow, deep breath. Let it out. Take another breath. Contemplate the Prince of Peace and how much He wants peace for your life. Breathe deeply. Let it out.  During this week of Advent peace, would not it be wonderful to see dozens of random acts of peace.

          Now keep breathing and start your mind thinking about something peaceful you could do in the coming days for yourself and or for another person who needs peace as much as you do. In the winter of your live or as you get older is there someone you want to be reconciled with, a wrong you want to right, an unspoken word that needs to be said? The question I leave you will this morning is, what random act of peace can you give to yourself or others?

                                                                             All Glory be to God.