Peace Amid the Storm
By the Rev. Lee Woofenden
Massachusetts, April 16, 2000
Jeremiah 8:4-12 Saying
"Peace, peace," when there is no peace
Thus says the
Lord: "When people fall, don't they get up again? If they go astray, don't
they turn back? Why, then, has this people turned away in continual backsliding?
They have held fast to deceit; they have refused to return. I have listened
carefully, but they do not speak honestly; no one repents of wickedness, saying,
'What have I done!' All of them turn to their own course, like a horse charging
into battle. Even the stork in the heavens knows its times; and the turtledove,
swallow, and crane observe the time of their coming. But my people do not know
the requirements of the Lord.
"How can you
say, 'We are wise, for we have the law of the Lord,' when in fact, the false pen
of the scribes has made it into a lie? The wise will be put to shame; they will
be dismayed and taken. Since they have rejected the word of the Lord, what
wisdom is in them? Therefore I will give their wives to others and their fields
to conquerors, because from the least to the greatest everyone is greedy for
unjust gain; from prophet to priest everyone deals falsely. They have treated
the wound of my people as if it were not serious, saying, 'Peace, peace,' when
there is no peace. They acted shamefully; they committed abomination; yet they
were not at all ashamed, they did not know how to blush. Therefore they will
fall among the fallen; at the time when I punish them, they will be brought
down," says the Lord.
John 14:23-27 My peace I give to you
"Those who love me will obey my teachings, and my Father will love them,
and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me
does not obey my teachings--and the words that you hear are not mine, but are
from the Father who sent me.
I have said these
things to you while I am still with you. But the Counselor, 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. 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."
Arcana Coelestia #5662 Heavenly peace
Peace is at the
very center of heaven, and pervades everything there. For the peace that reigns
in heaven is like springtime on earth, or like the dawn. What moves our feelings
at the arrival of springtime or dawn is not the changes we notice, but the
beauty that pervades everything we see, filling not only our perceptions, but
every single thing around us with beauty.
hardly anyone knows what the Bible means when it mentions "peace," as
in the benediction, "May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and
give you peace" (Numbers 6:26). Almost everyone thinks peace means being
safe from enemies and having tranquility at home and with our friends. However,
the Bible does not mean this kind of peace, but a peace that is vastly superior.
For the Bible is speaking of heavenly peace.
We cannot gain
this kind of peace unless we are led by the Lord and live in the Lord--in other
words unless we are in heaven where the Lord is the All in all. For heavenly
peace enters into us when the desires that come from our selfish and
materialistic loves are eliminated. These desires take away our peace, inwardly
harassing us, and eventually causing to think that rest is unrest and that we
are at peace when we are being harassed--for we find our happiness in evil
things. Yet as long as we are caught up in evil desires, we cannot possibly know
what peace is. . . .
Since true peace
at the center of every kind of happiness and joy, and fills everything, the
people of ancient times had a common saying: "Peace be with you,"
meaning "May all be well." Or they would ask, "Do you have
peace?" meaning "Is all well with you?"
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. (John 14:27)
What a nice,
comforting statement. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to
you." If we let our minds drift, we might imagine that Jesus said these
words on some peaceful hillside. Or high up on a mountain with a beautiful vista
spread out before him. Or perhaps by the seaside as the waves lapped peacefully
up against the shore. In our reverie, we might imagine appreciative crowds
drinking in these words of life, and having their lives transformed by them. Oh,
how nice our lives would be if the pleasant pictures we dream up became reality!
In fact, Jesus
spoke these words in a seemingly peaceful interlude that was surrounded by the
most tumultuous and violent events of his life--events that culminated in the
brutal end of his ministry and his life on earth.
The conflict had
been building throughout the three years of Jesus' ministry. At first the
religious leaders weren't too concerned. They'd seen plenty of
"prophets" and "messiahs" come and go, and they had good
reason to believe this Jesus would fade like the others.
But he did not
fade. The crowds that followed him kept getting bigger and bigger. And now he'd
really gone over the top! He had made a grand entry into Jerusalem--the
political and spiritual center of the Jewish people--in the manner of an
arriving king. Great crowds had greeted him with palm branches, shouting
"Hosanna, Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is
the king of Israel!" (John 12:13).
It was at the
sight of this great public acclamation that the Pharisees remarked to one
another in frustration and disgust, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look
how the whole world has gone after him!" (John 12:19). Something had to be
And Jesus knew
what they intended to do. He knew that he was about to be arrested, tried, and
crucified. He knew. And as he and his disciples prepared to eat the Passover
meal--the meal that only Jesus knew would be their last supper together--he told
them that was about to be executed. But they did not believe it. They would
not believe it. They argued among themselves, and kept asking him questions,
trying to figure out what in the world he was talking about.
were confused. Judas Iscariot was hatching a plot to betray him. The crowds were
in an uproar. The chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees were disturbed, fearful,
hatching their own plots to rid themselves of this menace to their power and
position. Even the Romans could feel the atmosphere of tension in the city.
The only one at
peace, it seems, was the one at the focal point of all the disturbance and
unrest. Like the eye of a hurricane, Jesus rode at the center of a storm of
confusion, conflict, and commotion swirling all around him, while he himself was
an island of serenity.
events of his life were anything but serene. He had plenty of reasons to be
anxious, frightened, angry. He knew that the crowds were fickle, that the people
who held the reins of earthly power were closing in around him, that he was
about to be abandoned by his closest followers and suffer an agonizing death.
Yet in the midst
of all this, he said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to
His accusers knew
nothing of this peace. They sensed the hour of their triumph approaching. They
may have thought that if they could just eliminate this latest threat to their
position, they would enjoy peace once again. But their plans and plots could
never bring them peace, because they were based on greed and grasping for power.
Any peace they gained would be the peace that the world gives. It would be the
false and temporary peace that comes from pursuing, and temporarily satisfying,
our small-minded and self-centered desires for power and wealth. Jeremiah's
words could have been spoken of them:
How can you say, "We are
wise, for we have the law of the Lord," when in fact, the false pen of
the scribes has made it into a lie? The wise will be put to shame; they will
be dismayed and taken. Since they have rejected the word of the Lord, what
wisdom is in them?
Yes, they had
rejected the Lord their God by misleading the people for their own comfort and
gain. And now they rejected the Lord when he came in the flesh. They thought
they had the answers to the problems of their people. If they could only
eliminate rabble-rousers such as this Jesus, their job would be much easier. If
they could only keep the Romans happy and keep the people under control, there
would be peace. As Jeremiah said:
They have treated the wound of my
people as if it were not serious, saying, "Peace, peace," when there
is no peace.
Don't we do the
same thing? Oh, I don't think any of us has crucified anyone lately. But don't
we often think that if we could just get our financial situation under control, then
we could relax and enjoy some peace? Or if we could just resolve our conflicts
with the other people in our household, or at our workplace, or with our
friends, then we could have some peace? Or if we could just forget our
idealistic notions and accommodate our thinking to the aspects of the world
around us that we don't like so much, then we could enjoy some peace?
This is the
world's perspective on peace. Peace is when we have enough to eat, drink, and be
merry. Peace is when we're getting along well with the people around us. Peace
is when we've managed fit our lives into the ways of the world around us.
By this measure,
Jesus should have been the least peaceful person in Jerusalem that day. He had
nothing but the clothes on his back. The most powerful people in the city wanted
him dead. And the reason they wanted him dead is that he refused to go along to
get along. He refused to accommodate himself to the evils of his society.
Instead, he continued to point out and condemn corruption, laziness, fraud,
hypocrisy, and oppression everywhere he saw it. His life brought him into a
collision course with all the worldly powers of his day. If any one of us were
in that situation, we would likely consider it a disaster.
But not Jesus. He
was the eye of the hurricane. He was the peace amid the storm. He said,
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as
the world gives." The peace that Jesus offered to his disciples--the
peace that Jesus offers us today--is a peace that the world does not
give, nor can it ever give. The peace that Jesus offers is vastly superior to
the outward, temporary peace that the world offers. The peace that Jesus offers
is heavenly peace. It is the peace that the angels feel.
We can feel the
same peace. No matter what our material circumstances are; no matter how we are
getting along with the people around us; no matter what our feelings are about
the society that we live in, we can feel that peace. The world has no power
whatsoever over this peace--either to give it or to take it away. When we have
this peace, all the storms and pain and confusion and sorrow of the world can be
swirling around us and even within us, and yet we will be at peace at the
deepest level of our being. Because this is not a peace that comes from the
outside world. It is a peace that comes from within and above.
It is the peace
we feel when we have the Lord's presence within us, in our hearts and minds. It
is the peace we feel when we put aside our attachments to worldly
considerations, and put the Lord first in our lives. It is the peace of knowing
in our heart that the Lord loves us and has us in the palm of his hand. It is
the peace of knowing and feeling that the Lord has put us here on earth for a
reason. It is the peace of finding our joy by following the path that the Lord
is showing us each day, step by step, moment by moment.
That kind of
deep, inner peace does not come easily. To attain that peace, the Lord d spent
his life fighting both worldly and spiritual powers of evil. He had been tempted
by the devil (the combined forces of evil) not just on that one well-known
occasion after his forty day fast in the wilderness, but throughout his life.
And at the very time he spoke those words of peace, he was about to face the
greatest struggle and agony of them all.
The peace that
the Lord felt at his core was not one that came by accommodating himself to
worldly and selfish desires. Rather, it came through confronting those
desires and rising above them every step of the way.
It is our
small-minded focus on our own wants and needs that causes us to slave away,
continually trying to satisfy desires for material things and for the approval
of others--desires that we will never satisfy. And as Jesus taught us, it is
only by laying down our own lives that we can rise again to that vastly greater inner
life of the spirit. When we lay down our idea of what our life should be,
and instead look for the Lord's plan for our life, we can find the true
and deeper peace of the Lord's warm, living, loving, enlightening presence
Are we ready for
that kind of peace? Are we ready to set aside our anxieties an our cares, and
put our lives the Lord's hands? Is our faith strong enough that we can let go
and give control of our life to the Lord?
When we do let go
of our own lives, that is when we make space for the Lord to enter in. When we
know that despite the storm around and within us, the Lord's love and truth and
power are at the center of our lives, then we know the peace that the world
Peace be with