Dear Sisters & Brothers at New Joy,
"Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don't be troubled or afraid." - John 14:27
I think many households are starting to feel a kind of peace fall upon them as May winds down. The month of May, as many parents know, is an incredibly busy month of end-of-school activities, parties, sports, summer-planning, and so forth. As we get near the end of the month, many Indiana households are starting to feel a bit more at peace.
"My peace I give to you."
Of course, the peace of Christ is so much more than a downshift in household busy-ness. But perhaps we can all imagine that big sigh of relief, that wonderful peace that falls upon a household, when the hectic pace of the school year comes to an end. Now, take that feeling and extrapolate ... to infinity. And maybe that gets us in the ballpark of what Jesus is talking about.
This past month or so has been busy for me overseas, and for you at New Joy. You've celebrated Holy Week and Easter. Preparations for Family Promise. Planning for Vacation Bible School. A TGIF Lock-In. Confirmation Sunday. Final Messy Church of the year. And I'm sure there's so much more that I'm not seeing from my foxhole, set up some 6000+ miles from you.
For me this past month or so has involved traveling overseas and arriving at my temporary duty station, getting used to some crazy heat, and learning a new daily rhythm. Sadly, this past month has also witnessed the death of my father and a trip home (with stops both in Philadelphia and in Indiana) to be surrounded by family and friends, bid farewell to my father, and to give time for grief.
In the midst of all this, or perhaps on the back end of it, can we find peace?
Peace isn't ours to make, mind you, but instead is a free gift of Christ. "My peace I give to you," our Lord says. "I give to you not as the world gives." No conditions. No fine print. No "five steps to inner peace." Just peace. Given. To you. By our Savior.
Sometimes peace is the collapsing sigh of relief at the end of a school year. Sometimes peace is in the return flight overseas that resumes the new normal that sorrow had interrupted. Sometimes peace is in the precious moments of adolescent faith exploration that is simultaneously awkward and beautiful. Sometimes peace is in the predawn run through the desert that gives space for prayer and reflection. Sometimes peace is in the broken plans to house homeless families that nonetheless prepped you for the next chance. Sometimes peace is in the chance to pray with a Soldier in need. Sometimes peace is hearing those precious words that the body and blood of Christ are given and shed for you. For you.
At all times, wherever we find it, peace is a gift of Christ.
Nurture this peace, my friends, for you are a community of Christ's peace.
I am grateful for your prayers and your care from across the miles, especially during my father's long illness and his death. Nearly every week someone would ask me how my dad is doing. I am so grateful for your concern, your love, your faithfulness. How is my dad doing now? He is at rest with the saints, and for that I am grateful. Your prayers and gestures have meant the world to me.
And I am grateful, too, for your support to me as I extend New Joy's commitment to Welcome, Grace, Faith, and Promise with Soldiers halfway around the world. You have sent me to be a missionary of Christ's peace, and I couldn't do this work without you.
The peace of the Lord be with you always.
And also with you.
Let us share Christ's peace with the world around us.