Peace and Love
Peace and Love
We finish our series on the Stained Glass Windows at St. Andrew’s. Our scripture comes from John’s gospel as is part of the ‘Farewell Discourse’ that Jesus makes to his disciples during the Last Supper.
Scripture: John 14: 15-27
Peace and Love
John Lennon sang, “Give peace a chance.”
Mother Teresa once said, “Peace begins with a smile.”
Wendell Berry wrote, “I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief… For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
Lester B. Pearson said, “I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given to participate in that work as a representative of my country, Canada, whose people have, I think, shown their devotion to peace.”
Stan Lee said, “We live in a diverse society – in fact, a diverse world – an we must learn to live in peace and with respect for each other.”
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”
Those are the words on the final window of our series on the Stained Glass Windows here at St. Andrew’s. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”
Peace is our theme for the day, however the passage from John’s gospel is also about love.
But let’s start with Peace. Jesus is referred to as the Prince of Peace. That’s a reference to Isaiah, the gospels never make that connection directly. “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
Peace is often synonymous with Christian values. We are peaceful people, the earliest Christians were pacafists. Refusing to raise arms against the Imperial power of Rome. They were fed to the lions because they wouldn’t acknowledge the Roman Emperor as a god.
Jesus says to the disciples, “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.”
This statement from Jesus, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you’ it raises questions within me.
What does the peace that comes from Jesus look like?
Often when we think of peace it is in response to war. We seek peace not war. The language of peace is surrounded by conflict. Even the expression ‘peace of mind’ insinuates that we seek peace of mind because our lives are in turmoil. That we are in conflict with something.
What does peace look like?
What does peace mean to you?
What does peace from Jesus look and feel like?
An important clue is what Jesus says next, ‘I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be trouble and do not be afraid.”
Jesus does not give as the word gives. Jesus gave his life to break cycles of violence, demonstrating a path of least resistance and passivity. This doesn’t mean Jesus was passionate about issues or that he chose to ignore injustice. The complete opposite, Jesus taught a message of love rooted in an understanding of a compassionate God. A message of peace which taught us to love our neighbours.
Which brings us to the first words that Jesus speaks in this passage, “If you love me, keep my commands.”
If you love me, keep my commands. I’ll be honest that most of the time words like this send alarm bells off for me. They speak of relationships that are built on poor power dynamics. Using love as a weapon to illicit behaviour.
As a result we might rightly ask, what commands would Jesus be speaking of?
Well if you look at the other gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke you might find a whole slew of commands from Jesus. Turn the other cheek, forgive seventy-seven times and so on. However, if you are reading John’s gospel Jesus only give us one command. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Those words are found in the chapter before the one we read today: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. If we go forward one chapter to chapter 15 we will find, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one will have great love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (reference)
That’s the peace that Jesus leaves us, a lasting love. A request to love one another and that by doing so we will gain a peace which surpasses all understanding. In John’s gospel everything that Jesus does is tied around this commandment to love. If you want to think in terms of judgment and eternity, realize that judgement and eternity start now, we are already in the moment for Jesus has commanded us to love. This command to love is tied up in the world view that John presents to us. It is central to John’s understanding of Jesus and how we are called to follow Jesus.
Love is a powerful theme in John’s gospel. Words for love are used fifty-seven times in John’s gospel. That should tell us something important. When John was writing to his community of faith he was trying to let them know that they weren’t to imitate Jesus, but rather to remind them that they participate wholly in the ministry they were called. We also are called not just to imitate Jesus, but to participate fully in the kingdom. For John that has already started and is ongoing through the work of the Holy Spirit which is also introduced in this passage: Our Comforter, Advocate, Counselor, and Helper.
To follow Jesus isn’t to imitate him. It is to participate fully in a transformative love which can change the world. To accept the peace that Christ has left for us and let the world know it is available to all. That we can live in peace, we can live in harmony, we can live in understanding. Despite any differences between us we can live together in the peace that Christ leaves for us. For it is sufficient. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.