For a moment imagine a scene of peace: close your eyes and imagine it – describe it to yourself as fully as you can – enter into it deeply enough to feel its glow.
Some of you may have pictured yourself dozing in the bottom of a rowboat on a calm and tranquil lake. Others may have seen yourselves looking at a little baby sleeping in her crib, or a cat napping on a sun soaked window ledge. Still others may have seen themselves in a landscape empty of people – but full of grain gently waving in a breeze or beside a stream in the woods with the water making music as it runs over and around stones lying in its course.
Whatever the picture you painted and entered into – chances are it was not like the kind of scene drawn by today’s gospel text.
That text speaks of locked doors, of secret meetings by night – and of fear. None of these things makes a person normally think about peace – nor does the presence of one whose body is marked by the signs of torture and death.
It seems clear however John wants us to see the two visits of Jesus to his disciples in the upper room as occasions of peace.
And perhaps they can speak to us about some dimensions of peace we do normally think of – perhaps they can speak to us of peace in the midst of turmoil – of peace in the midst of fear – of peace in the midst of doubt.
False ideas about peace and joy abound in our society. These false ideas can distort our entire picture of what life is supposed to be about, and of who Christ is and of who we are.
A woman by the name of Lucy Bregman relates the story of how she once went to a worship service where the entire congregation was told:
“If you don’t have a smile on your face, you’ve got the
wrong religion and shouldn’t be here. Christianity is a
religion of joy.”
She fled that service in tears – because she did not feel at that time like she could smile – she was having difficulties and was looking for comfort. Instead she was told she was not good enough for God because she was not smiling.
God never asks us to falsify our experience. Our risen Lord never waits until we are already happy in order to come to us – and he never wears a pasted on smile.
Think of this for a moment – Christ could have miraculously obliterated his wounds after he was raised from the tomb, but chose not to. He bore the marks of his wounds into the presence of his disciples. In the same way Christ does not ask us to banish our wounds when we come into his presence – not even at Easter when we are supposed to be full of joy.
Peace be with you – is the word of Jesus to us.
Peace be with you and blessed are you when you have not seen, as the disciples saw, and yet have come to believe.
Blessed are you
– not because life will be plain sailing for you,
Blessed are you
– not because you will always want to smile and will never have to suffer.
But blessed are you because you have linked yourself to a power greater than yours:
–to a power that wants to sustain you and will sustain you,
–to the power that raised Jesus from the dead,
–to the power that will bring you to the inheritance that Jesus has won for us, that inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith.
Finally – I leave you with these words of Jesus –
They are the words Jesus spoke to his disciples just before he went out to the Garden of Gethsemane and onward from there to his cross and his death.
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 hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Believe in God, believe also in me. Amen.