Peace be with you.
Those are the first words that the terrified disciples heard from the mouth of the one who they thought was dead. Peace be with you. In their fear of being the next to hang on a cross, they had locked themselves in a room. It was the day after Mary had discovered the empty tomb. They had heard of it; some were still unsure what to make of it. They were still afraid.
Peace be with you.
Are not these the words most of us long to hear, most of the time? There is always something to be anxious or fearful about. Mostly we distract ourselves from the dreads that could haunt us if we let them (e.g., climate change). It’s our way of managing. These days fear has moved into the living room and made itself at home, reminding us with a daily death count from Covid-19 to reinforce the message: Stay home > Protect the NHS > Save lives. We fear the disease, the loss of income or livelihood, the impact on loved ones. Our fear and our good common sense have kept us on lockdown.
Last Sunday we again heard the good news of the empty tomb, and with full hearts proclaimed Christ is risen indeed! How will that help us manage the fear that may slip into us on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or …. ?
I’ve said this before: fear in itself is not a bad thing. It’s a real thing; something to listen to and reckon with. The fear which leads us to choose to follow the government guidelines will save lives.
We can have fear and not be fearful. We can experience moments of fear but not let it poison every minute of our lives.
When the disciples came out of that locked room, they were still hunted men. The authorities were still not keen on Jesus. In that sense, nothing had changed. And yet everything had changed. They could now feel the fear and breathe in the peace and power that they had experienced in that locked room in the presence of the risen Christ.
So can we. We can notice the fear and breathe in the peace and the power of the risen Christ. Try it next time you are seized with dread or fear. Close your eyes. Imagine the risen Christ present to you, radiant, gazing on you with love, and breathe in his peace. The peace that passes understanding. The peace that calms the storm. The peace that connects us to the Source of our being.
The very end of today’s story says these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name (John 19:31). The story is told so that we may have life in his name. Life: Full life, real life. In his name: beloved life, connected life, self-giving life.
The peace that we breathe in will flow from our lives. I learned this through my trauma work. Our nervous systems read the nervous systems of people around us. If we are calm in the face of fear, that calm is infectious. The people who we have some kind of interaction with will pick that up and their nervous systems will start to calm. It is a gift we can give our family members and friends, our post man or woman, the person standing two metres away in line at Morrisons, the one who scans our groceries….the list goes on. We may only have contact with a few people over the next days and weeks, but we can give them the gift of peace simply by having accepted it ourselves.
This does not mean that we are “bliss ninnies” – people who waft above reality, smiling and pretending that all is well and wonderful. We know that all is not well and wonderful. We have a saviour who died on a cross and who carried those wounds in his resurrected body. We are under no illusion that life can be hard and unfair and cruel. But we refuse to let fear, dread or despair be the theme tune of our lives. Because we know that we matter (every human being does), that our love can make a difference, that walking the Way of Jesus hastens the kingdom of God. Because we have found our purpose by joining the great flow of God’s love for all God has made. Because we wouldn’t want to live any other way. And when things get tough – as we know they do – we draw on the peace, the power and the presence of the living God.
Peace be with you. Real peace. Deep peace. True peace.
I’ll close with the Gaelic blessing many of us treasure:
Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the gentle night to you
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you
Deep peace of Christ the light of the world to you
Deep peace of Christ to you
In Christian love, Carla