Sermon, October 28, 2018
“What is Peace?”
In calling upon Jesus as “Son of David”, the blind beggar Bartimaeus demonstrates that he does indeed see who Jesus is. Today, we are meditating upon the very word ‘peace’ and just what it is for each of us. Peace could mean something different for each one of us. For Bartimaeus ‘peace’ seems to be in seeing again. He no longer begs for his food; seeing frees Bartimaeus from oppression. Peace is therefore, life-giving and holds freedom.
The story about Bartimaeus, is about freedom. He won’t shut up. Even though people tell him to. And that’s hard. We are so quick to fall into silence in general, worried about offending or hurting feelings or being rejected or whatever. And so, when folks tell us to shut up, we’re all too quick to oblige. But Bartimaeus won’t. He is free. Free to defy his neighbors. Free to call for help. Free to make his needs known to Jesus. Free. Perhaps he’s suffered enough, or feels like there’s nothing left to lose, or just doesn’t care anymore. Or perhaps he just senses — or, really, sees — that in the presence of Jesus all the rules change, and he is no longer “Blind Bartimaeus” but instead “Bartimaeus, Child of God.” Whatever the reason, he knows he is free and seizes his faith and his courage to live into that freedom and Jesus says that’s what made him well. Peace is about freedom. Freedom from turmoil, anxiety, hatred, prejudice…
A friend of mine who recently had his first cataract removed, is in turmoil over not being able to see at all out of his bad eye and with his good eye he sees clearly at a distance but can’t wear glasses yet for close-up work on the computer; he yearns for peace to come and settle his turmoil. Being able to see, that aha moment in our lives does bring peace to us. It can be a fleeting moment, or it can be a lasting peace.
“Peace” can sound merely sentimental or cliché. But deep down, it’s what most of us long for. Consider the proverb: The highest happiness is peace.
Not a peace inside that ignores pain in oneself or others or is acquired by shutting down. This capital P – Peace is a durable peace, a peace you can come home to – even if it’s been covered over by fear, frustration, or heartache.
When you’re at peace – when you are engaged with life while also feeling relatively relaxed, calm, and safe – you are protected from stress, your immune system grows stronger, and you become more resilient. Your outlook brightens, and you see more opportunities. In relationships, feeling at peace prevents overreactions, increases the odds of being treated well by others, and supports you in being clear and direct when you need to be.
I think there are four kinds of peace, and I’ll point out where each might be found. The first two kinds are pretty straightforward, while the third and fourth take a person into the deep end of the pool. It’s helped me to notice, appreciate, and (hopefully) practice each of these. It’s OK to focus on just one for a while; any peace is better than none!
In particular, enjoy your peacefulness, wherever you find it. In our culture of pressure, invasive demands for attention, and jostling busyness, inner peace must be protected. When you experience it, enjoy it, which will help it sink into you, weaving its way into your brain so it increasingly becomes the habit of your mind.
The Peace of Ease is number one.
This is the peace of relaxation and relief, and it comes in many forms. You look out a window and feel calmer and can talk through a problem with a friend. You exhale slowly, activating the soothing presence of your nervous system. You finish a batch of emails or dishes. You were worried about something but finally get good news.
Whew. At rest. It’s easy to underestimate this sort of peace but it really counts. Take it in when you feel it.
The Peace of Tranquility is number two.
This is deep quiet in mind and body. Perhaps you’ve felt this on first waking, before the mind kicks into gear. Or while sitting next to a mountain pond in prayer, something of its stillness seeps into your heart. At the end of a workout, meditation, or walking, you might have felt serene.
When mind and body are this settled, there is no sense of disturbance, and no struggling with anything, or grasping after it, or clinging to others. There’s an inner freedom, a non-reactivity, that is wonderful.
The Peace of Awareness is number three.
This is a subtler kind of peace. Perhaps you’ve had the experience of being upset and your mind is racing . . . and at the same time there is a place inside that is simply seeing, untroubled by what it sees. Or you may have the sense of awareness as an open space in which sights and sounds, thoughts and feelings, arise and disappear; the space itself is never ruffled or harmed by what passes through it. I think First Responders and Medical Personnel acquire this peace, so they can cope. I’m not speaking of anything mystical here, only what you can see directly in your own mind. As either a bare witness or the space through which the stream of consciousness flows, awareness itself is always at peace. Are you in the deep-end yet?
The Peace of What’s Unchanging is number four.
First, while most things continually change, some don’t; for example, the fact that things change around us doesn’t mean we have to change. There needs to be stability in one’s life. Two plus two will always equal four. The good thing you did this morning or last year will always have happened. Things that don’t change are reliable, which feels peaceful. I think, this is why many people don’t like change in the church. The church must be an unchanging space; a place of peace.
Second, while individual waves come and go, the ocean is always ocean. While the contents of the universe are changing, the universe as universe is not. You can get an insight of this by recognizing that you are a local wave in a vast sea of human culture, human nature, and the physical universe; yes, you are changing, but within an unchanging all-ness of it all. The sense of this, even if fleeting, can really put you at peace. I hope you have kept up with me and haven’t sunk at this deep end of the pool.
Jesus offers “the peace that passeth understanding,” and I understand in a changing world, this quote of Jesus’ is meaningful to many people (including myself).
May we all be at peace.
Believers have an obligation to “let the peace of God rule” in their hearts. This means we have the choice either to trust God’s promises (letting peace rule) or to rely on ourselves and reject the peace God offers. Jesus gave His disciples peace based on the truth that He has overcome the world. Peace is a fruit of the Spirit, so, if we are allowing the Spirit of God to rule in our lives, we will experience God’s peace. To be spiritually minded brings life and peace.
The world will continue to have wars and interpersonal conflicts until Jesus comes to establish true, lasting peace, but God will give peace to those who trust God who makes it possible for us to have peace. Once God’s peace rules in our hearts, we are then able to share that peace with others; we become publishers of peace and ministers of reconciliation. Then our eyes will be truly open and we will see!
Peace truly is a gift from God. Amen.