The Sixth Sunday of Easter
Pastor George Pejakovich
John 14:23-29

 


ON THE NIGHT BEFORE HIS PASSION, JESUS TELLS HIS DISCIPLES MANY THINGS; INCLUDING THE PROMISE OF THE COMING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, ABOUT WHICH WE WILL HAVE MORE TO SAY PRETTY SOON. KNOWING WHAT IS TO COME, HE PREPARES HIS FOLLOWERS BY GIVING THEM HIS PEACE. WE TEND TO THINK OF PEACE AS SIMPLY THE ABSENCE OF CONFLICT; AN END TO WAR AND VIOLENCE, WHICH IS SURELY A GOOD THING. YET PEACE CAN TAKE MANY FORMS IN THIS WORLD, AS IN THE CASE OF ROME WHICH KEPT THE PEACE BY THE SWORDS OF THE LEGIONS. WE PRAY FOR PEACE IN OUR COMMUNITY, WHICH IS ENFORCED BY THE EFFORTS OF OUR POLICE DEPARTMENT. WE PRAY FOR PEACE FOR OUR NATION, YET OUR ARMED FORCES STAND READY DAY AND NIGHT TO RISE TO OUR DEFENSE. WE PRAY FOR PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST, YET CAN’T SEEM TO COME UP WITH A SOLUTION THAT WILL LEAD TO PEACE. SOME OF US MAY EVEN PRAY FOR PEACE IN OUR HOMES, TO RESOLVE THE CONFLICTS OF SIMPLY LIVING TOGETHER. JESUS, HOWEVER, MEANS SOMETHING DIFFERENT. HIS PEACE IS MORE THAN THE ABSENCE OF CONFLICT; IT HAS ITS OWN PRESENCE AND POWER.

HAVING SPENT SOME YEARS AS A HOSPICE CHAPLAIN, I HAVE MET MANY DYING PEOPLE WHO HAVE SAID THAT THEY WERE AT PEACE. THEY WERE SAYING MORE THAN THAT THEY WERE FREE FROM CONFLICT, BUT WERE INSTEAD SAYING THAT THEY FELT A SENSE OF WHOLENESS, OR COMPLETENESS, EVEN RIGHTNESS IN THEIR WHOLE BEING. THEY WERE EXPRESSING A HARMONY OF THEIR SELVES WITH THEIR SELVES AND THOSE AROUND THEM; A SENSE OF CONTENTMENT, EVEN FULFILLMENT, AND THAT GOD WAS WITH THEM EVEN THROUGH THE DYING PROCESS. THIS IS THE KIND OF PEACE THAT JESUS GIVES TO HIS DISCIPLES, AND THAT PEACE CAN COME TO US DESPITE HARDSHIPS, STRUGGLES, CONFLICTS, AND THE PRESSURES OF THIS LIFE.

WHEN I SERVED AS THE PROTESTANT CHAPLAIN AT EUROPEAN COMMAND HEADQUARTERS, THE CONGREGATION INCLUDED A GREAT NUMBER OF VERY SENIOR OFFICERS AND FAMILIES OF ALL SERVICES. I WAS CONSTANTLY UNDER THE EYES OF THOSE WHO, WITH THE STROKE OF A PEN, COULD HAVE ENDED MY CAREER. I DIDN’T WORRY ABOUT THAT, AND WAS MY USUAL SELF; WHAT I DID WORRY ABOUT WAS MY DAUGHTER. THINK OF A FEMALE ME WITH AN ATTITUDE AND A CHIP ON HER SHOULDER. I WAS CONSTANTLY AFRAID THAT SHE WAS ABOUT TO DO SOMETHING THAT WOULD EMBARRASS ME AND MY POSITION. MY FEAR WAS NOT UNFOUNDED.

ON A YOUTH GROUP TRIP TO A RESORT IN SPAIN, WHICH I LATER FOUND OUT WAS LIKE A CROSS BETWEEN LAS VEGAS AND SPRING BREAK, HER FRIEND ALLISON GOT DRUNK, AND MY DAUGHTER, IN RISING TO HER DEFENSE, ANGERED THE YOUTH STAFF AND CHAPERONES TO THE POINT THAT THEY KICKED THEM OUT AND SENT THEM HOME. WHEN I GOT THE PHONE CALL TELLING ME THEY HAD PUT TWO 15-YEAR-OLD GIRLS ON BUS TO MADRID, TO CATCH A TRAIN TO PARIS, TO GET THE TRAIN TO STUTTGART, I WAS LIVID. WHEN I WAS TOLD IT WOULD TAKE THEM THREE DAYS TO GET TO STUTTGART, MY COMMENTS TO THE YOUTH STAFF AND CHAPERONES WERE FAR FROM CALMLY MINISTERIAL. AFTER I SLAMMED THE PHONE DOWN, MY FEAR AND ANGER TURNED TOWARDS MY DAUGHTER. HOW COULD SHE DO SUCH A THING TO ME?

FOR THREE DAYS I WORRIED, AND INITIALLY WONDERED WHAT I WOULD DO WITH HER, THINKING I WOULD HAVE TO SEND HER TO LIVE WITH HER GRANDPARENTS AS FAR FROM MY MINISTRY AS POSSIBLE. THEN I BEGAN TO PRAY IN EARNEST. FOR THREE DAYS I PRAYED, AND KEPT HEARING THIS QUIET VOICE IN MY MIND REPEATING ONE WORD; PEACE. I DIDN’T WANT PEACE, I WANTED PUNISHMENT, I WANTED OBEDIENCE, I WANTED RESPECT FOR ME AND FOR MY POSITION, BUT ALL I COULD HEAR WAS “PEACE.” AT THE END OF THE SECOND DAY, I FINALLY SAID, “YES, LORD, I HEAR YOU,” AND A GREAT CALM CAME OVER ME. MY ANGER DISAPPEARED AND WAS REPLACED WITH MY LOVE FOR MY DAUGHTER, AND MY WORRY WAS COMPLETELY GONE.

WHEN I MET THE TWO MISCREANTS AT THE BAHNHOF, I GREETED MY DAUGHTER WITH A KISS AND HUGGED HER FRIEND ALLISON. I DIDN’T SAY A WORD ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED, AND THE GIRLS WERE SILENT ON THE DRIVE BACK TO THE BASE. WE DROPPED ALLISON OFF AT HER APARTMENT BLOCK, AND WENT HOME. WHEN WE GOT HOME, MY DAUGHTER WENT STRAIGHT TO HER ROOM, AND I FIXED A DRINK, SAT DOWN IN MY CHAIR, AND LIT MY PIPE. ABOUT A HOUR LATER, MY DAUGHTER CAME OUT OF HER ROOM SOBBING, DROPPED TO HER KNEES BY MY CHAIR, WRAPPED HER ARMS AROUND MY LEGS, TELLING ME HOW SORRY SHE WAS AND BEGGED FOR MY FORGIVENESS. HAD I REACTED IN THE WAY I WANTED, I WOULD HAVE LOST MY DAUGHTER. RESPONDING TO HER WITH THE PEACE GIVEN TO ME BY OUR LORD OPENED TO US THE GIFT OF PEACE BETWEEN US, AND FROM THAT MOMENT OUR RELATIONSHIP GREW BETTER AND BETTER. OF COURSE, SHE WAS STILL AN OCCASIONAL PAIN IN MY FIFTH POINT OF CONTACT, AND STILL IS BECAUSE SHE IS A LOT LIKE ME, BUT WE ARE STILL LINKED TOGETHER BY THE PEACE AND LOVE OF CHRIST.

THE PEACE OF CHRIST IS A GIFT OF THE GRACE OF GOD, WHICH WE FEEL MOST WHEN WE GIVE OVER TO GOD A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF CONTROL OF ALL THE THINGS WE WORRY OR FRET ABOUT. WE DON’T SURRENDER RESPONSIBILITY, BUT DO RECOGNIZE THAT THERE ARE REAL LIMITS TO WHAT WE CAN AFFECT OR DO ON OUR OWN, AND PLACE OURSELVES, OUR LOVED ONES, OUR CAREERS, OUR FORTUNES, AND OUR FUTURES IN THE HANDS OF GOD. IN THE PEACE OF CHRIST, WE CAN LIFT UP OUR EYES FROM THE TROUBLES AND WORRIES THAT COME UPON US, AND SEE ALL THE THINGS IN OUR LIVES, AND THOSE AROUND US, AS THE GIFTS OF GOD WORTHY OF OUR LOVE AND ATTENTION. IN HIS PEACE, I GAINED A WONDERFUL SMART AND SASSY DAUGHTER.
AMEN