Today’s post is part of an ongoing guest blogger series on The Peace of Christ. Carol Howard Merritt shares:
One of my favorite stories in the Bible was when Jesus appeared in the upper room. He had been killed, and a couple of days later, his body was missing. Mary saw him, walking around in the garden. She thought he was a worker, until he uttered her name and she realized it was her teacher. Mary told the disciples that she had seen Jesus, but the news was unbelievable, and they couldn’t be quite sure. Then, with all the developments, the group of friends was suspected of stealing the body.
And so the disciples met, and locked the door. Even though they were afraid what would happen to them if they were found gathered together, they could not help but do it. Even when their lives were in danger, they were drawn to each other, praying, planning, consoling, and trying to gain a bit of courage.
I can almost imagine the stale, hot room, alive with anxiety and trepidation. The followers of Jesus bolted inside, and then Jesus appeared, with the immediate words, “Peace be with you.”
I personally believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, but the fact that he’s walking through walls or appearing out of nowhere at this point in the story doesn’t really help my unbelief. It must have really startled the men. Why else would Jesus immediately utter, “Peace”? And if that initial greeting wasn’t enough, he said it again, blew on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
They had heard the word from Jesus before, in turbulent and dangerous times. Jesus called out peace to the wind and waves, when the disciples were being battered back and forth in the midst of a storm.
I, for one, am glad that we don’t blow on each other when we greet one another, but we do say, “Peace.” We echo the words that Jesus used to calm the storm. We repeat the greeting of Jesus, who appeared in the midst of that anxious fear. And we do it, realizing that the peace of Christ can go beyond all our understanding.
And it’s a good thing, because after being a pastor for a while now, I realize that anxiety is plaguing this nation. We’ve become worried and fearful of so many things.
The economy is not doing well, and people are losing their jobs. Families are not able to keep up with their mortgages, and are forced into foreclosure. People live without insurance, worried about each and every health issue that they face. There is the fear of war and terrorism that looms over us. And our concern for environmental destruction, AIDS, and global poverty continues to haunt us. Families often fall apart, and the strain of chemical and substance abuse is so clear in our country.
And yet, in the middle of this stormy anxiety, we greet each other with that word that goes beyond all understanding: “Peace.” That simple utterance means so many things. It’s a prayer to our Creator, who calls all things into existence with a word. It is a blessing that we leave with one another, as an act of concern and hospitality. And, it is a word that can conjure up the very Spirit of God into our midst.
Carol Howard Merritt is a pastor of Western Presbyterian Church, an intergenerational congregation in Washington, D.C. Carol’s the author of “Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation”, which was published by The Alban Institute in September 2007. Using the term “tribe” with a nod to Ethan Watters, the Tribal Church is one that cares for young adults, understands their context, makes room for their beliefs, and supports their search for faith, meaning, and love. Carol blogs at http://tribalchurch.org