While watching a Christmas show on tv the other day, a commercial came on with a cardiologist talking about good heart health. He said that it has become well known that stress causes heart problems. “So go out and dance, laugh, play, do something for others, have fun! Each of these activities exercises the body and reduces stress.” Get off the couch, the computer, the phone, and be active! One of the important results and a source of healing is peace. Peace comes with reduced stress.
A popular greeting with Jesus and the Disciples was ‘Peace be with you.” Outside of the cold and flu season, we include ‘sharing the peace’ in the worship experience. It’s not just a break from liturgy, songs, and prayers, but it is a time when we are wishing one another PEACE. We stand up and move around seeking the best for others.
So what does peace look, feel, or sound like? Do you have peace in your life? When, with whom, or doing what seeds peace in your mind, body, and heart? And how often do we feel at peace?
Today’s reading from Isaiah is filled with messages of peace. I will trust and not be afraid, for the Lord is my strength. With JOY you will draw water from the well of salvation. Give Thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds, proclaim his name. Sing praises to the Lord, shout aloud and sing for joy for great in your presence is the Holy One of Israel. Did you notice the action of this passage? Trust, give, call, make known, proclaim, sing, and shout are activities that the Prophet Isaiah knows will bring peace.
The Apostle Paul emphasizes peace in our Philippians reading. Rejoice in the Lord! Be gentle, don’t be anxious, pray, be thankful, and present requests to God. Action, activity, be joyful and don’t worry! “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Guard our hearts and minds from what? From anxiety, worry, and fear.
We see the common theme again in Luke. “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” Luke goes on to say, Do not think about saying…we have Abraham as our father, for I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. Or in contemporary language, don’t get lazy because of your own comforts. Just because God has blessed your life for whatever reason (your family name, the place you live, the things you have accomplished), doesn’t mean that you should take these blessings for granted. Go out and use your blessings to help others. God can take away just as he has provided.
We read about gathering the wheat and burning the chaff. That doesn’t sound very peaceful. But God has promised that justice will happen. Trusting in that promise provides some peace. And let’s not confuse justice with punishment. Justice is the act of bearing fruit.
From Matthew 7:16-20 we read, ‘You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” Peace is one result of bearing good fruit.
Jesus loves you and forgives you. Believing that statement nurtures peace and inspires us to bear Christ-like fruit. When we release the need to impress or to do things in order to justify ourselves, we can experience God’s peace. Let us live each day as a testimony to our faith, bearing fruit that nurtures and lifts up others as loved children of God. Amen.