A rose that was saved from war helped the world to celebrate peace. Are we leaving peace behind as our gift to eternity in every moment?
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
– John 14:27
I spend a fair amount of time online during my work and studies, and I make it a point to try to seek out different points of view there when I am taking a break. Sometimes I get involved with discussions in an online group devoted to agnostics – people who believe that there might be a God, but who aren’t sure that there’s proof of one. In general, there are some good discussions in this group, even if we don’t always see eye to eye on every issue.
I try to be peaceful in these groups, and to be the best example of how I’d like to be treated by others. But to be truthful, sometimes it’s not easy. Sometimes people get stuck on their own ideas, and I find myself defending my own ideas as being right, rather than letting everyone have their own ideas in peace. I feel it coming, I see it happening, but still, when I am tired, sometimes temptation gets the best of me. I may not leave a word behind that’s hurtful, but still, I don’t always leave peace behind. Prayers afterwards may help, but preparing for those moments through prayer would have been better!
A rose saved for peace
I suppose some recent exchanges like this led to my children’s sermon today at First United Methodist Church, Middletown. I was doing some gardening yesterday, so when I read our Pastor’s focus verse for her sermon from John’s gospel, a picture of the Peace Rose came into my mind for the kids as a symbol of healing. The Peace Rose is a very popular rose in today’s gardens around the world, with a deep yellow center and a gentle pink blush at its edges. As World War II was starting in 1939, though, the French rose breeder Francis Meilland, who invented this breed of flower, feared that the beautiful rose would be destroyed. He sent off clippings of the new rose around the world to be bred in safe places. At the end of the war, Meilland proposed that the rose be named after Field Marshal Alan Brooke, the British military leader who devised the Allies’ overall strategy for winning the war.
But Field Marshal Brooke said no, and suggested that the best name for the rose would be “Peace.” How right he was – what saved people in World War II was not a vision for war, but the vision of a time of peace that could prevail.
Are we ready to receive peace?
In today’s lectionary reading from John’s gospel, Jesus is preparing his disciples for carrying on his message after he is gone. The Son of God has an opportunity to frame his legacy for the world. What was the most important thing that Jesus was leaving behind? Was it wisdom? Power? Knowledge? No, Jesus said that what he wanted to leave the world with peace. Jesus did his very best to bring peace to the world in everything that he did. Even when he got angry, he was trying to clear the way for peace. He challenged the Pharisees and leaders of the Temple by turning upside down their ideas as to who we should be with God, and he literally turned the money-changers’ tables in the temple court upside down, but this was to make way for the peace that comes from being close to God’s love and awesome, healing power. Jesus cleared the way for eternal peace in the here and now, forever.
The Holy Spirit makes it happen
God’s presence as Jesus was one with the Creator, and one with the Holy Spirit – the “helper,” the “advocate” that Jesus promises the disciples as he leaves them with his peace. Jesus makes it clear in this passage from John’s gospel that God’s Holy Spirit brings the gift of peace to the world in Christ. If we rush off with our own spirit, our own knowledge, we’re going to miss out on the power that God is ready to give us to act in Jesus’ footsteps. We’ll leave something behind, but it won’t be God’s everlasting peace.
When I seek the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, my eyes and ears open up to lessons in the simplest of things in creation, and my heart opens up to God’s love in the midst of the pain that we cannot avoid in this world. Hurtful words from people evoke compassion, and a willingness to speak the truth in love, not hate. Jesus told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would come to them even before he was crucified, according to John’s gospel, and Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into them as soon as he arose from the dead. But even then, he need to teach them about what life in the Spirit would be like before he ascended to heaven. We cannot turn on the Holy Spirit like a faucet – we have to prepare ourselves for its presence.
Spirit-filled living makes us peace-leavers
Through prayer, mindful awareness of God’s presence, study, worship, fellowship, and service, we prepare the way for the Holy Spirit to be our legacy in God’s world. Every moment that we are on this earth will become a moment in eternity as soon as we’ve lived it. How do we want that moment to be remembered as our legacy? Do we want to be unprepared for leaving a legacy of peace, or do we want to be prepared for God’s Holy Spirit to help and advocate inside of us for God’s vision of peace in our lives as our legacy? Moment by moment, we have a choice as to how we are going to prepare for the next moment in eternity. Will we prepare to let the Holy Spirit leave God’s peace through us right now, for as long as we can? With God’s help, let’s make it so, together.