by Charles LaFond
What does Jesus mean by MY peace, exactly? What is Jesus’ peace?
This week we celebrated the ascension. In John’s loop-de-loop gospel, everything is entwined and sounds terribly busy. Like the vines of morning glories, Jesus weaves loops of meaning sometimes hard to interpret with sayings like “I am in you and you are in me and I am in the Father… but one thing in John’s gospel that is clear and direct is Jesus’ offer of His peace. Not just “peace I leave with you.” but “MY peace I leave with you.”
I wonder about the use of the word “my” before the word “peace.” It seems that just leaving us with “peace” would have been a good gesture in advance of Jesus’ lift-off. But Jesus seems to own the brand. Jesus has a kind of peace that is not like the peace offered by “the world.” And what we know about the term “The world” in John’s gospel and in the early church writings is that “world” does not refer to the planet on which we live, but to the noise in which we live. “The world” for Jesus is the psychic, emotional and physical noise that so distracts us and so enflames our worst fears and anxieties. And I wonder what the first century Jesus would have thought of the modern cell phone – a buzzing computer which we can now buy for our wrist! Were we really set free from Egypt or does the Pharaoh live on our wrists, buzzing and beeping to make us do more, and faster? Do we notice God’s buzzing and tapping as readily as we notice the buzzing and tapping on our wrists and in our pocket?
The constant vibrating messages – “look at this, notice this, be aware of this, you have a message, you have another message, someone has sent you a text and now you have message and now another text and now an email and now a text and you have an appointment in 15 minutes and another text and an email and the appointment is now upon you but before you step in, here are two more emails – and you must respond to them because if you don’t, they will think you are not paying attention, so no matter how many emails you get – and also texts – you need to respond to them all right now, urgently – and then of course they will get your response and they will respond, meaning that you will respond, and now you have more texts and emails, and if for even a moment you feel fear or anxiety of any kind you can always surf the net and buy something in a matter of seconds and you can use a credit card for that but then the bills will come and then you will have to pay them and then you will need to do spring cleaning and get rid of all the things you bought five years ago which you cannot now quite remember why you bought but at the time it seemed right because at the time you were feeling unsure about life and owning something new made you feel in control. And you have a new email. And two texts since you started thinking about spring cleaning. And texts….and then there is Facebook…”
Jesus says “my peace I leave you.” What we know about Jesus’ peace is that it comes from being alone, still with God in silence and stillness; alone on a hillside in the dark. Yelling at God when frustrated or angry. Weeping at God when hurt or confused. Whispering to God when we have a desire or longing or hope. Wailing at God when in grief and loss. Wondering with God when we are peaceful enough to be able to wonder.
I remain convinced that Satan does his best work not by tempting us into sin, but rather, by tempting us into noise. Don’t get us to sin too much, Satan, just get us to notice too much. As long as the distraction from God is my cell phone and not a brothel or a bottle, well, there is no paper trail. Why try to get us to do too much sinning when getting us to do too much good is just as effective in distracting us from God? Done and done.
Medicine tells us that when we are distracted by something, the brain takes 25 minutes to get back to whatever we were working on or thinking about before the distraction. So if our wristwatch or cell phone buzzes and dings, statistically, every 3-11 minutes, then where and when and how do we find access to the “my peace” about which Jesus speaks? And if clergy are not centered and still from time to time, are they any different than drunk airline pilots, but perhaps more dangerous?