Sermon: John 20:19-23 The peace that passes all understanding

Who has a place a place of peace; a safe place; an area set aside, for you to be still and to refocus your life? And where is it; what is your place of peace?

An artist was commissioned by a wealthy man to paint something that would depict peace. After a great deal of thought, the artist painted a beautiful country scene. There were green fields with cows standing in them, birds were flying in the blue sky and a lovely little village lay in a distant valley. The artist gave the picture to the man, but there was a look of disappointment on his face. The man said to the artist, “This isn’t a picture of true peace. It isn’t right. Go back and try again.

The artist went back to his studio, thought for several hours about peace, then went to his canvas and began to paint. When he was finished, there on the canvas was a beautiful picture of a mother, holding a sleeping baby in her arms, smiling lovingly at the child.

He thought, surely, this is true peace, and hurried to give the picture to the wealthy man. But again, the wealthy man refused the painting and asked the painter to try again.

The artist returned again to his studio. He was discouraged, he was tired and he was disappointed. Anger swelled inside him, he felt the rejection of this wealthy man. Again, he thought, he even prayed for inspiration to paint a picture of true peace. Then, all of a sudden an idea came, he rushed to the canvas and began to paint as he had never painted before. When he finished, he hurried to the wealthy man.

He gave the painting to the man. He studied it carefully for several minutes. The artist held his breath. Then the wealthy man said, “Now this is a picture of true peace.” He accepted the painting, paid the artist and everyone was happy.

And what was this picture of true peace?? The picture showed a stormy sea pounding against a cliff. The artist had captured the furry of the wind as it whipped black rain clouds which were laced with streaks of lightening. The sea was roaring in turmoil, waves churning, the dark sky filled with the power of the furious thunderstorm.

And in the middle of the picture, under a cliff, the artist had painted a small bird, safe and dry in her nest snuggled safely in the rocks. The bird was at peace midst the storm that raged about her. (1)

Peace is not about stopping the storm, its about finding peace in the midst of a our storms; being at peace, or having inner peace, even while all around us, troubles and despair reign down. To find peace we often run for cover to a physical place; a geographical point away from life’s storms. However, a physical place can never give true peace. Jesus’ disciples had just endured a very severe personal storm. They just witness the crucifixion of their dear friend and teacher, and now they were gathered together behind closed doors, in a place of refuge; a place they had run to, in the hope it would give them some peace from the ongoing turmoil.

Yet even here they found little refuge. Despite removing themselves physically from the storm ravaging outside, inside their hearts fear deprived them of the peace they so desperately needed; fear they would be found by the Jews; fear of what were the Jewish leaders were going to do; fear they would be arrested; fear of life without hope, stripped them of any peace.

This same search for peace is going on in each and every one of us. You and I are not exempt from life’s storms, and neither is anyone else. Every one in this town has their own storm to endure; personal hardship which causes restlessness and despair. We, like the disciples, are very good at hiding from our storm; our personal problems, by going to a place we hope for peace; we hide our emotions, our true feelings, our worst fears, behind the closed doors of our private homes, or behind the empty bottle of whisky in the pub; or the gambling rooms; or behind the magazine in the porn shops.

Yet, as we all know too well, our personal storms still rage within our hearts. There is no peace to be found in a geographical place; even with in the walls of a church building. Peace, true peace which passes all understanding, is only found in the one who can bring peace in the midst of a storm; only found in the one who comes to us, into our hiding places, into our hearts and to say ‘peace be with you.’ And that person is the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

In the midst of the disciple’s storm, Jesus came and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Jesus imparts the peace the disciples so desperately needed. He tells them that they can feel peace in their hearts. In the midst of the storm, He is with them, and they had nothing to worry about. He has endured and overcome sin, suffering and even death. He is the nest in which we can rest in the midst of our storms. He showed them his hands and side to prove to them that he wasn’t a ghost, but that he was the same Jesus they had known, the same Jesus they had seen crucified just three days earlier. The same Jesus who said he is the way and the truth, and the resurrection and the life.

Jesus breathes/imparts/anoints the disciples with the Spirit who brings Peace, the peace which passes all understanding; the peace we now have between God and us, through the forgiveness of sins. We, as members the churches of Gilgandra also have this peace. The Spirit of God breathed upon us, anointed over us through the word and water of our baptism. We have the peace in the midst of the storm that only Jesus can give, yet have we inturn imparted this peace upon the people of this town?

Peace is what they so desperately need. We may not be united in doctrine, we may not worship in the same buildings, but we are united by the same peace of Jesus. And this peace, which you and I treasure, has no denominational boundaries, no cultural barriers or age restrictions. Our challenge as Christ’s disciple’s, is to be Jesus in the midst of the people of Gilgandra; in the midst of their storms.

Jesus comes to you in an invisible way, through his Word, not to stop our storms, but to bring peace in the midst of the storm. Every time you hear the Word of God, Jesus steps into your life and says, “Peace be with you.” Every time you receive the Lord’s Supper, Jesus is right there, through his body and blood, and he fills you with faith and hope and peace. Through the Word, through the Sacraments, that’s how Jesus appears to you and speaks to you, just as he did to the disciples. But it is you and I, the disciples of Jesus, who then go out into the storms of others with the peace of Jesus.

It is you and I, the churches of Gilgandra who can make a difference. We don’t need to be the stiller of the storm, but we are called to bring Jesus’ Spirit of peace in the midst of people’s storms. Like this picture depicts. (look at it, meditate on it, what is it saying to you?) Jesus, with his hand upon your shoulder, will guide you and provide for you a path into and through someone’s storm; a path to reach them; a path to enable you to place you hand on their shoulder and say ‘the peace of God which passes all understanding, all storms, keep you always in Christ Jesus’. Amen