Modern life is anything but peaceful. We are on edge and on the go constantly. Our waking hours, and perhaps even in our sleep, are dominated by concerns about how to pay bills...care for, or be a part of, family...work (which we may not like nor have passion for or find fulfilling) or searching for work at a time when the economy is in limbo and a job, any job, is a keeper. We are bombarded with cultural messages to spend and consume. (which means acquiring the money to do so) Do we have the latest phone, TV, car, dress, purse, Jimmy Choo shoes, skinny jeans or the latest styled jacket? We are on edge over a love life, or the lack of one. Adolescents are tweeting about fears of what they will be when they grow up and adults self-medicate because of how their lives have unfolded. Add to all of this the sheer, real, ear-splitting, nerve-jangling noise which is a constant of modern life and the last thing that one can say is we know a lot of peace. (is it any wonder anti-depressants are a multi-billion dollar industry and a new study says depression among adolescents is up over 60%)
As we approach the celebration of Easter, we do so fragile and splintered yet the whole point of Easter is we have a chance to restore peace to our lives. What the apostles, and others, discovered that Sunday morning is an insight...a hint...an epiphany about life and how to have a peaceful one where you do not have to be afraid. See, this is the key to the good news. Jesus' message was not about heaven, or afterlife, or kingdoms to come. From His baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist, to His appearance in the upper room, Jesus consistently told those around Him to be at peace and not to be afraid. Why was he so sure? Why was He seemingly fearless and peaceful? What did He know that we didn't?
Jesus knew how close He was to God...the more He trusted in God...the more He let go of things, the more peace flowed over Him. He describes this closeness as like that between a mother or father and a child...intimate...Abba.
Now comes the good part...Jesus proclaimed this same relationship with God is ours for the taking. We too could be so close to God that peace will flow like a river. We too can take all the noise, pressure, stress, which is day-to-day life and let it roll off of us like water off a duck's back. We can trust in God so implicitly that not even death can stop us nor do we have to fear it. Resurrection, which we celebrate on Easter, is ours too. This is the good news.
It sounds so easy. Who wouldn't want to be at peace and not to be afraid anymore? Yet, when we look around we don't see allot of peace...don't feel peaceful...we worry and fear...the world certainly isn't peaceful, so what happened? Sin is what happened. We have freely chosen to attach to things...to this world...to our basic desires for pleasure and satisfying our desires...for ego and pride...and the result is not intimacy but rather separation. (since God created all "things", God by definition cannot be a "thing", God must be "no-thing"...nothing. When we hold on to things...prioritize things...seek out things...we lose intimacy with God) There is no clearer reason why I am in prison and why I chose to hurt my family and myself than an obsession with things and a failure to trust in God. (interestingly, this is the same message of Buddhism which teaches the more you let go of things, the better you can handle the suffering which life throws at you)
Jesus' message is constant. Love your neighbor. Love your enemies. Turn the other cheek. Forgive an infinite number of times. Whatever you do for the least of your brothers and sisters you do for God. Implied in all of this is a focus on others, developing a closeness with God which promises you two things...you will be at peace and don't have to be afraid any longer.
Have you ever had a genuine moment of peace? A moment of living without fear? If not why not? If so, how badly did you want to experience it again and again...seek it out...try to replicate it if you could? In the upper room, on His first appearance after Easter, Jesus breathes on them (recalling God breathing on Adam and Eve in Genesis) and says, "...peace, my peace I give to you." This is the central message of the gospel. We can do what Jesus did. We can be intimate with God. We can experience peace because we trust in God. Sin sews doubt and fear, but Easter is the celebration of a man who was at peace and wasn't afraid...even when faced with his own death...sin lost.
This is my last Easter in captivity. I will come out of this place, and this experience, less afraid and more at peace than at any time in my life. All I needed to achieve this was to have my ego crushed, pride stripped, every "thing" taken away and the time to contemplate the state of my relationship with God. I was forced to let go and to trust, which was so, so hard, in God. I am still a work in progress, and I still love certain things, most especially my wife and children, and can be filled with fear, but the Easter message, ..."Alleluia, Alleluia, He is risen," fills me with joy and I wish all of you that same joy.
Happy Easter, and please remember the world is alive with the grandeur of God.