Lasting Peace: Neither Given By Executive Orders Nor Taken By The Coronavirus

Text: John 20:19-31

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

People are angry. People are also still very fearful. You can hear it in the news. You can read it in social media posts.  And then there are those who are angry and fearful at the same time.

The effects of the Coronavirus, as well as the stay-at-home orders, seem to be putting many Americans in distress. Bouncing back and forth between anger and fear, many of us are feeling frustrated, agitated, worried, and confused. Perhaps the best way to explain things is that we are all lacking peace.

Sure, many Americans have peace and quiet at home, without the busyness of life, but during this pandemic and the stay-at-home orders an unsettled mind has emerged. We are not at peace because our security, safety, and normalcy have been shaken.  We are not at peace because we are in the midst of a war against COVID-19.  Our safety, prosperity, and happiness have not only been threatened but removed, leaving us with the lack of peace – anxiety, anger, uncertainty, and sighful aches. 

Things are not made any better when we turn on the news or social media, for the messages that we hear are not voices of peace, but voices that echo the insecurity, fear, and anger already inside our heads.

It is no wonder why experts are so worried about a rise in suicides during COVID-19.   The social distancing that we all are practicing not only is creating economic hardship for many individuals but enhancing social isolation and loneliness for some people. And here is the catch, when we are left alone, we are left with our thoughts.  And our thoughts during this time have more to do with insecurity, fear, and anger, than peace itself.  This is why we all need the voice of the church right now more than ever.

You see, dear friends, the Christian Church is unique in that it gives to troubled minds and souls. The Christian faith is not like all the other fake religions in the world that demand you to pull yourselves up by your bootstraps.  But rather, Christ’s Church gives peace.

Consider for a moment our reading from the gospel of John. The disciples were locked in a room after the crucifixion of Jesus. Now, they were not locked in a room because of a stay-at-home order but because they were afraid.  They were afraid because Jesus was just crucified, died, and buried.  However, amid their fear, in a locked room, Jesus came and stood before them.  He stood before them, not with anger but to give them peace.  The disciples were lousy friends and pathetic disciples – they abandoned Jesus in His death.  Jesus would have had every right to smite them at this point; however, He knew their fear and therefore spoke peace to them.

But we must be careful at this point.  The peace of Jesus is quite different than how we understand peace. You see, it would be a mistake to believe that Jesus was leaving His own feelings of peace with the disciples.  In other words, Jesus didn’t calm the disciples and the room by exerting a calm disposition Himself.  He did not use a sedated airy voice, a tender face with a small smile, and effeminate hand gestures to calm everyone down.  Jesus was not mothering the disciples,

“Hush, little ones.  There, there, I’m going to make you a hot chocolate, sing you a lullaby, and tuck you into your own special beds.”

To the point, Jesus was not trying to transfer His peaceful disposition to them, nor was he trying to invite them into a peaceful tranquility.  Jesus was not trying to implement a so-called Buddhist inner peace by getting the disciples to calm their minds. 

What this means, dear friends, is that the peace of Christianity is not a subjective feeling of peace. When Jesus encountered the disciples in their locked room with fear, He was not speaking a subjective feeling of peace to them. But instead, the peace of Christ is established peace.  It is given regardless of the circumstances of life and especially regardless of feelings.

Think of it this way; the peace of Christ is a security that you, as the baptized, have during the attacks of the devil, knowing that as bad as it gets, the devil is a defeated foe. The peace of Christ is the reality that your sins are forgiven and that you will not suffer the wrath of God on the great last day. This peace is an assurance that you are given by the Holy Spirit that allows you to step into death and not feel the fear of death, for you know that you belong to Christ who has defeated death and is life.  The peace of Christ is to know that Jesus has defeated sin, death, and the devil for you, and nothing can change this reality for you, as the baptized.

And so, this established, objective and concrete peace that you have in Christ is not the same as the peace of the world. The peace that the world gives only comes when evil is removed, whereas, the peace of Christ is yours regardless if there is evil or not.

Listen very carefully, the world will strive for peace by trying to remove anything that is evil or threatening to us as humans.  This is the only kind of peace that the world knows. It is a kind of peace that results in us working to eradicate evil (which is good) and establish a perfect peaceful utopia.  But once evil is destroyed, worldly peace is only temporary until the next threat raises its head. And so, like a carrot on the end of a stick, the world frantically pursues peace but never fully and permanently achieves it. The world seriously exerts itself to remove evil for the sake of obtaining perfect peace, but it never obtains lasting peace. The peace of the world can vanish as quickly as it comes. But you, as the baptized, know that the peace of Christ is yours, regardless of the troubles in this life.

The Lord Jesus Christ spoke and gave peace to the disciples in the locked room after His resurrection.  But keep in mind that the disciples did not live happily ever after with worldly peace – happiness, prosperity, and safety. As we know from church history, all the disciples, except for John, experienced extreme hardships because of the Christian faith. For example, Matthew was killed with a battleax in Ethiopia for the Christian faith.  Peter was crucified upside down. The Apostle Paul was beheaded by Emperor Nero. And let us not forget Mark and Luke, the authors of the second and third Gospels.  Mark was dragged to pieces in Alexandria.  Luke was hanged in Greece.  And yet, every one of these disciples and followers died in the peace of Christ.

Baptized Saints, there is a lasting peace in the Christian faith that the world cannot give and cannot take – it is the peace of Christ given to you.  There is a lasting peace in the Christian faith that executive orders, stay-at-home quarantines, and social distancing cannot give and the Coronavirus cannot take.  This peace is found in the words of Holy Absolution that declare you forgiven of all of your sins. It is a peace that is found in your Baptisms, knowing that you have been snatched from darkness unto light – that the God of the universe has placed his name upon you. It is a peace that is found in bread and wine that is held up to you in the Lord’s Supper - bread and wine that are the true body and blood of Christ. It is a peace of conscience that transcends mere emotions and circumstances so that you might have joy in good fortune and misfortune… that you may have assurance when life is sweet or sour… that you may have courage in sickness or health... that you may have rest in the midst of unrest.

So today, peace be with you in the name of Christ. Peace be upon you in Jesus' name.  Jesus is not only the true gift of your peace, but the one who is able to establish you in peace –objectively and concretely.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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