January 29, 2012

Peace of God

We have seen that Paul gives advice on living a holy life in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 and Philippians 4:4-9. He says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” (download the citations here) As we look to the Lord in joy, prayer and thanksgiving something amazing happens. We find that the Spirit of the Lord gives us peace.

Paul says we will “not quench the Spirit” when we look to God in prayer and joy (1 Thessalonians 5:9) and that the “God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9). Isn’t peace a wonderful thing to seek? And even better to obtain? But how…? We seek God-with prayer, thanksgiving, and rejoicing.

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘peace’? Does a dove, like the one in this blog pop into your head? Is it the absence of violence or a calm, quiet place? Certainly peace can be like that, but I am almost always reminded of the hymn “They cast their nets in Galilee” by William Alexander Percy. It gives a different picture of what the ‘peace of God’ really is.

They cast their nets in Galilee
Just off the hills of brown
Such happy simple fisherfolk
Before the Lord came down

Contented peaceful fishermen
Before they ever knew
The peace of God That fill'd their hearts
Brimful and broke them too.
Young John who trimmed the flapping sail,
Homeless, in Patmos died.
Peter, who hauled the teeming net,
Head-down was crucified.
The peace of God, it is no peace,
But strife closed in the sod,
Yet, brothers, pray for but one thing -
The marvelous peace of God.

The hymn is a reminder that the Peace of God is active and calls us to step out of our comfort zone, like the disciples did. The result may not be what we anticipate but God is with us if we just look around for His presence. Sometimes it is our very hurts that put us face to face with God. And then we find peace.

When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:5-38) she was a seeker. Because of her lifestyle, she was ostracized from the townsfolk of Sychar. Yet, it was that very shunning that put her in a position to meet Jesus. She came to draw water at an unusual time of day (the 6th hour), separate from the other women. Getting water at noon was unusual. Most women came early in the morning so they could do their daily chores. The Samaritan woman comes later, when the gossips were busy in their homes. I imagine she was hurt by their contempt and so she avoided them.

Jesus tells her “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give will never thirst…the water…will become a spring of water welling up for eternal life” and she responds, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst.” (John 4:14-15) I am reminded of the image of an artesian well, which is basically a spring bubbling up from the ground and not needing a pump because the pressure below pushes the water out. God’s peace is like that, bubbling up and giving drink to our souls in good times and bad. Sometimes the droplets are lovely things like sunsets and kittens, at others the drops contain sorrow or pain. God is in all the water drops-offering and providing peace.

The Samaritan Woman might add another verse to the hymn:

She came seeking water that day
A woman wanting peace of heart.
Jesus offered living water,
And peace she raced to impart.

The peace of God is living water refreshing our souls in the ups and downs of life. Each day offers a new start, a new chance to find God in each event. With the hymnist, we should “pray for but one thing - The marvelous peace of God.”

Next week we’ll look at ways to practice all that Paul suggests-the prayer, rejoicing, thanksgiving and seeking the peace of God.

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