Tuesday, June 17, 2014

May the peace of God be with you

Porque de todo corazon ofrecieron a Jehova voluntariamente. 1 Cronicas 29,9

Asimismo, hermanos, os hacemos saber la gracia de Dios que se ha dado a las iglesias de Macedonia; que en grande prueba de tribulacion, la abundancia de su gozo y su profunda probreza abundaron en riquezas de su generosidad. 2 Corintios 8,1-2

SeƱor, con frequencia solo bastan pequenos gestos para hacer feliz a mis hermanos y hermanas, pero a pesar de su simplicidad, son los gestos mas valiosos ante tus ojos. Maestro del amor, ensename tu hermosa arte de dar abnegadamente con alegria y con el corazon.

The cathedral bells ring every half hour all night long in Santiago. And seagulls call as they circle the two towers. And the quiet sounds of a city, glasses tinkling and soft laughter rise and are gathered outside the open attic window on our fifth floor room of this little pension, La Santa Cristina.

And as I listened throughout the peaceful night, I considered what lies ahead, the road back home, as the priest yesterday carefully reminded the hundreds of pilgrims before him, the important Way,  the Be perfect as I am perfect Way of following Jesus, I wondered what that would look like in Tucson, Arizona, and my world of checklists and schedules and Important Things To Do.

And one of the things I read this morning was a wonderful article in Leadership Magazine, by Gordon McDonald, a man made wise through his own pilgrimage on The Quiet Strength of a Peaceful Leader.

Peace is an oft-used word in and beyond the Bible. In its largest sense, it describes any system in which there is order, justice, and security. The Romans talked about peace (Pax Romana), but their system was sustained through violence and intimidation. The Jews of Jerusalem had their own concepts of peace: a kingdom that mirrored the ancient reign of David. These were concepts of peace imposed from the outside of a person.

But then Jesus came, speaking of a peace that took root inside a person. This peace was impervious to any form of opposition. You can do away with the body, Jesus said, but never the soul. His was a radical idea: that all things start in a person's heart.

The monastics made this point with a story: A cruel warlord confronted an old monk, commanding the monk to bow to him, but the monk refused.

"Do you know who I am?" bellowed the warlord. "I am he who has the power to run you through with a sword."

"And do you know who I am?" responded the monk. "I am he who has the power to let you run me through with a sword."

This old man, unbowed, was peaceful from his core. He operated out of an ordered heart.

Jesus said his peace was not compatible with the "world's" view of peace (John 14:27). He created a movement whose trademarks were humility, compassion, mercy, and a breaking down of barriers that traditionally separated people. And this movement needed peaceful leaders.

And lest I feel overwhelmed by it all, the longings of my heart that I believe are His longings as well, I am to remember, He calmed the storm with but one word.

Paul referred to this as "the peace of Christ," and he urged Colossian Christ-followers to reorient themselves around this trait.

"My peace I give you … don't let your hearts be troubled," Jesus said to the disciples. When Christ's peace prevailed, one's instinct to hate, to fear, to dominate, to grasp and control was arrested. In fact, one of the premier evidences that Jesus was truly Lord of a person's life (or a group's life, for that matter) was that his way of peace effectively overcame trouble in one's heart, in one's relationships, and in one's connection with God.

We should not confuse the peace of Christ with niceness, or feeling good, or conflict-avoidance. The peaceful Jesus was hardly a wimp. The Jesus that wreaked havoc on the Temple money-launderers was justifiably furious. The weeping Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus was deeply moved over the loss of a friend. The courageous Jesus, ignoring his outraged critics, visited the home of Zachaeus because he wished to redeem a corrupt man.

"Blessed are the peacemakers," the Savior taught. "Go in peace," he said to a healed woman. "Peace," he shouted at a threatening storm. To more than a few, he said, "Peace be with you." Wherever he went, he took his fresh idea of human order with him.

Brother Lawrence understood this: "The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament."

The point: peaceful leaders are not risk-averse. They have a vision of a new way of life, and they live it, and they offer it to others.

One of the (many) gripping moments from C. S. Lewis is found in Prince Caspian, when Lucy thinks she sees Aslan the lion up ahead, beckoning her to follow Him, but the others don't believe her, so they spend long arduous hours going nowhere, on nothing of value. Aslan wakes her up that night, and speaks to her:

“But what would have been the good?"

Aslan said nothing.

"You mean," said Lucy rather faintly, "that it would have turned out all right – somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?"

"To know what would have happened, child?" said Aslan. "No. Nobody is ever told that."

"Oh dear," said Lucy.

"But anyone can find out what will happen," said Aslan. "If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me – what will happen? There is only one way of finding out.

And that is all I am told, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." The disciples did not have a clue where it would lead, but they dropped their nets and followed Him.

I listened (some) to a great podcast of Nicole's on one of those long hard days, about what it means to be a disciple in the Middle Eastern culture. Disciples left it all, no compromise. We cannot be friends with the world and friends with Jesus. The gentle but firm priest from yesterday smiled broadly as he explained, we have to leave it all, all of the wrongs done us, all of the excuses, all of our very good reasons and ideals, and follow Him. Because of the joy.

Because of the joy set before Him, He laid it all down. Gladly. And with joy, Francis of Assisi dropped his robes. Their nets, his robes, my cluttered life.

And the priest added, that is the only way we can change the world.

McDonald ends with a quote from Oswald Chambers: The people who influence us most are not those who buttonhole us ... but those who live their lives like the stars in heaven and the lilies in the field: peacefully, simply, and unaffectedly. These are the lives that mold us.

My peace I give you, let not your heart be troubled.

The chimes are ringing yet again. Morning has broken.