Scripture: Philippians 4:1-13
Key verse: (7) “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Reflection: Each week in worship following the assurance of pardon we “pass the peace.” It’s one of my favorite moments of the worship service. Everyone smiles, handshakes and hugs are exchanged, people are welcomed to worship. Most of the time I find myself saying, “Peace be with you,” to those around me. Said in that context, it basically equates to, “Good morning!” But there are times when those words are anything but rote. I’ve uttered them to people in hospital rooms, to those mourning the loss of people they loved, to people enduring hardships beyond comprehension. “Peace be with you,” carries a different power in such circumstances.
Sometimes it’s easier said than done. In the midst of chaos and anxiety, what does it mean to have someone else say, “Peace be with you”? They likely have no idea the challenges you face that create that anxiety. How can someone else tell you to be peaceful? How is it possible to find such peace? It is exceedingly difficult to will yourself into peacefulness, as the continuing absence of peace created by the circumstances of the world has a way of creating even more anxiety about the absence of peace, building upon itself.
Of course, Paul is not talking about a peace we create. He is talking about the peace of God, not our peace, or lack thereof. When we pass the peace, we actually pass the peace of Christ, not peace in general, nor peace born of our own efforts. We find our peace not in anything we do, but in what God has done in Christ. In Christ, the Lord is near. Through Christ, God hears our prayers. With Christ, we can face whatever the world throws our way. Paul was writing from a Roman prison cell—a place that was anything but peaceful. Yet it was a place Christ knew. So Paul knew that in that place, the Lord was near. And so he could rejoice, and let go of worry, and pray and somewhere in all that he found the peace of God to guard his heart and mind.
In the end, peace is not something we do for ourselves, it’s something we discover in communion with God. Such peace does not free us from the chaos of our world, it enables us to face whatever life brings with the peace of God standing guard over our hearts and minds.
Prayer: “As I face the worries and anxieties of my world today, O God, help me know you are near. From your presence, may I draw that peace that passes all understand to guard my heart and mind in you.” Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].