In his book, Go down to the potter’s house, Don O’Shea has a story about a king who had two artists in his realm who were bitter rivals.
One day the king said, “I want to decide once and for all which of you is the better artist. You must paint the same subject, so that I can judge between you. And what I want you to paint is your vision of PEACE.”
The two artists accepted the challenge, and a month later came back with their paintings.
The first artist painted a dreamy landscape with rolling hills and a lake without a ripple on the surface. The whole painting spoke of contentment and stillness – which was his depiction of peace.
However, as the king looked at the picture – he could barely suppress a yawn. Then turning to the artist he said, “your picture is pretty, but it puts me to sleep.”
Then the second artist presented his painting. It showed a thundering waterfall crashing over a steep cliff. It was so realistic that one could almost hear the roar of the water as it crashed onto the rocks - hundreds of feet below.
“But this is not a painting of peace as I ordered,” the king said angrily.
The artist made no reply but motioned to the king to come closer to the painting to see all of its details.
It was then that the king spotted something which had escaped him at first.
There among the rocks at the base of the waterfall – a small shrub was growing. And in the small shrub – a bird’s nest sat in the branches.
And upon looking even closer – the king saw a bird in the nest – a sparrow, sitting calmly on its eggs, her eyes half-closed as she patiently waited for her babies to be hatched.
On seeing all these minute details – the king was delighted at what he thought was a perfect picture of peace.
Turning to the artist the king said, “I like your painting very much – as it conveys a very important message about peace – and that is– it is possible to be at peace even in the midst of the chaos of life swirling around you.”
Jesus spoke to his disciples about peace in the farewell he is giving them in today’s Gospel from John. He was soon to leave them – and he wanted them to know a few things before he left – like:
“Peace I leave with you, my own peace I give you. Not as the world gives it do I give it to you. So do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”
It was a strange time for Jesus to be speaking about peace – because everything was in turmoil around him. One of his own was about to betray him. Within the hour he would be arrested and before the cock crowed – would be denied three times by his closest friend.
How, then, was Jesus able to talk about peace?
Because the peace Jesus speaks of is being in union with God. And Jesus was in perfect union with God. Which is like the bird at the bottom of the waterfall. With the chaos of life swirling around him - Jesus could talk about peace even as his enemies were closing in on him and death was just around the corner.
Because the peace Jesus talks about is NOT tranquility – which is an external thing – something which occasionally can surround us.
But the peace Jesus talks about and offers to us – is a state of inner calm – which one achieves by being in union with God and with others.
So an essential component of the peace of the kingdom of God — is righteousness – being in right relationship with God and others – and hence there is no peace for the wicked.
Peace results when one trusts God, and when the desire to be like God is the dominant force in one’s life. This is something which we can have even if, and especially if, we are in the midst of turmoil, conflict, and unresolved problems.
It is not the outer circumstances of our lives which brings us peace – but the inner state of our minds and hearts.
This is the peace that Jesus offers us: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.”
This peace is not the calm of escaping from reality. It is something so deep it is independent of outer circumstances. It is the peace which surpasses all understanding, the peace which this world cannot give – and most especially – the peace no one can take away from us.
God, to believe in you and your word – even in the midst of the storms of life – can provide a place of peace for us.
In the midst of the seemingly impossible demands, deadlines and tasks at hand, our hearts and minds can be at rest in You.
Strength and boldness are released into us as we confidently rest in your peace.
In your presence we are refreshed, restored, and renewed in Jesus’ name. AMEN!
Moments in time...