Once during a troubled time in my life, I had to attend a gathering. With my mind so jangled, I did not even consider what to expect. And then the Lord surprised me with joy. Without knowing my state of mind, members of the gathering extended such genuine friendliness that I experienced the promise Jesus speaks in our Willowdale passage for Sunday: “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Jesus gives us his peace in all kinds of ways. Sometimes his Spirit testifies directly to our spirits. (Romans 8:16) Sometimes his voice rings out wordlessly in a starry night sky or sweetly though the Scriptures. (Psalm 19) Sometimes Jesus gives us his peace when we do his will or receive his rest (Psalm 119:165, Isaiah 32:17) And sometimes his love, joy, and peace comes to us through his people. (Romans 14:19, 1st John 1:1-4)
On Sunday, we can both receive and pass on Jesus’ peace when our Father gathers us for worship. That’s a Gospel truth to consider when we engage in mutual greeting and celebrate the sacrament in remembrance of our Lord. It’s a Gospel truth to consider in every gathering the Lord arranges for us. Who knows what the people around us are suffering? Our Lord knows, and that’s why he has gathered us together.
“Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)