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Last week, right after Easter Sunday, I traveled to Loreto, Mexico with my daughter Frannie to visit our old friend (and her godfather). Steve lives in a little house directly on the Sea of Cortez, and so for several days I began my mornings sitting, watching the waves, seeing the sun come up over the island opposite us. I spent most of my middays sitting, watching the waves, the pelicans flying by. Late afternoons I spent sitting, watching the waves, listening to the wind in the palm trees. And my evenings were spent sitting, watching the waves, looking for the stars as they began to come out. I think this will be my Easter week tradition from now on. I began the week exhausted – I ended it in peace.


So, Easter peace to you all, my friends. Jesus is risen – and just as he said to the disciples, so I say to you: Peace be with you.


We’re in the great 50 days of Easter, and Sunday after Sunday we hear story after story of Jesus resurrected, Jesus alive, Jesus appearing to his amazed disciples. Every one of the stories is just about the same as every other one: there the disciples are, doing their own thing, and suddenly, boom, there’s Jesus, who’s just walked through a locked door or turned up on the road or otherwise shown up where he shouldn’t be. And the disciples are scared, and Jesus tells them not to be, and then he does something to prove he is who they think he is, truly there in the flesh. And then he tells them to spread the word, and then he goes away. Leaving them with his peace.


And every time this happens, it all seems to sink in just a little bit more with the disciples. The very same disciples who ran away in fear when he was arrested, who deserted him when he was crucified, who fled from the empty tomb because they were afraid. Little by little, Jesus coaxes them into trusting that this good news really is true. And so the disciples go from frightened children to brave evangelists, and the church is born. They do what Jesus tells them to – they spread the word, they themselves preach and teach and heal just like he did, the Holy Spirit comes upon them, and the community of faith begins to grow. Sharing the peace with one another as Jesus shared it with them. 


And all this gift even though they hadn’t at all shown themselves to be worthy of the job. This, to me, is one of the most amazing themes of our scriptures both in the Hebrew stories and in the later Christian ones: ordinary, messed up, broken people are chosen by God, who nurtures them, heals them, and calls them into new places and new work, expanding the reach of the good news of life to all the world. And if it happens to them, these unworthy characters of scripture, then it might just be that God is showing that it can happen to us too. How wonderful this is – and, perhaps we’d better look out!


That theme of our unworthiness is brought home in the reading we heard first today, from the book of Acts. Peter and John, two of Jesus’ dearest disciples, heal a man lame from birth, in the name of Jesus. The man walks and everyone stares, and Peter uses this as a preachable moment. ‘You Israelites,’ he begins, ‘why do you wonder at us?’ And then he goes on to point out how ‘you Israelites’ rejected Jesus and killed him. This is ugly language, some of what has fueled Christian anti-Semitism throughout the ages. But Peter himself is an Israelite, and this is the same Peter who denied Jesus three times in his hour of need. So his speech, blaming though it sounds, is to himself as well. His point is, we all did this. We all asked for a murderer instead of Jesus to be freed. We all crucified the Author of Life. Remember the Passion narrative on Palm Sunday? We all read the parts of the crowds calling for Jesus to be crucified, including ourselves with those who inflict such horror in the world. 


It’s important to name this – it’s us, not ‘them.’ But Peter’s point goes beyond fixing blame. We acted in ignorance, Peter says. We were stupid; we humans always are. And God forgives us – totally. Wipes out the sin altogether, as though it never happened. Denying Jesus three times, running away from the soldiers, abandoning Jesus on the cross – all of that terrible behavior is left behind. When Jesus appears to the disciples again, he makes that abundantly clear. Peace be with you, he says. It’s ok. Or as John writes in his epistle: ‘See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.’ God says, never mind all that – you’re my children, and I love you. And that grace is extended to all of us. And through us, it’s meant to be extended to everyone.


Because whenever God speaks to someone, they’re told to go tell it to others and share God’s word. Whenever God gives a blessing, it’s meant to be spread around. Peace is for sharing. All of it is gift. All of it is grace.


It’s a whole new layer on why we’re called further into spiritual growth and deepening. Often what gets emphasized in teachings about prayer and spiritual disciplines is that it is good for us. It’s part of a healthy lifestyle, a life of nutrition, exercise, good sleep, and mindfulness. Mindfulness itself has been picked up by popular culture, detached from religion and religious community. You can use an app to be mindful; you can go to a workshop on mindfulness at your tech company; you can teach mindfulness to children in a public school. From time to time that might tip over into Buddhist teachings about compassion and lovingkindness, that lowering our stress levels and building in quiet can make us more patient and gentle with others too. And of course that’s all to the good – this world can certainly use more healthy, loving people.


And – there’s more to God’s peace than that. The peace that Jesus offers the frightened disciples isn’t just quiet confidence and reassurance – it’s not only a forgiving pat on the head, relax, I forgive you. The peace Jesus brings is the peace of the Holy Spirit – peace that breathes into us and stirs us, might just rile us up inside, open our eyes to see injustice around us, open our hearts to see the suffering on the faces of those we love and those we don’t know, push us out to new places, to bring healing and peace to others and upset the structures of this world. Peter and John were on their way into the temple to pray when the man in need of healing showed up in front of them. They could have said, no, we’re going inside to pray and get more peaceful – no time for you right now. But they stopped, engaged directly with his need, and healed him in the name of Jesus – and then everyone comes running, there’s chaos, there’s excitement from the people around them – and then they get arrested, and the story keeps going from there. Just one of many of the stories of what happens to Jesus’ followers. And yet they never stop. Because they’re filled with God’s peace. And it just keeps pushing them on.


Peace be with you, Jesus says. Stop and breathe that in. Let go of the fear, let go of the crush of anxiety, and breathe. You don’t have to have waves to watch to do this. Do this every day, over and over, throughout the day – prayer and quiet, moments of rest, glimpses of peace that passes understanding, even in the midst of our busy chaos. 


And then, look out. Because God’s peace keeps moving; the more you breathe it in, the more you will be stirred – turned from a disciple who learns and follows to an apostle who is sent. To spread the word, to right the wrongs, to bless this world. And to bring God’s peace. Because it’s for everyone.

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