Last Sunday, Pastor John Jacobs taught an awesome sermon on peace. He grabbed our attention with hilarious stories, told us that it’s time to “peace out, homies,” and sang a capella to a Spice Girls song. It was quite a Sunday morning! Despite all of these things, though, the most memorable part of John’s sermon for me was when he asked a very poignant question:
Why are we continually surprised when we encounter darkness?
That question hit me hard, especially after the weekend I had had. That previous Friday night, I had witnessed/broke up a fight in uptown Amherst. A few too many drinks and a few too many big egos made for your typical movie-style bar brawl on the sidewalk of Church Street, right by my friend’s car. It was terrifying and infuriating all at the same time.
Then the following night, I was the one who almost got into a fight. At my little brother’s basketball game, we had the unfortunate pleasure of witnessing a visiting team whose coaches and fans praised unchecked aggression, and it got ugly. I had to move from the seat I was sitting in because I didn’t trust myself to not give the lady behind me a piece of mind and/or ask her to get out of our gym.
In light of these events and others, I started to really think deeply about why I was so upset. Why did that fight make me so angry, like, angrier than I had been about anything in a long time? And why did I let one fan’s commentary and the actions of a few high school boys get to me like that? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was a lot more going on here than just that. (Cue melodrama…) I realized that I was mad that people couldn’t just be good. I was mad that we’re all so dang broken. I was mad that there’s just so much darkness everywhere. I felt like I was losing the battle, all hope was lost, etc etc.
Then Sunday morning, John preaches on peace, of all things. Exactly what my heavy heart needed to hear about. He explained to us that the peace of God is not God giving us what we want, it’s not God removing all pain and suffering from the world, and it’s not God changing other people. That last one especially got me. The whole weekend, I had just wanted everyone to behave, to be good!
John then proceeded to tell us the positives: God’s peace is God giving us what we need, it is God’s redemption of man through Jesus’ pain and suffering, and it is God’s grace changing us. Uh oh. The tables had turned.
Now, this whole lack of peace thing is on me; it’s not anybody else’s fault but my own. John went on to say that, “We find the peace OF God when we experience peace WITH God.” Peace doesn’t come as a result of how other people are or aren’t acting, but as a result of our relationship with God, as a result of experiencing his peace. And then, once were filled with his peace, a peace we don’t even fully understand (Philippians 4:7), we spread it to other people. God allows his peace in so that we can be peace out!
Since Sunday, I’ve been praying for more of God’s peace in my life. Less anger, frustration, and hopelessness when I come in contact with the darkness around me. I’m trying to trust more and more everyday that God is constantly at work redeeming his creation, and that he’s using us to do it, even if I can’t see it up close with my own eyes.
In conclusion, here’s a prayer by St. Francis of Assisi that has really been encouraging me to keep working against the darkness that we will, inevitably and continually, encounter:
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
Missed Pastor John’s sermon on Sunday? You can watch it HERE.