1 Corinthians 11:23-26 and John 13:1-17 31b-35
God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, grow in us the fruit of your spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Amen
Today in our consideration of the fruit of the Spirit that St Paul describes in his letter to the Galatians, we are briefly thinking about peace. God promises us peace and peace is a sign of God at work with in us. Peace is very easy to say but complicated to understand and has many facets. In our Spiritual Fruit book peace is a blueberry and the words say – The fruit of peace helps me stay calm even when the day is long.
On the one hand peace is wholeness, health, completeness, and serenity for ourselves and the world. On another hand it is the absence of war, conflict and trouble. On yet another hand it is a more inner thing, a sense of confidence we have in something higher than our selves – contentment, tranquillity and calm regardless of our circumstances.
We know that peace in a spiritual sense doesn’t mean there isn’t conflict in the world or in ourselves, but there is a sense of otherness and serenity that can guide us through even the most choppy waters in our lives. Julian of Norwich who wrote profoundly beyond her years says this:-
Peace and love are always alive in us, but we are not always alive to love and peace.
Mel Eyeons wrote a story about peace – I want to share with you and if you are sitting comfortably I will begin.
There was a man looking for a perfect picture of peace. He looked everywhere but couldn’t find one he was happy with so he announced a contest to produce one instead. Artists from all over the world worked hard and sent in their creations, until the great day arrived when the perfect painting would be chosen.
The judges unveiled one after another while a crowd watched in anticipation until only 2 pictures were left. As the judges removed the cover from one of them a hush fell over the audience. The picture showed a smooth lake with trees reflected in its waters and sheep grazing quietly along the shore. Everyone sighed contentedly at the image, and imagined themselves there, resting on the lake’s bank. Surely this was the winning entry?
But then the last picture was revealed and the crowd gasped with surprise. This picture showed a huge waterfall crashing down from a great height on to jagged rocks. There were dark threatening storm clouds looming overhead. And there was one solitary small tree clinging desperately to the rocks at the bottom of the waterfall.
This surely didn’t show peace? What was the artist thinking of? Yet in the tree there was a little bird in a nest, calmly sitting on her eggs, apparently undisturbed by the crashing and chaos around her. And in her quiet sitting she radiated the kind of peace that transcends troubles, worries and difficulties.
We need to be more like the bird in the story in our approach to peace, and cultivate our own peace through God’s love for us, that the outside circumstances cannot dent. God’s peace is a gift to us that can be grown, nurtured and encouraged with the help of God, and the Christians we travel the road with.
In our prayers and as we receive the bread and wine Jesus shares with us on this special night, we need to ask God for the inner peace only God can bring us. We need to accept it wholeheartedly and strengthen it through faith and dependence on God in our hearts and lives. At the last supper Jesus poured out his love for those gathered, in washing their feet, in sharing bread and wine in remembrance of all he was to do for them through his death and resurrection.
We also need to be makers and bringers of peace in our lives. Jesus said ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God’. We need to share the inner peace that God gives us with those we meet, always seeking peace and reconciliation in our relationships. We are given peace to share it (as we do week in week out) in our communion services – the kingdom of God grows through the peace God places in our hearts and the peace we share with those around us. Let it grow through us.
I am going to end with a very familiar prayer – the traditional collect for peace
O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels,
and all just works do proceed;
give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give;
that both, our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments,
and also that, by thee,
we being defended from the fear of our enemies
may pass our time in rest and quietness;
through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen
The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible © 1989, 1995. Picture from rootsontheweb.com © reproduced with permission.
Fruit of the spirit – reflections on growing in Christ – Mel Eyeons
Some material is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000-2023
The Fruit of the spirit for little ones by Mandy Fender.