Thursday, April 21, 2016

Year C, Easter 6: Shalom

"14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Don not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid."

It seemed like a good idea at the time.  During my seminary years a venerable old pastor had declared that there were three things that were essential to maintain one's health and sanity in the ministry:  a confessor, a good antacid, and a bottle of Scotch.  Check, check, and double check. . .

It actually took me over a decade of ordained ministry to discover Scotch.  By that time I had a couple of difficult calls under my belt and was beginning a new call with its unique blend of challenges and opportunities.  In the midst of it, and unbeknownst to me at the time, I was dealing with being bipolar.  As I struggled with the mood swings, and the anxieties associated with ministry, I found that there was nothing quite like the amber liquid poured over a glass of ice to lift me up when I was down, and chill me out when I was flying too high.

Looking back, there were two things that I sought.  I wanted to gain control of my moods and to let go of my anxieties.  My new friend allowed me to do both.  From a light hearted lifting of the spirits, (pun intended) to a deep melancholy, even to the point of despondency, I could control those moods.  I knew how I would feel after one, and after 5 drinks. My mind might race with ideas, or settle into a comfortable contentment.  It was all just a matter of quantity and the pace of consumption.  And in the midst of it, I felt I had found a long sought after pathway to inner peace.  It worked until it didn't.

In the end, I, like so many others, crashed and burned.  I realized that I had lost control, and could not let go.  And there was certainly no 'peace' to be had.

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

There is a reason why alcoholics in recovery pray this prayer.  Most simply put, peace is what we've sought all along.  And we've learned that it doesn't come sealed in a bottle.

'Foreboding' is the word that comes to mind as I imagine the disciples on that last night with Jesus.  If they had listened to his words, if they had paid attention to the events in Jerusalem as they unfolded, they must have sensed that something was up and it wasn't good.  "Peace, I leave with you."  Yea, right.  Peace must have been the farthest thing from their minds in that moment.  Anxiety, yes.  Fear, for sure, but peace?

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

"I do not give to you as the world gives."  My immediate reaction is that the peace of which Jesus spoke didn't come in a wine skin.

I wish that I could write this morning as an expert on peace and inner tranquility.  I have not yet achieved it.  I continue to yearn for it.  I don't know whether to relentlessly seek it, or simply to pray that I will be granted it.  That's part of the wisdom that we seek in praying the Serenity Prayer.  What I have learned, though, is two things:

First, that peace comes from the recognition that we are not in control.  But that God is.

And second, that peace comes from embracing the notion that tomorrow is God's worry, not mine.

Would that these two principles were as easy to live and they are to write.  One day, perhaps they will be.  I can only pray.

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