Feast of Saint Luke, Evangelist

  Lectionary: 661


Into whatever house you enter,
first say, ‘Peace to this household.’
If a peaceful person lives there,
your peace will rest on him;
but if not, it will return to you.

The Hebrew word that Jesus would have used when he described our mission was shalom. Christians have a similar word in blessing. We habitually ask our clergy for a blessing; it’s a palpable gift; it descends from the giver onto the person or the sacred object. It may fill a house as the priest or deacon moves from room to room with his holy water sprinkler.
Shalom is also a palpable blessing with the extra dimension of peace, which might be described as the absence of interior conflict.

So long as we live in this world there will be conflict.  I’ve heard it said that every age and every place is violent. If there is a semblance of peace it’s only because the violence is held at bay by equally violent forces. In Louisiana I rode with the police for a while. We patrolled the thin blue line between danger and safety. Some people supposed that spiritual line lay between white and black people in the southern town; others saw it between middle and lower classes; or educated and illiterate. Those beloved opinions, however, miss the mark; violence knows no boundaries.
Jesus sent his shalom into a world that suffers ubiquitous violence; there is no place where his blessing is not needed. He did not promise to restore politeness or civility; they do not measure progress; they do not take root and flourish. They do nothing for the soul. If some speculators invest in that kind of peace the clever ones still put their money in war.

The only true peace passes from Christ to his disciples and thence to others. It is a gift we treasure within ourselves and offer to others.
When I hear Jesus assure us “your peace will return to you,” I think of martial arts like judo and karate; their first priority is balance. The black belt retains her balance even as she exploits her opponent’s imbalance. When I offer shalom to someone, I should not lean on the other, expecting his shalom to hold me up. Rather I offer communion which began in the Lord’s invitation to me.

If I expect the gift to come from someone else, as if I have a right to demand it; or if I expect reciprocation by the other when I make the offer, I may wait a very long time.  
Rather, communion, grace and shalom are offered from the cross of Jesus, without hesitation or restraint. They are offered as freely as an orchard tree offers its fruit to passersby, deer, birds, bugs, gravity, rot and the owners of the orchard.  Rooted in nourishing soil, patient through storms, droughts, floods, cold and heat, available to sunshine and wind, the tree – from which a cross is made – speaks of peace.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.