May 1, 2016
Introduction: Normally I do not obsess about the sequence hymn, but today's Sequence hymn is different. The writer, William Alexander Perry, was a poet who lived from 1885 to 1942. He was born, raised, and died in the Mississippi delta. He was many things, one of which was one who traveled throughout the world. What has intrigued me about this hymn is one brief line: “The peace of God, it is no peace, but strife closed in the sod, but for one thing I pray for the marvelous peace of God.” This line has haunted me my entire ministry ever sinceI) heard this hymn as a young assisting priest in Raleigh, North Carolina.
I) Jesus continues his benediction over his disciples that we began last week. He now is focusing on a question Judas (not Iscariot) asks: “Lord, how is it, you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus tells him that only those who love him will he make himself known to. So to those who do not accept him and then fail to do as he commands to love one another are outside of those he will disclose himself.
II) Jesus goes on to state that he will give them the Spirit or the Advocate. One who will come to them from God the Father as one who will help the disciples remember all that Jesus has taught them and thereby bring Jesus back into their midst. This Holy Spirit will so infect your hearts that you will then know more fully what Jesus has taught them. He reinforces the certainty of his presence by stating he now gives them his peace. But just what is this peace?
III) This is what has fascinated me about today's sequence hymn, what does the marvelous peace of God mean? First to try to find the meaning from the author's perspective. The peace of God it is no peace? How can this be? Yet Jesus gives them this peace as he prepares to go out into the darkness, the hands of Satan, be betrayed, tried, and crucified. Certainly there is no immediate hope for peace. Percy goes on to say that peace is strife closed in the sod. Or trouble, discord, conflict. As we bury those clashes that cause discord between us -- meaning we no longer hold them against those who have harmed us -- we then can have the opportunity to experience something of a resurrection like experience that Jesus did have on that first Easter. So the peace of God may not be immediately experience as this wonderful lack of conflict, instead it may beckon us to examine our disagreements and be willing to lay them aside as we seek out something even more important than our own conception of the world, instead seeking out a way in which we can learn to love each other not only despite our difference but perhaps because of them.