During the final weeks before my father's death on April 24th, I struggled to know how to pray for him. He was declining physically – literally kind of disappearing. His dementia made his short-term memory almost non-existent, so we spent a lot of our visits talking about the past which he remembered well. Dad was receiving good care, but his quality of life was certainly not what any of us would want to continue forever. So I struggled to pray for him, and I found the most helpful prayer I could offer was for the peace of Christ to be with him.
When he breathed his last, he was helped by hospice care, he was surrounded by family in the room and on the phone, he was wrapped in his favorite blanket with the pictures of his great-grandkids, and he died peacefully. I believe that my prayers for peace were answered.
In a similar way, I struggle today to know how to pray for our United Methodist Church. Solutions to our many problems seem to escape us, and I hear many people rushing to various conclusions (like schism) which are not seemly for our part of the Body of Christ.
Ephesians 2:14 reminds us that "Christ is our peace." And Ephesians 3:15 concludes that thinking with these words: "The peace of Christ must control your hearts – a peace with which you were called into one body. And be thankful people."
Those words were addressed to a situation of division within the early church – the division between Jews and Gentiles. While we may have our divisions and differences today in the church, none of those can compare to the huge divide that existed between Jews and Gentiles. And so I learn from Ephesians:
- The peace of Christ breaks down barriers – we may believe our current barriers are insurmountable, but Christ has broken down such barriers before and I believe the peace of Christ can overcome any barriers and divisions today. In such spiritual focus, there is unity and peace.
- The peace of Christ heals – over the centuries Christians have found that their differences have been healed only by offering one another the same forgiveness that Christ offers to us. In such forgiveness there is peace.
- The peace of Christ brings eternal life – I believe that Dad has received the ultimate healing that is promised to all who are in Christ, and so can we. Someday we will gather at the Kingdom Banquet and all of our current political and theological differences will seem trivial. In such a long-term perspective, there is peace.
During this season of Easter we read over and over again that the Risen Christ appears and says, "Peace be with you." May we all find the peace that we need. May we all rest in the truth that Christ is our peace.