I was hustling through an airport between flights a couple of months ago, when a young man came up beside me and asked if I was a pastor. Yes, I said, continuing to hustle toward my next plane. He continued breathlessly, “I want to know if God will forgive me – I’ve cheated on my fiancée, I’ve committed adultery. Will God forgive me?” In the next few minutes, hurrying through the halls of the airport, we had a pastoral conversation about whether he had asked his fiancée’s forgiveness, where he might find a pastor they could counsel with, and that his acknowledgment that he’d done something wrong was the first and most important step in finding forgiveness. And then he was gone – off in the other direction. In the midst of his shame, fear, and self-hatred, this guy was looking for some glimmer of peace.
After the death of Saul and Jonathan, David is in deep mourning, and seems to have some of the same feelings – regret, betrayal, and lost love. He, too, is looking for some shred of peace. You can hear the same thing echoed in the words of the psalmist, “Out of the depths have I cried to you… I wait for the Lord, more than watchers for the morning.” That’s the prayer of somebody who can’t sleep because of pain, anxiety, and emptiness.
There’s a similar hunger and yearning for peace in the stories we heard in the gospel. A child is ill, and the request for Jesus to come and help is interrupted by a woman’s search for relief from the suffering that’s plagued her for years. A simple touch heals her, and then comes news that the child has died. Jesus keeps hope alive, and raises the little girl from her sleep. There is peace in abundance that day.
Even Paul’s words to the community in Corinth about ponying up what’s been promised in relief funds for Jerusalem are about peace. Nobody in Corinth or Jerusalem is going to sleep well until the community of Jesus’ followers remembers that they’re all connected. When nobody has too much or too little, then everybody will find the deep peace of true community. Anxiety is relieved when we share each other’s suffering and joy.
That search for peace is at the root of all of Jesus’ ministry; it is the human search for which the word of God and the awareness of God’s presence is the answer. The human condition is to be in search of that ultimate peace – with hunger fed, illness and division healed, wars ended, justice done, and community and relationships restored.
That’s why Trinity exists – to tell of the possibility of that kind of peace, and to show people how to find it. This faith community began with a few people who knew something about that peace, who thought it important to help others discover that peace. I do believe that is why we are all here this morning.
That sort of peace is what the prophet means when he says, “comfort, comfort ye my people,” that’s what Jesus’ comfortable words are about – especially the ones about “I will refresh you,” and “I am with you always”, and that is ultimately what salvation means – the restoration of our relationship with God and all that is to the deep and abiding and abundant peace intended in creation.
We live in profoundly anxious and unpeaceful times – people are worried about economic perils, whether their children are going to make it in this world, and often about their own safety. Our nation is embroiled in a fever of disdain, incivility, and even hate. Campaigning nowadays is more often characterized not by mudslinging but rock throwing. The anxiety over taxes, government, and Supreme Court decisions is just a symptom – a lot of us are acting like the Corinthians, too afraid for ourselves to realize that we won’t have peace while others are also anxious and in want.
Do you remember Winnie the Pooh, wedged in great tightness? He’s gone to Rabbit’s house for lunch, gobbled up everything in sight and gotten stuck in the entryway trying to go home. He’s not going to get out by wriggling, he has be patient and depend on his friends. He asks somebody to read him a sustaining book, that will help and comfort him. Hmmm… even consumerist bears eventually find some peace – with a little help from their friends…
Where is your sustaining peace, O Lord? We’re looking for it, all through the long, dark night and the heat of summer and the pinch of all kinds of hunger. We need a little help from our Friend.
That young man in the airport couldn’t recognize that God had already forgiven him, but his search for forgiveness will be part of finding it. The same is true of our search for God’s deep peace. We often think we have to do something in order to find it. Few of us can receive that good news only by hearing – we need to experience it, in the flesh. The woman in the crowd tried everything she could think of, and spent all her money on treatment, without any positive result. Coming close to Jesus finally let her find the sort of peace she most needed. Both she and Jairus discovered the good news of peace in the midst of a crowd, even though not everyone in the crowd believed it. The journey of peace may have long stretches of desolation and isolation, but healing often comes in the midst of community.
A community like this one brings peace not only to those who come here seeking it, but to the surrounding neighborhoods, sometimes a long way off. A fellow named Gary Nelson wrote about his experience of depression recently – he called his blog, “Getting Churchy in a Time of Chaos and Hate.”  He starts out like this, “I had a meltdown one year ago in the spring… Fear and depression seeped in through the unlocked door and met me square in the face, confronting me with truths about my health and mortality.” He tells about going to the doctor, who wrote him a prescription, and told him it would take several weeks for his anti-anxiety meds to work. In the meantime Mr. Nelson recalled hearing that religious communities had something to offer as well, and went off and found an Episcopal church. He’s no longer depressed, he’s been confirmed, he’s found friends and a Friend, and he’s telling others about where and how he’s found peace.
This community is a fount of peace, and it will continue to be as it sticks close to Jesus and the living water. Even these memorial windows are a sign of that search for peace. They’ve been reminding people for years that healing can be found in the communion of saints – the dead and the ones still walking around.
Our ability to find the peace we most crave has something to do with this kind of community. Together we can multiply and expand that peace, so that it flows out of here like a rolling stream, cooling the heat and hate around us and in our own hearts, and fostering the growth of abundant life.
There’s an old Gaelic prayer that speaks of this kind of peace:
Deep peace of the running wave to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of the shining stars to you,
Deep peace of the gentle night to you,
Deep peace of Christ, the light of the world, to you.
Deep peace of Christ to you.
Who needs to hear that? Where will you share this peace, and who will you invite to come and see, and receive this peace?