Day 296 “Follow Me” John 20 -21
October 22, 2021, 11:33 PM

Day 296 “Follow Me” John 20 -21

Just like that—we come to the end of the gospels. John’s final chapters cover the good stuff: the resurrection and the appearances of Jesus to his disciples. But we need to wrestle with the fact that Jesus somehow looked different. A resurrection body, at least the one Jesus brought back with him, was somehow familiar and yet different. It was human and yet able to get into rooms with locked doors. It belonged to someone who helped the disciples pull in a remarkable number of fish, but who also had a fire and breakfast ready for the disciples when they got off the boat. And yes, Jesus and his buddies may have eaten bread and fish that morning, but it sure sounded a lot like communion to me.

Anyhow, the part that always interests me is the simplicity of Jesus’s greeting to his disciples when he appears to them in the room where they had locked themselves. It is Sunday night, Easter evening, and twice he says: “Peace be with you.” He doesn’t come into the room screaming “You bunch of traitors!” He doesn’t come into the room to scare them or surprise them. He comes back from the dead and appears to them to give them…peace. Imagine that. Peace be with you. Twice. He said it again a week later when Thomas was in the room. Thomas had missed the first appearance of Jesus. “Peace be with you.”

The Hebrew word Jesus would have used was ‘shalom’, and it means so much more than peace. Shalom is a big word, although it sounds small. Shalom means ‘wellbeing’ in all its completeness and fullness. Shalom gathers blessing and grace and tries to pour it into a single word. Shalom is “life at its best under the hand of God.”  When Jesus says “Shalom!” with all that life packed into it, it represents the reversal of crucifixion, the beginning of something new and vital, and the end of death as the disciples would know it.

I love these tiny bits of the big story because this is one of the things we have adapted into our liturgy—the sign of peace. The speaking of peace, of shalom. These days we may feel as though something has been stolen from us in church because we can’t shake hands or hug or pinch some baby’s cheek, unless we are related to each other. We may feel as though this pandemic has just gone a bit too far (talk about an understatement!!) in taking away the beloved parts of our liturgy. But here’s the thing—Jesus didn’t seem to do anything but say those words “Peace be with you.” It doesn’t say he hugged his disciples or shook their hands. We know that Thomas got a bit more up close and personal, but that’s because Thomas doubted, not because he was special in any way. Touching Jesus was the only way that Thomas would believe, and it wasn’t a handshake or a hug he wanted. Thomas wanted to stick his fingers in the nail holes and put his hand in Jesus’s side. I don’t think Thomas really knew what he was saying when he told the other disciples those things, because those are terrible things to want to do-pure yuck factor, right? And talk about violating Jesus’s personal space!! But Jesus was generous enough to say to Thomas “Go ahead. Put your finger in the nail holes in my hand, and your hand in my side.” I don’t think Thomas needed to do either of those things. Scripture doesn’t tell us that he did touch Jesus, but we know that Thomas believed. Maybe it was that expansive “Shalom!” that Jesus said when he appeared in the room. Somehow I don’t think Thomas needed the proof he thought he did once he saw Jesus and heard his voice.

I bring this up because we might getting stuck on all the things church is not now that we are worshipping together again pretty regularly. And one of those things is the sign of peace. We are creatures of habit. We like to do things the same way over and over again. Some people loved the peace the way we used to do it. Ok. I’m going to say it and you are free to judge me—I never did. I was brought up in a church where we didn’t leave the pew and where a head nod and some eye contact were good enough to convey our thoughts. So I do love ‘the peace’, as we often call it, but I don’t love the awkwardness of trying to figure out the difference between the handshake people and the hug people. Ok, I’m going to say something else now—I’m not one of the hug people. So you can imagine that can make the peace even less peaceful for people like me!

But this is not about me, or even about the hugging or shaking. It’s about the desire to truly, genuinely wish people a deep peace. Jesus manages to do that with his disciples, to wish them the bigness of God’s peace with the utterance of a word. I challenge all of us to do that this Sunday, to pack peace and God’s kingdom into the Shalom we wish for every person as we share the peace in church, even if we can’t touch each other.

I’ll end with a beautiful, simple Celtic prayer that resonates in my heart and my soul. I believe it was Alistair’s mother’s favorite blessing as well. This is just the beginning of what Shalom means:

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.
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.
Deep peace of Christ,
of Christ the light of the world to you.
Deep peace of Christ to you.

There is also a beautiful Zoom choir that sings the blessing. This was performed during the pandemic when we could not sing together, but the Women’s Choir Melodia recorded this in the midst of our isolation and challenges. They could not be together to sing, but they were brought together by technology. Here’s the link to that recording: Celtic Prayer Video

And so today, although I am apart from you, I wish you Shalom from the center of my heart to the center of yours.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,






10-22-2021 at 11:59 PM
Joyce Barrett
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