Thoughts From The Vicarage
O for a bit of peace!
I remember when my children were young, one of their favourite bedtime stories was a charming little story called ‘Peace at Last’, about a bear who tried everything to find some peace, only to have it shattered by dripping taps, noisy birds, children demanding attention…and I wonder how many times we’ll be having that same experience ourselves in the months and weeks to come, especially now that summer finally seems to have arrived and we can look forward to having plenty to do in the garden, going on holiday, having children or grandchildren to stay…o for a bit of peace indeed!
Peace…that intangible yet wonderful feeling we experience as we walk along an empty beach at dawn or dusk, sit in the garden, chores done, sipping a nice cool drink and reading (perhaps with our eyes closed), breathing a sigh of relief as the children are put to bed (or the grandchildren waved off!). Communications suspended for the duration. But that’s the point, really, isn’t it? Communication today is so all pervasive that we’re constantly answering our mobile phones, checking e-mails – DOING something.
Every week in church we pray for peace in our troubled world, and for people we know who are unwell or suffering or in trouble, and I’m sure we are perfectly sincere in doing that. Every week we offer one another a sign of peace – a simple handshake, a hug, a thumbs up, a few whispered words of friendship or comfort. Not always an easy thing to do for some people, even now.
But how much, I wonder, do we recognise the true meaning of peace? In Roman times, the ‘Pax Romana’ was a form of peace imposed, often very harshly, on conquered peoples. Pax. Peace. It’s such a little word when you think about the hugeness of what it is meant to convey. The Hebrew word ‘shalom’ – which is closely related to the Arabic word ‘salaam’ – is also usually translated as peace. But that doesn’t really do it justice, because ‘shalom’ covers a rather broader range of meanings than is conveyed simply by ‘peace’. When someone offers you ‘shalom’ they are offering tranquillity, a state of restful calm without anxiety or stress, material prosperity even. And also, in the Book of Isaiah peace is the ‘effect of righteousness…and the result of righteousness quietness and trust for ever’ (Isaiah 32:17).
So now we are getting more to the point. It’s strange, but I can only remember one line (admittedly of not very many) that I had to say in my very first school play, Terence Rattigan’s ‘Ross’, about the tortured soul that was Lawrence of Arabia: ‘God will give you peace’. In John’s Gospel Jesus says ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…do not let your hearts be troubled’ (John 14:27). The ‘peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds’ (Philippians 4:7).
How comforting is that thought?
Local Minister in training