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Spiritual Growth

Second Sunday in Advent: Finding Your Peace

By Linda Douglas Smith

Scripture: 2 Peter 3:8-15a
“But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.”

Reflection: Finding your peace

Where is your peace? Often times the discussions concerning peace are about world peace. But, for me, how can we begin to consider world peace unless we have peace within ourselves – as individuals, peace with our families, peace in our communities with our neighbors and friends, peace in the workplace with our co-workers, and peace in our churches with our sisters and brothers in Christ.

The first four definitions listed in my dictionary for the word peace pertained to war. It was not until the fifth definition that it read: “a state of harmony between people, absence of strife and absence of conflict.” My dictionary of theological terms, my God dictionary, states peace is fullness, well-being, and I want to add to that completeness.

The Westminster Dictionary of Theology Terms says that peace, translated from the Hebrew word shalom, is used for both greeting and farewell with great richness of meaning. Peace is much more than lack of war, pointing to all of society and personal well-being, put together with righteousness – and possibly only as a gift of God.

The word peace has rich biblical connotations or implications of reconciliation, wholeness, health and unity. The apostle Paul would often greet fellow Christians with the words grace and peace. This greeting to the churches was two-fold derived from Paul’s heritage as a Jew and his mission as an apostle to the Gentiles. Grace and peace was interpreted as a blessing from God through Christ.

In the book of Philippians, Paul writes to the church of Philipi to thank the Philippian Christians for the gift that they had sent to help him in his time of need. He uses this opportunity to reassure them, so that they may have courage and confidence in spite of all his troubles and their own as well. He pleads with them to have the humble attitude of Jesus, rather than to be controlled by selfish ambition and pride. He reminds them that their life in union with Christ is a gift of God’s grace, which they have received through faith, not through obedience to the ceremonies of the Jewish law. He writes of the joy and peace that God gives to those who live in union with Christ.

The scripture passages also mention two women, Euodia and Syntyche, leaders of the church who were in conflict with each other. Philippians 4:2 says, “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.” The apostle Paul pleads with the two women to be at peace with each other.

What was the disagreement that divided them? What triggered the hard feelings? The text does not tell us what the quarrel was about, but it was something significant because it draws Paul’s attention and he brings it to the attention of the whole church. He is not trying to embarrass the two women, but is reminding them leaders are not exempt from the standards of the membership in general.

Perhaps the two women of the church of Philipi were struggling to find their own peace, dealing with some inner or outer turmoil in their lives that may have spilled over into the work of the church:

• Perhaps Euodia was having trouble at her job;
• Perhaps Syntyche was having trouble in her marriage;
• Perhaps Euodia was having trouble with her drug addicted child;
• Perhaps Syntyche was battling breast cancer;
• Perhaps Euodia’s daughter or son wants to go to college and the family does not have the money for tuition;
• Perhaps Syntyche was struggling to work and be the caregiver of her parents;
• Perhaps Euodia was facing foreclosure on her home;
• Perhaps the social services had decreased the amount of food stamps Syntyche was receiving;
• Perhaps Euodia was grieving over the death of a loved one; or
• Perhaps Syntyche was worried about her child fighting in the war in Iraq.

And the list of possibilities could go on and on. Maybe Euodia and Syntyche had forgotten about peace that surpasses all understanding. Many times we question God because we just do not understand some of the turmoil we go through, wanting to know why, when will it end, how am I going to get out of this mess? Sometimes we forget to simply take the turmoil to the Lord in prayer.

Where is your peace?

Scripture reminds us, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Where is your peace?

Take time to experience peaceful moments during your daily lives. Many of us are so busy with hectic day-to-day activities with our families, work and church. Sometimes our busyness leaves us no time for peaceful moments. Peaceful moments can lead to peaceful hours and peaceful hours can lead to peaceful days. We want to be ready and at peace for Advent Two, Jesus’ return.

Where is your peace?

The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson puts it like this – “So, my dear friends, since this is what you have to look forward to, do your very best to be found living at your best, in purity and peace. Interpret our Master’s patient restraint for what it is: salvation.” (2 Peter 3:14-15a)

• Suppose you knew that Jesus would return this year or next month or next week. What difference would that make in your plans and priorities? How would you feel? What preparation would you make? “Well, get on with it!”, says Peter in effect. This could be the day. Let eager anticipation motivate your choices. (From The Spiritual Formation Bible: Growing in Intimacy With God Through Scripture page 1618.)
• Where is your peace?
• Are you ready for Advent Two?

Hymn: “What If It Were Today” from www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/w/h/a/whatifit.htm

Jesus is coming to earth again; what if it were today?
Coming in power and love to reign; what if it were today?
Coming to claim His chosen Bride, all the redeemed and purified,
Over this whole earth scattered wide; what if it were today?

Glory, glory! Joy to my heart ’twill bring.
Glory, glory! When we shall crown Him King.
Glory, glory! Haste to prepare the way;
Glory, glory! Jesus will come some day.

We praise Your Name that You did not leave us in ignorance, O Lord. We have Your Word to read and to know how to live a life pleasing to You. Help us to believe Your Word and to live accordingly. Help us to be ready and watching in anticipation. Help us to increase awareness in others that You are coming soon, and that You are the only Hope we have. Praise Your wonderful Name. Amen. (From Christmas: Bells & Blessings by Hazel Jaycox Brown, page 16).

*Linda Douglas Smith, Deaconess, Executive Secretary for Administration for the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Church, General Board of Global Ministries.

Last Updated: 04/10/2010

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