Peace be with you, a reflection by Dan Spragg

We (Sharon and I) used to have a bit to do with someone who was heavily involved in working with young people from a tricky part of town. She had a saying that has stuck with us ever since – “Hurt people, hurt people.” She used it to describe most of the tricky situations she ended up in alongside these young people. Typically, life for them was hard. Family life, in particular, was usually far from ideal. In the process of trying to grow up in multiple dysfunctional situations, these young people had been hurt physically, mentally and emotionally. Inevitably as they related to wider circles of people, they, quite unintentionally most of the time, hurt others. It’s a part of being human – we get hurt and as we live with our hurt and ‘brokenness’ we take it out on those around us. Hurt people, hurt people.

It is quite astounding the embodiment of something quite ‘other’ than this that we see in Jesus in his post-resurrection presence. He had every right to be far from peaceful! He had endured betrayal, trial, violence, murder, loneliness and darkness and yet as he meets his disciples who are cowering in their own fear, sadness, anger and grief his greeting to them is, ‘Peace be with you.’ He does not come with a plan for revenge. He does not come in an angry rage looking for someone to blame. He does not come with a plan for escape. He comes in peace. He comes with peace. ‘Peace be upon you.’ He comes present with something else.

There are two realities at play here. They are contrasting. One is ruled by distrust, fear and darkness. The other is ruled by hope, joy, love and peace. In the first our cycles of hurt spiral us down towards an ever-increasing narrowness of living, affecting not only ourselves but all those around us as well. In the second, well, what we see is that Jesus’ response reveals the presence of the resurrection reality. Jesus’ greeting of ‘Peace be upon you’ is evidence of the presence of life and hope that truly does and can overcome death and darkness, sorrow and pain.

Martin in his blog recently talked about not being able to explain the resurrection (even after 30 years in ministry! Come on, Mart! *wink*) I admit I’m only a few years in but I am with him on that. I can’t explain if or how it literally happened and I’m 98% comfortable that I don’t need to. What I am convinced of though is what it says when told with the rest of the biblical story. The story that begins in Genesis 1 where all creation is good and human beings declared ‘very good.’ The story that continues on and travels through often messy human existence, culminating in the darkness of Good Friday and the silence, the desolation of Easter Saturday. The story that doesn’t finish there though, that on the first day of the week new life and a new creation is birthed. In this story, as we remember to begin with Genesis 1 and not Genesis 3, as we remember that Easter Sunday always follows Good Friday what we are reminded of is that our reality is one of life and light, not darkness and death. The life we are called to live is one of life. I am more and more convinced that this in actual fact is our true reality, one that we are not so much called to try and make sense of or understand but one simply that we are to ‘wake up’ to. Resurrection is our home and we are most certainly invited to return and make our home in it.

It is interesting to note when Jesus appears to his disciples that his wounds, the holes in his hands and feet, the wound in his side, are still present post-resurrection. In fact, it is the continuing presence of these which enables Thomas in particular, but I imagine other disciples as well, to enter into belief again. Resurrection enabled Jesus to be fully present yet while still carrying the evidence of his wounds with him. One might imagine that a resurrection reality would destroy all evidence of hurt and pain, but it appears not to. It seems that living in this resurrection-presence doesn’t erase the pain, reduce our brokenness, our hurts or our disappointments. We all know this as we carry our various wounds around with us each day while we walk the road of faith, they remain quite real. But as Jesus in his post-resurrection state shows us these are quite obviously held within the presence of something far greater.

Somehow, somewhere along the line, part of our getting hurt by others as human beings is to pick up the message that to show our hurt in a vulnerable way to others – to let others see and poke around in our pain – is not acceptable. An unfortunate part of being hurt is to think that in order for others to like us (we fear they don’t most of the time) we believe that we should do everything we can not to share our hurt with anyone. It is a lie that we believe and we decide that our hurts don’t matter and therefore try and avoid dealing with them or try and cover them up, wanting to appear to others as if we are perfect. I don’t think we can ever hear enough the truth that no one is perfect, and that is perfectly fine! The truth of the resurrection is that the risen Christ carries us all into the life of God. All-of-all-of-us including our pain and hurt, mistakes and broken bits. And, if we’re honest enough we can let God speak through these and testify to the power and love of God that is big enough to include all our imperfections. Jesus appeared in peace while still carrying his wounds with him. The presence of his wounds held by the greater reality of God’s life was the very way in for Thomas to believe. Faith became real as real life was held within the life of God.

I wonder how often we are willing to let our wounds be visible enough to be seen alongside our faith? I wonder as individuals and as a church how often we are willing enough to let others see our wounds holding these up honestly and openly so that God is able to reveal the bigness of God’s life and ignite a little flame of faith both in us and in others? Can we let ourselves live, in a mindset of resurrection? One that says, ‘look, yes, here I am… all of me… all of my mistakes, and hurt, and bad habits; all my prejudices and misunderstandings; all of my pain and sorrow…’ and instead of lashing out and making true the saying that ‘hurt people, hurt people,’ or trying to hide behind a facade of perfection, we are present instead saying, ‘Peace be with you.’ Can we embody resurrection in this way showing the true way to life and being catalysts not of hurt but of hope and of peace?

Questions for contemplation

  • What word, sentence, or phrase stood out to you in today’s reading and reflection?
  • Can you think of a time when you have witnessed the presence of peace come into an otherwise unpeaceful situation? 
  • Do you agree that faith can be made real by the honest presence of our wounds?
  • Can you think of someone you can talk with about what you have been reflecting on?