One of my favourite camp songs was “Peace Like A River.” It had some great
actions and went something like this, “I’ve got peace like a river, I got peace like a river,I’ve got peace like a river in my soul (in my soul). I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river,I’ve got peace like a river in my soul.” The song goes on to sing, “I’ve got joy like a fountain and love like an ocean.” With increasingly more difficult actions. The song gets its lyrics from a mish-mash of Biblical verses. It was Isaiah who often referred to
peace being like a river. Joy like a fountain likely also stems from Isaiah but there is a great passage in Romans that says, my God, the fountain of hope, fill you with overwhelming joy (Romans 15:13) and love like an ocean may come from the Psalms Here’s the thing, it only recently dawned on me that rivers aren’t always peaceful. A walk to Nymph Falls will tell you that rivers can rage! As Spring sets in and big melts take place we know that floods can happen and can wreak havoc on communities. I love swimming
in the Quinsam River but you wouldn’t catch me dabbling in the Campbell River just on the other side of the highway. What does it mean to have peace like a river?
I actually think that the Scripture lesson for this morning can help answer that question. We celebrated Easter two weeks ago- and so many of us have moved on from the resurrection story. But in our lesson this morning we are actually still on the day of resurrection. Jesus has already shown himself to two disciples while they were walking to Emmaus. These two have rushed back to Jerusalem to tell their friends and as they are discussing what this could all mean, Jesus appears and declares, “Peace be with you.”
When Jesus begins this conversation and says, “Peace, be with you” we can argue that this was simply a common greeting of the time, and so we shouldn’t read anything into it. But in Greek the word means security, safety and prosperity as well as tranquility. It’s likely that Jesus said, “Shalom”, often a greeting shared between Jews but again it’s meaning
goes deeper to include contentment or wholeness, even harmony. I think it is important for us to think of peace in this way. That it can mean security and safety even when the world is in chaos but it can also mean harmony with the chaos. Jesus is assuring his disciples that even though they have just experienced the most tumultuous few days that all is well
with the world. That if the waters of a wild river are raging around them they can be assured of God’s presence around them.
So Jesus greets them with, “Peace be with you” but instead of peace, the disciples are startled and terrified and they think they are seeing a ghost. If you grew up with Saturday morning cartoons, like I did, then you might even imagine a scene from Scooby Doo- with Scooby jumping into the arms of Shaggy who declares, “a ggggghooost!” Here Jesus is offering peace but their fear, their doubts, their bewilderment, their confusion, all
those unknowns, are swirling around them, like a whirl pool in a river.
Then Jesus does everything he can to prove to them that he is really there-
completely present with them. He tells them to look at his hands and feet. Tells them to touch him so that they can feel his flesh and bones, to feel his body heat radiating off him.
To feel his human-ness. But still the disciples can’t believe their eyes or sense of touch, they are still disbelieving and wondering- so Jesus does the most human thing he can think of, he eats in their presence. Its been so long since we have had a meal physically together, and so it’s possible that we forget what it is like to gather among friends for dinner- how
human that action can be, the wonderful combination of laughter or conversation, and nourishment. Jesus provides peace amongst their turmoil by returning to what they did best- talking and eating together. It is in this moment that their doubt and unbelieving is transformed.
The disciples are transformed from frightened followers to wondering witnesses.
Jesus, opens up their minds to understand the scripture in such a powerful way that less than two months later Peter will transform from a fumbling fisherman to a prophetic preacher. And they are witnesses of these things. They are witnesses to the life, death, and now resurrection of Jesus. As witnesses they are now not only part of the story of God and God’s people but are now tasked with providing this peace. And they will provide it by
proclaiming repentance and forgiveness to all nations. They are to be indiscriminate with how they dispense this peace, a peace that doesn’t not really mean calm from the raging waters but rather calm within the raging waters.
Mike has a t-shirt from the Saugeen river society in Ontario that says, “Advice from a river; Go with the flow, immerse yourself in nature, be thoughtful of those downstream, stay current, the beauty is in the journey.” Perhaps this is what the term peace like a river means. I honestly think that this is good advie for Jesus’ disciples too- because if they thought that this was the wildest day of their life- a day that started with the women
telling them about two men dressed in dazzling white by Jesus’ tomb, and then had two of their friends, who were supposed to be in Emmaus running back to declare that they had seen Jesus- to this moment when Jesus talked through the night with them about the Scriptures-if they think that this is the wildest day then they are about to embark on a wild ride as they preach and proclaim, as they witness to the life, death and resurrection of
Their going to need the Holy Spirit’s help as they try to “go with the flow” and have peace like a river and thankfully that’s on the horizon for them too. But now, it’s up to us- we’re the witnesses, we’re the ones who are to proclaim repentance and forgiveness, we’re the ones who are to offer peace. We have experienced some pretty wild turmoil the last year and a bit. And it may not be calming down any time soon but the world is in need of peace, the peace that Jesus’ presence provides. We too need to go with the flow,
immerse ourselves in God’s creation, be thoughtful of those downstream, stay current and find the beauty in the journey- even when we have our doubts or chaos is around us. But that’s what having peace like a river means to me. Peace be with you. Amen