think we’ve all become accustomed to and, I suspect,
somewhat tired of the endless debates, tensions, and
differences of opinions about what politicians believe
is the right way forward for our country. I’m sure
none of us or any of our leaders have any real idea
about what is going to happen next in terms of our
position within Europe or how long the uncertainty
will last for.
does happen in the future though and whatever our own
personal opinions may be, I think we will continue to
live with confusion, disagreements and scepticism
about what is happening within our country for a very
long time to come.
course this is what makes history and while we inhabit
this earth there will continue to be squabbles,
discontent and war, amongst the Church, the world and
dare I say it even amongst our congregations!
interesting that today’s passage from the Book of Acts
tells of another significant event in European
history, as it is the first recorded preaching of the
gospel in Europe. Paul had been frustrated at
being unable to move ahead with his missionary work in
Asia and was unexpectedly called across to leading
cities in Europe. He believed God wanted him to take
the gospel message not just to Gentiles but to devout
synagogue worshippers, superstitious philosophers and
spiritual leaders and it is more than likely that his
Christian sermons were preached in a synagogue.
Lydia’s hears Paul and her heart is opened, God moves
her to baptism and it is thought that she became the
first convert to the Christian faith on European soil.
Paul, Lydia and all Jesus’ followers did all those
years ago, we too must listen, pray and invite the
Holy Spirit to direct, guide and inspire us in our
decision making. Paul understood the distinctive heart
of Christianity to lie in the historic facts of the
Gospel and Jesus’ promises of peace and the Holy
Spirit which would remind them of his teaching,
inspire them and guide them.
I pray that we can confess our faith and show by our
lifestyles, just as Lydia did, that we too have
accepted the challenge to spread the gospel message,
transmit its power and show an outpouring of God’s
generous love. When God makes a demand on us I hope
that we can respond with love and share the gospel
message by our actions in the fragile and fragmented
world that we live in today. When people act with
loving generosity, they can discover the nature of God
in Christ and within themselves.
final greeting to his Apostles as John records must
have sounded very strange, ‘Peace I leave with you; my
peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do
not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be
A lot of what Jesus said was very challenging and he
asks his companions to put their trust in him, just as
he asks for our trust and faith. Despite our selfish
and damaged world we can still accept Christ’s legacy
of peace. Christ’s peace can be experienced in even
the most disheartening or traumatic situations.
We live in tough times: I wonder what sort of
situations you left behind before coming to Church
this morning? Did you leave an orderly routine or
total chaos? Did you leave home with the turmoil and
stresses of daily life and relationships churning
around in your head?
Of course peace is something we all want but human
peace does have a number of meanings; for some it is
the absence of war, for others a full night’s sleep
and for others a time of quiet and their own space.
And to achieve this we are often bombarded by all
sorts of outside influences. How often are we
encouraged to take out a particular insurance policy
so you can put your worries behind you! Go on holiday
to the sun, buy a new car, flat screen tv, coffee
maker and so on to take the stresses and strains out
of life. It would appear that anything and everything
promises a better life or a happier existence. Yet
statistics don’t bear this out. Despite lots of people
having more and more disposable income and owning many
of the latest gadgets with advanced technology, we
live in an age where countless people strive for
something that can’t be bought. We all know what makes
for ordinary human peace in our lives but the peace of
Christ has a far deeper and more profound meaning, a
peace which is beyond all understanding.
Then as we come into church we begin to soak up the
atmosphere and many of our concerns take on a
different perspective. Is that why we come? Are we
searching for something very special, are we looking
for security, or perhaps anticipating God’s love and
peace made real through the inner presence of His Holy
Spirit and the sacraments.
Christ was asking his Apostles and all his followers
subsequently to believe in a peace that was not about
personal comfort or satisfaction. A very different
peace from what marketing tactics focus on in our
And as well as offering the Apostles peace Jesus also
tells them not to be afraid. But how could they have
possibly not been afraid? Jesus has told them he is
going back to the Father.
And how can they not be afraid today? They realise
Jesus is now finally about to leave them but he
assures them that he will always be amongst them
through the Holy Spirit and pledges a God given peace.
How can we not be afraid today, we constantly hear of
wars, indiscriminate destruction, deliberate acts of
terrorism, abuse, poverty, modern day slavery, things
that all provide massive barriers to preaching the
But as the apostles had, we too have Christ’s
assurance and promise of peace and that we too are
never alone. Peace is not simply the absence of
violence or pain but an awareness of God’s love made
real through the inner presence of the Holy Spirit.
The Christian vision of peace is different from the
secular world’s understanding;
So let us all try to cultivate Christ’s legacy of
peace by making more time for God, creating more
spaces in our lives for prayer and reflection and
being as open and as willing as Paul and Lydia were to
And to share that legacy we must be sympathetic
listeners, willing to work together and when things go
wrong have the humility to able to say ‘I’m sorry’. In
order to pass on the true peace of Christ we have to
be at peace with ourselves and that means leaving all
our own grudges, resentments and hurts behind us. In
Christ we are forgiven and we are asked to forgive, we
are loved and asked to love.
The peace of Christ is an everlasting peace for us in
this world and the next, it is a prize greater than
anything the world can give – a peace which passes all