Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Experiencing peace

Last week it was reported that a minister in Duesseldorf, Germany had what he thought was a great idea to bring church folks more peace of mind. Thorsten Nolting invited parishioners, one at a time, to lie in open graves which he then covered up with boards. This was meant to be an exercise in meditation. Nolting said, “I wanted people to think about what weighs on them down in the darkness and gather the energy to resist it.”

It did not work very well at all. Nolting said the exercise went “horribly wrong” because reporters did not allow silence. Journalists kept bothering the participants with questions ruining the whole meditative atmosphere. Nolting implored the reporters to be quiet or go away, but they would not.

Whether it was the noisy reporters or the disconcerting feeling generated by lying in a grave, Nolting’s attempt to improve peace of mind appeared to have the reverse effect in at least one case. One man was still trembling 20-minutes after spending a mere seven minutes laid to rest in the grave.

While it is admirable that this German minister sought a deeper experience of peace among church folks in Duesseldorf, I just don’t think that’s the way Jesus intended for us to experience his peace in this world. In the gospel reading for the second Sunday of Easter, the risen Jesus twice pronounced peace upon his followers and then he said, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21, TNIV).

Certainly meditation has an often overlooked place in the practice of our faith. But we should not miss the fact that Jesus, on the evening of the first Easter, connected the experience of peace to his mission of love and grace. Jesus never said that his peace would be with us in our own selfish pursuit of the pervasive consumerism of our culture. The wholeness we long for is linked to the Lord's way of sacrificial service.

"Jesus said, 'Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you'" (John 20:21, TNIV).

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