Proper 9, Sunday, July 3, 2016

2 Kings 5:1-14
Psalm 30
Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Whatever house you enter, first say “Peace to this house!” And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. (Luke 10:5-6)

We talk about peace in many different ways.

The pageant contestant’s wish for “World peace” has become a running gag. We have “peacemakers” and “peacekeepers” (and even “peacekeeping troops”!). If you have to learn to accept a difficult situation, you “make your peace with it.” If you just want to be left alone, you’re looking for a little “peace and quiet.” If you keep your mouth shut when you really want to spout off, you’re “holding your peace.” If you were paying attention in the 1990s you probably saw the bumper sticker declaring “No Jesus, No Peace. Know Jesus, Know Peace.” (One of my favorite travel mugs had a spin: “No Coffee, No Peace…”)

Jesus sent out seventy of his followers, as recorded in Luke chapter ten, to be laborers for the harvest, gathering people into the Kingdom. He gave detailed instructions about the attitude they should have when they entered into each new town, and when they received hospitality in each house. They went empty-handed. Where they were welcomed, they stayed and gratefully received whatever was provided. They healed the sick, and proclaimed the nearness of God’s Kingdom–as near as a cool hand on a feverish forehead.

Where they were not welcomed, they brushed the dust off their feet. The Kingdom was near, they still proclaimed; but you didn’t recognize it, so we won’t even take the dirt from this place on our way.

But first—before eating and drinking, before comfort and healing, even before proclamation and judgment, Jesus told them to say, “Peace.”

The disciples came carrying peace, bringing it with them though they’d left everything else behind. For the followers of Jesus it was more than the typical greeting, more than a passing “Shalom,” more than any popular idiom or bumper-sticker (or coffee-mug) saying. They weren’t just saying peace, and they weren’t making it or keeping it or holding it or seeking it; they were stretching out their hands-full of it. It was a gift, an offering. It was to be shared.

And, Jesus said, if anyone—without evaluation, without judgment, without requiring orthodoxy exams or checking references—but if anyone shares in your peace, peace will make a home with them.

So offer it up; peace isn’t a personal treasure to be hoarded, or guarded, or “kept.” It’s a story to be told, it’s life together, gathering at the table and caring for needs. It’s the Kingdom, so near you can taste it, touch it. Share it, and it abides.

Peace is the first word, not a prize to be won or a paradise to be earned. Peace is the present, not a far-off promise.

Jesus gave his disciples a reality-check, too: some people, inexplicably, will refuse peace. If they will not share, Jesus said, your peace will return to you. They may not have it, but you still will. You will keep your peace, even when your gift is rejected. You will make peace with their decision, and shake off the lingering dust. You will still know peace, bundling it back into your travel bag until you reach the next gate, the next door. Not everyone will receive peace, and not every place will live with peace; but everywhere you go, take it. To everyone you meet, offer it. Because where it is shared, the Kingdom comes.

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is an ordained Baptist minister, at-home mom, and military spouse living in South Carolina. She blogs at One Faithful Step.