“Practicing a Heart of Peace”

July 3, 2022

Luke 10:1–11

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 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. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.”

“Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’”

We talk about peace in many ways. We yearn for “peace and quiet.” We bring peace offerings. We learn to be at peace with losses. We make peace or hold our peace. Some people are peacemakers and we have military “peacekeeping” forces. Perhaps you remember the popular slogan seen on bumper stickers, “No Jesus, No Peace. Know Jesus, Know Peace.”

The plethora of news in this world in recent times has bearing on how I read today’s biblical text. Jesus is sending out seventy of his followers to be workers for the Kingdom of God. Amidst a variety of instructions, the first thing they were to do was this: “Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house.”

Peace is a gravitational biblical word. It derives from a Greek word eirēnē which is a translation of the rich Hebrew word “shalom.” Shalom has the broad meaning of “well-being.” Shalom carries the concepts of bodily health, prosperity, a friendly relationship. But it also has a strong divine dimension. Shalom is the gift of Yahweh, the concept of God’s salvation and wholeness.

Shalom soars beyond the word “peace.” Often times our understanding of peace is small and narrow. We think of peace as an ideal to be attained or the absence conflict. In quests for peace, we think it will come when another person or group changes or stops doing something. In doing so, we condition peace on our ability to change or control another.

But Jesus has none of this in mind. As He sent out his followers, they went carrying peace and little else. As they entered a house, they were not making peace, keeping peace, or seeking peace, but they were stretching out their hands-full of peace. It was a gift, an offering to be shared. Notice, there were no qualifications or confessions required; no orthodoxy exams to pass to be given this peace.

But the peace of which Jesus speaks has its own integrity, its own life which cannot be taken away. Jesus tells those being sent out, if someone does not share in the peace, it will return to you. You will keep this peace, even when your offering is rejected. You will be at peace with their decision. Not everyone will be receptive to peace, but everywhere you go and to everyone you meet, offer it. Because where it is shared, the Kingdom comes.

I suspect the reason this theme of peace in today’s text struck me this week, is due to the reality that amidst the divisions and conflicts that trouble this world, we are still to offer peace. Jesus’ instructions to those he sent out makes clear the reality that we have no power to change another. There is reason so many feel powerless in the midst of this world full of conflict. The only person over whom we have any power or ability to change is ourselves. You and I are each responsible for choosing to live with a heart at peace.

Jesus did not send the seventy out to change the towns and places they would go, but to simply offer his peace. How often does Jesus instruct us to change other people? Never. We may wish to change others, but it is not his way. Jesus does, however, spend a lot of time teaching us to change ourselves and our way of being toward another. That is the change of heart that is at the core of peace, shalom.

The peace of Christ is not defined by the absence of conflict and it is not an ideal to be attained. It is a practice to be lived every moment of every day of our lives. That means practicing peace with friends and family, with strangers and enemies, with people who are different from us and those who frighten us.

Jesus sent those followers out with “no purse, no bag, no sandals.” Do not take that literally. It is a metaphor for the baggage we carry that trips us up and denies us a heart at peace. It is the baggage of our past experiences, fears and wounds, grudges and resentments, pre-judgments and assumptions about others, our need to be right or better than others, and sometimes our desire to play the victim.

What baggage might you need to leave behind to go into the world fully equipped with a heart at peace?

“Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’”

May the peace of the Lord be with you always.

Image:

Saatchi Art — Maria Tulbure

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Kurt Jacobson

Author of “Living Hope” & “Welcoming Grace.” Lutheran preacher (retired) but still writing to inspire and aim for a world of mercy, love and respect.