This blog post is part of a series that I began for telling our story. You can read the first post here.
The first job I had in church work was at a church called Salem Lutheran. Actually, the first two churches were called Salem. It’s more common to use in the Northeast, I suppose. You’d think the negative associations with the town name in Massachusetts would have deterred people, but apparently not.
The word “salem” actually comes from Latin, I think, but what I know for sure is that it means “peace.” Ironic, isn’t it?
That first church was during a time when my husband worked as a mission developer, and I was hired part-time to do youth ministry. The church was mostly older folks, a lot of white hair, but there was a small youth group. Mostly the grandchildren of long-time members. I helped with teaching confirmation class as well.
What I remember most from that first church is something the pastor would always talk about. When we would talk about the name and mission of our congregation, he would bring up a passage from John (chapter 20, verses 19-23):
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
I was asked about it when I interviewed for the job, what “peace” means. At the time, being 24 years old and knowing precious little, I said that I didn’t think it meant the absence of conflict or difficulty. I believed then, and still believe now, that peace is something only God can give.
His peace is with us even in the worst of times. His peace prevails on the battlefield, in the hospital room, and in the still, small voice. His peace washes over us, often when we least deserve it but need it most, at times when we are angry or frustrated or scared.
This is the peace that gives power to the church to step up and share the Gospel, even when the world around us is burning down. This is the peace that calls for difficult choices to be made, even when there are those who cannot understand them. This is the peace that I felt every single day of my daughter’s life, even (especially) on the hardest days.
Peace is unusual in our world. The names of certain countries can make our blood run cold with fear at the thought of war. I would imagine that the United States can be that for certain parts of the world as well. There are names of people who can instantly remind us of painful, broken relationships. Scary movies and graphic video games fill our heads with violence. Human slavery is at an all-time high. I could enumerate all of the problems of our world here, because every one of them is the antithesis of peace.
Thanks be to God that He sent His Son, who is our peace. Without Him, we would give up entirely.
Next post coming tomorrow.