‘Just give me five minutes’ peace!’ – The Anxiety Scale.   Leave a comment

HOLY SPIRIT - FOIX

Fruit of the Spirit:  Peace:  Isaiah 43 vv 1-7: An Interactive Study

’Just give me five minutes peace and quiet!’ This is probably the most frequent, everyday use of the word peace that you’ll hear in English-speaking homes and schools! Even in the religious context, the word is usually used in a collocation, a group of words, like  ’grace, mercy and peace..’, in a way in which faith, hope and love are not. On the international ’stage’, peace is seen as the absence of war or, to be more cynical, ’the period of cheating between battles’, rarely as ’the presence of justice’. Similarly,  in our day-to-day lives, a period of ’peace’ is the antidote to stress and anxiety, which is nearly always seen as a temporary respite from ongoing conflicts at home, school, work or in the local church and community. It’s a state we are given by someone else, either by our family or, if we are religious, by God. It’s a passive state, not an active one, not one which we create for ourselves.

So, where are you on the Anxiety Scale? Where would you put your life? In general? At present?

0-2 Very peaceful

English: An anxious person

English: An anxious person (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3-4 Quite peaceful

5-6 Relatively peaceful; a little worried

6-7 Anxious

8-9 Very Anxious

10 Tearing your hair out!

What are your deepest  fears? Can you put a name to them for yourself and in a private conversation with God?

In the Book of Isaiah, chapters 40-55 are concerned with the Jewish exiles in Babylon. The message is a comforting one: God is about to do something new and the punishment of the past is over. They are about to experience a period of peace, or ’reconciliation’.

 

English: A scroll of the Book of Isaiah

English: A scroll of the Book of Isaiah (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reading: Isaiah 43 vv 1-7:

But now, this is what the LORD says –

He who created you, O Jacob,

He who formed you, O Israel:

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you;

And when you pass through the rivers,

They will not sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire,

You will not be burned;

The flames will not set you ablaze.

For I am the LORD, your God,

The Holy One of Israel, your Saviour;

I give Egypt for your ransom,

Cush and Seba in your stead.

Since you are precious and honoured in my sight,

And because I love you,

I will give men in exchange for you,

And people in exchange for your life.

Do not be afraid, for I am with you;

I will bring your children from the east

And gather you from the west.

I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’

And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’

Bring my sons from afar

And my daughters from the ends of the earth –

Everyone who is called by my name,

Whom I created for my glory,

Whom I formed and made.”

Reflections:

Franklin D. Roosevelt after giving one of his ...

Franklin D. Roosevelt after giving one of his fireside chats. The predecessor to the Weekly Address. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When President Roosevelt came into office during the Great Depression of the 1930s, he told the American people ’we have nothing to fear but fear itself’. He went on to speak about how fear can paralyse and debilitate us, but that it could also energise us into action. In his first hundred days in office, he energised the American people through a series of reforms known collectively as ’the New Deal’. In the passage above, this is what God is offering the people of Israel and, by extension, ourselves: A New Deal, both in our private lives and our public relationships.

How do you deal with fear and anxiety? Flight or fight?

What does God promise us? If not freedom from adversity and persecution, then what?

So, what is Peace? The Hebrew ’Shalom’ in the Old Testament implies health and well-being, welfare and ’wholeness’ .  It is externally given, which is why the word was used as a traditional greeting – ’peace be with you’, or, to paraphrase, ’may the Lord grant you safety and security’. Of course, an obsession with this ’state’ is what can give rise to an extreme ’Zionism’, the belief that God has given a timeless guarantee of the right of the Jewish people to security above all other Peoples.

However, Isaiah is also looking forward to a more inclusive, universal  definition, reconciling all who are called by his name from every part of the known world. In the New Testament, the word becomes transformed and redefined as ’peace of mind, spirit and heart’, an internal condition, or ’inner peace’. This is Paul’s meaning in Galatians 5:22, where he lists it as one of the fruits of the spirit, a ’divine’ quality which becomes intrinsic in the believer through the action of the Holy Spirit.In all,  there are eight references to ’peace’ in Isaiah, all referring to the ’external’ idea;  the passage above refers to testing by fire and water and to God being with us in this testing, protecting and providing us with security. Written after Babylonian exile, it is a promise of reconciliation.

However, in  vv 3-4, there is a ’foreshadowing’ of what Jesus would do; we are as precious as Seba or Cush, the fertile areas of the Upper Nile, but Christ’s ransom will be paid once and for all. The Red Cross says they don’t pay ransoms on the basis that ’once you give in to kidnappers, they always come back for more’. ’Appeasement’ is the same. We might gently give in to our children when they ask for sweets or toys, though we know the eventual cost may be far higher. However, we rely on their ’gacefulness’ to respond by not continually demanding more. Dictators are not graceful, however, and view ’generosity’ as a sign of weakness, which is why people are rightly suspicious of supporters of ’peace

at any price’. They are never satisfied.  The Price paid by God on Calvary was so high that no more could be asked. However, Christians continued to die by all manner of fearful methods, so God doesn’t promise safety, security, freedom from persecution or suffering. In fact, tells disciples that they must be prepared to ’take up their cross’. But he does promise that his peace will be with us, through the Spirit.

So, how can we accept God’s Peace in our lives?

  • we can’t understand it, we just have to accept it – it passes all our understanding in this life;
  • we can’t equate it with any kind of worldly peace, though it is offered and will be given in/ to this world – but ’not as the world gives…’;
  • Isaiah chapters 52-56 make it clear that Justice and Peace are two sides of the same coin. Peace not the absence of conflict, but presence of justice. If we treat others justly, we are ourselves put right with God; but we cannot be ’at peace’ with God if we ’at war’ with others;
  • God will ’gather in’ all areas of Earth, none of which are excluded from God’s grace, which is universal and available to all, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender or sexuality (56 vv 3-8);
  • The ’whole created order,’ the entire universe, is reconciled by the cross; the Greek word here is ’oikoumene’ which gives us our words for ’economy’ and ’ecology’. The gospel is also about ecological balance, about ’Green Peace’. We are called to respect God’s purpose for his creation, since we are only tenants.

How can your relationship with God produce a spirit of peace within you?

This state is not the same as ’being cool’, or ’keeping calm’ and ’carrying on’ regardless. It’s certainly not behaving passively or with total tranquility, as if we’re on valerian.  In ’turning the other cheek’ we are called to witness non-violently to the truth. Even in the eye of the storm, we need to hold firm to our anchor and God will calm the wind and the waves.  Peace begins when we stand still and face our fears, bringing our anxieties to God in prayer and it continuing as we seek God’s transformation of our conflicts through his reconciling love.

So, what is Reconciliation?

To reconcile: to cause a relationship to be harmonious, peaceful and righteous.

  1. Used of what the disciples must do for one another (Mt 5:24; Lk 12:58);
  2. Used of what God has achieved through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus (Ro 5: 1-10; 2 Cor 5:18)
  3. Used of the duty of a sinner towards God – to accept forgiveness and be in a right relationship (2 Cor 5:20).

So how does this change our definition of peace?

Peace is the sound of children playing, and a father’s voice singing…(author unknown).

Psalms 27, 46, 49, 56 and 91 speak peace to our fears.

Prayers:

For Inner Peace:

Lord, I know that you have heard the prayers of my heart. I have described for you my deepest fears and concerns, and it is my desire to relinquish them to you. You have created my mind, Lord, with the amazing capacity to dream with you. In my silence I sense your powerful presence.

I picture your arms around me, assuring me that all is well. In my heart I hear you whisper. ’You are my precious child and I love you. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your saviour.’

Lord, thank you for taking my fears and concerns. You are in control – your will be done.

 (Hazel Offner)

 

For Peace in the World:

O God of power and love, look in mercy upon our war-torn world, which is still your world;

You have made it; in it you delight to work; you have redeemed its people.

Grant reconciliation, we ask, between man and man, nation and nation, through the power of that great peace made by Jesus your Son;

May your servants not be troubled by wars and rumours of wars, but rather look up because their redemption draws near; and when our king returns, may he find many waiting for him, and fighting with his weapons alone;

We ask it in the King’s name, Jesus Christ your son our Lord. AMEN.

(Christopher Idle)

Song: Tom Paxton, Peace Will Come:

My own life is all I can hope to control,

Let my life be lived for the good of my soul,

And may it bring peace,

Sweet peace,

Peace will come,

Let it begin with me.

 

St Columba’s Prayer of Benediction:

Deep peace of the running wave to you,

Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,

Deep peace of the shining stars to you,

Deep peace of the son of peace to you.

 

AJC, 3/5/12, updated for reading, 10/6/12

 

 

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