“There is peace and security … ” (I Thess 5:3). Where?
A week ago Thursday, at the same time as I was walking out the back door to head to Luther Seminary’s campus, my youngest son, twelve years old, having left for the bus only a few minutes before, bolted through the door, almost knocking me over. He was crying, shaking all over, and could barely speak. “What’s wrong?” I said. After many attempts to answer in the midst of shivering tears and heaving breaths, he managed to say, “There was a van. I think it was following me.”
If you are a parent, you know exactly what I felt in that moment. And I assured him that he did the right thing. And that I loved him. And that he was okay.
Peace and security? How?
This is the same son about whom people ask of me, “Aren’t you just a wreck when he plays football?” “What if he gets a concussion?” “Don’t you worry when you watch his hockey games?” But, if I allowed into my life the expected levels of anxiety that come with being his mother, my life would be overtaken by concern and fear.
Peace and security? When?
The man in Matthew’s parable wants peace and security. He’s going on a trip and needs his property tended. The psalm states trust in the Lord for peace and security, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.” And the Thessalonians? Well, they certainly need peace and security. Facing the loss of those they have loved prior to Jesus and security were possible, the proverbial rug is pulled out from under you. As soon as you claim peace and security, expect it to vanish before your eyes. Or, in the words of Paul, to disappear as suddenly as the onslaught of labor pains. Wow. Do I ever know what that feels like — my body decided that my first son should be born 9 weeks early. With that first contraction, there went peace and security.
Does all of this mean that peace and security are endlessly elusive? That as soon as we start to feel comfortable, confident, or calm we should anticipate that what or whom we have placed on, located in, or entrusted with the means of our peace and security will fall apart or abandon us? Because here seems to be the truth — locating peace and security, or giving them up, or entrusting them to others, in the end, is a vulnerable act. Because peace could end up as discord. And security could result in being exposed or expelled.
Peace and security? In what?
And peace and security can’t be generic conceptualized thoughts or theoretical truths. They have to be lodged in something, someone. That’s exactly what Paul is suggesting. Peace and security really mean nothing unless they are connected to that which or to whom they can be realized or experienced. There is too much that creates only temporary peace. There is too much that offers only a false sense of security. This is why they are such powerful realities. We entrust them to other things and to other beings. Paul is saying, entrust them in the God who raised Jesus from the dead. Given that God and that truth, there is no doubt that the security of those you love and the peace of knowing that truth are real.
And for the preacher, in what, in whom do you seek peace and security? Why do you go there? Are they real or not? You might have to answer these questions for yourself before you can preach about the peace and security that your parishioners need to hear. You will need to explore the spectrum of in what, in where, in how we place our peace and security so as to suggest that peace and security are not achievable with laws and borders, with rituals and right belief, but in relationships. In real persons. And in God.
In the end, isn’t that what God wants? What Matthew sees? What Paul is trying to communicate? We cannot locate our inherent need for peace and security in passing potentates (consider the results of the recent elections in the United States), in the fleeting fickleness of institutions, or with temporary trust in what we thought was tried and true. Rather, our need for peace and security is personal. It’s relational. It’s emotional. It’s communal.
There is peace and security. In whom.
That is, maybe, where, how, or in what we have peace and security is not the best question — it is in whom. It is heavily invested in, and perhaps only possible, in whom.
Peace to you,