Don't Panic


BY PASTOR SEAMUS ENRIGHT

Don’t Panic 

It was probably around ten years ago that I was introduced to the concept of a “tagline” for email. A tagline is a version of an electronic signature, a series of short sentences, or a phrase, that gets affixed to outgoing email messages. In the years since then, resources have been created to help you to develop a “professional” email “signature”, a quick online search will tell you what to include; name, title, organization, contact info, and etcetera. Ten years ago, I just decided that I would start ending most, if not all, of my emails the same way, with the words “Grace and Peace”. 

The Apostle Paul used that phrase in every one of his letters, not as a farewell, but as a greeting. The Greek word for peace, eirene, is a word from the secular politics of the time to describe a condition that is the opposite of war. But in the New Testament, eirene is used to translate the Hebrew word shalom, which is a much larger idea. Shalom is more than peace as merely the absence of conflict; it’s wellness and wholeness, it’s what happens when humans are living in right relationship, in loving relationship, with justice, and mercy, and grace. It’s not only that there is no war, it’s that conditions are such that war is impossible. 

In his letter to the people of the church in Philippi, as Paul is wrapping up he tells folks not to be anxious but instead pray; “And the peace of God, which is beyond understanding, will protect your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). How we struggle when our hearts and minds are anxious and conflicted! Our passions are stirred, our anger and fear take over, our hearts go to war and our minds are overwhelmed. Instead of doing our best thinking, responding out of our deeply held beliefs and values, we become reactive, lashing out without reason, and then trying to justify the harm we’ve done to those around us. 

Right now, in this moment in history, powerful forces are invested in making us reactive, rather than responsive. Paul tells the Philippians to be known by their joy and gentleness (Phil. 4:4-5). Instead of staying our course, staying calm, and staying connected, we’re encouraged to panic, fed a diet of fear, resentment, and outrage through a variety of streams. The cure begins with prayer. The Lord is near. 

When we recall God’s love, the grace that has been shown to us, we can rejoice, and stay the course of gentle love. God loves because of who God is, not because we deserve it. We call that unmerited favor grace, and when we love in response to it, we do so with the same kind of unconditional abandon that invites wellness and makes wholeness possible, and puts our hearts and minds at peace, regardless of our circumstances. It’s difficult to accept, and it may be beyond understanding, but may the Grace, and Peace, of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always

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