You give me peace like a river

I’ve written about Shalom on here before right? I mean the title of this blog is Striving for Shalom.  It’s a concept that I am deeply DEEPLY in love with.  A wholeness – a oneness with God that he intended for his people, promises us at the end of our days and that Christ gave us through the Holy Spirit after his resurrection in John’s account of his life.  It’s a beautiful almost lyrical word that rolls off my tongue with all of its hope and complexity.
It’s a word that I love, a concept that I want to shout from the roof tops – THIS IS WHAT GOD INTENDED FOR YOUR LIFE!!!!
And this week I’m charged with teaching this word to our children at church.  As I process it out I think of all the words I use to describe Shalom, all the hints to how broken the world is that most adults know and understand all to well.  I think of explaining Shalom from the point of brokenness – as a contrast to the world we already know.
But Kids?!  They probably understand Shalom far better than we do.  They probably can remember a moment in time that they have felt this complete wholeness – all of their needs and wants met.  They’ve probably experienced it in the last month, week or even day.
I think of my nieces. The Eldest would not describe her life as perfect – she has an annoying little sister who is always reeking havoc on her life.   Mini Monster steals her toys, throws things, breaks things and is entirely too loud for Eldest’s taste.
Mini Monster would probably describe her life as perfect, except for when she is being told that she cannot have one of her sister’s toys.  Or when she is told she cannot smother the new Baby with her kisses and hugs.  Her day is full of craziness, noise and chaos.  She may love this noise and chaos, I would hope so considering she is the one who creates it.
But then I think of the other moments in Mini Monster or Eldest’s lives that are full of peace.  For Eldest it’s when Mini Monster is sleeping and she gets everyone’s attention to herself.  She lies on the couch with her head in my lap.  As I stroke her hair I watch her silently drift off to sleep.  She feels fully protected, comforted, safe… she is at peace.
For Mini MOnster these moments are rare.  She has a much more outgoing personality.  Her peaceful moments come when she is surrounded by her loved ones.  Squeezed in between my mom and me being tickled and giggling.  There’s a moment for Mini Monster right after she has exhausted herself with laughing and being silly when she takes a deep breath and nuzzles deeper between us with a big grin across her face.  She feels fully loved, content, supported … she is safe.
Then there’s the Baby.  Her peace at times seems much more easy to attain.  She wants to be clean, fed and warm.  When she was first born she just wanted to be held.  If we put her down for any length of time she would cry and cry.  But as soon as we picked her up and held her close she would calm down.  She just needed to know that she was not alone, she would feel the warmth of whoever was holding her, feel the heartbeat of that person and be content.  She feels fully protected, her needs met …she is at peace.
Shalom is all about the fullness of peace.  The promise of Jesus is that we have access to that peace now.  That yes, Shalom was what was intended for us and what we have to look forward to in heaven but that it is also a gift from him now, in the midst of this world.
So for a kid, whose world is, for the most part, carefree, maybe the promise of Shalom is enough.  If they can identify what it looks like to them, maybe it’s enough for them to grow up hearing over and over again that Shalom is available to them now.

my sin upon his shoulder

I asked our Kids’ Club class if they knew what happened on Palm Sunday – what are we celebrating?
“JESUS DIED!!!!” – screamed by more than one of them.
I couldn’t help but smile.  “Well, not yet, that’s what we are celebrating on Good Friday.  Does anyone remember what happened before that?”
“WAIT!” one of our third grade girls has that look on her face that she gets when she is processing something.  I can almost see her flipping through the storybook in mind, trying to remember the story she’s been told before – “Is it the day that Jesus rode the donkey?”
I grin back at her and nod my head, “That’s right!  And does anyone remember the name of the town?”  In my mind this question was going to go unanswered.  I didn’t expect them to pull that long name out of their memories but as happens most of the time in this classroom, they surprise me.
“I have a hard time celebrating Good Friday.”
It was almost like a whisper, a quiet confession to his wife and me.  We had been reflecting on how great of a morning it was at church.  Such a joyful celebration of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem.  And looking forward to Good Friday – a service that is near and dear to our hearts as Pastors of this church.
We didn’t respond right away, then we tried to acknowledge the admitted truth while still holding our excitement.  Yes, it’s the sad part of the story but it means so much to us as followers of Christ.  He continues his train of thought, “I mean it would be a tragic story even if it was a no name person on the cross – but it’s Jesus.”
The palpable excitement that I felt from the kids as they shouted “Jesus dies!!” may seem disheartening.  It may seem like an inappropriate response.  But its not.  I don’t think they have really felt the weight of what it means for Christ to die not only for us but because of us.  Because of the Sin that is present in all of us.  For the children it is a disconnect, they know that sin is the problem Christ died to fix but they don’t connect that with themselves.  It happened so long ago, it’s just a fact they can rattle off about their faith but their personal experience of sin is limited.
But we all grow up.  We all eventually realize what sin is, we feel the effects of it when its used against us.  We feel the failure of falling short when we sin ourselves.  Then we see that Christ died for us because of this sin, to solve the problem of sin in our lives and it simultaneously breaks our hearts and gives us hope.
That’s the scandalous nature of the crucifixion.  The idea that the Lord of Heaven and Earth would come to earth, live a perfect life and then die for humanity.  The penalty for sin is death and he takes it upon himself.
But the story doesn’t end there, on the third day He rises again.  He is the Risen Lord, beating death so that we may have life.  This truth is what we need to cling to rather than the sting of his death for and because of us.  We must hold steadfast to the hope of the resurrection, it’s what can keep us going in a world where we are surrounded by sin and brokenness.