Peace Be with You
Resurrection moments are experienced in what may seem to be simple things. Beauty, joy, kindness. Reconciliation, wholeness, peace. Shalom can be found if we have eyes to see.
I’d been meaning to move those peonies for years. They were getting too big to grow under that pear tree. It was on my list of things to do, move those peonies where they could get more sun. But each time I thought of it, it was too late in the season. And here they are again—just about ready to bloom open with those full, fragrant flowers when a wind storm splits the pear tree right through its heart.
There is no hope for the tree, so the crew comes at eight in the morning. The supervisor goes over the procedure with me, has me sign the invoice. Then he raises his eyebrows and says, “You’re going to lose those flowers. No way around it.”
My sister-in-law gave me that peony bush. She and my mother-in-law have parts of the same root. They came from her grandmother’s garden. I love imagining that woman from another century with a clutch of my peonies on her table. Should be no big deal, I tell myself. But it’s one of those things that connects us in this world. Trees and flowers—these growing things—they do this for me. Give this rootless woman something to anchor to.
I ask the man if I can try to dig them up. He offers to do it for me, and I watch from the window as he struggles against the hard dirt. The flowers don’t budge. He rings the doorbell again to give the bad news.
“I think the roots are wrapped around the tree’s,” he says.
My disappointment must show on my face. He hesitates on the porch and I wonder how many women he has watched cry over lost flowers, lost trees.
“Thank you for trying,” I say.
As the men work, I busy myself. I’m almost done mopping the kitchen when the doorbell rings. I grab the checkbook and open the door. Over his shoulder, I see the tree is gone. As is the stump. But the peonies aren’t. They sit on the island of soil, still and pristine.
He is grinning at me. I am so grateful, and I tell this man how he has blessed me.
Such a small thing: a cluster of peonies.
When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection—when he showed them his hands and his side—it was no small thing. And the first words he says to them? No small words. The stone has been rolled away. Christ has risen; we stand slack-jawed in wonder. What does he say?
“Peace be with you” (John 2:21).
The memory of the crucifixion still searing. Why would Jesus greet his disciples with this word “peace” so soon after his death? Consider the original meaning of that word we translate “peace.” It’s the Greek word eirēnē. But eirēnē means more than “peace”; it is the Greek counterpart to the Hebrew word shalom. “Shalom be with you.”
Perhaps you’ve used this word shalom? Maybe when signing an email or card. Maybe used it in parting when leaving friends. Perhaps shalom has been used so often that it suggests a nonchalant “have a nice day.” But shalom and eirēnē meant so much more to the ancient Jewish ear.
In Jesus’ day, Jewish thought regarded this word as referring to the type of peace associated with the messianic kingdom, the ways things will be in the kingdom of God.
Dr. Amy Sherman in her book Kingdom Calling refers to “foretastes of the kingdom of God.”
Joy, kindness, beauty, hope, wholeness, reconciliation, justice … shalom. These are qualities that will predominate in the new heavens and new earth. These are the very qualities that bring the kingdom of God right here, right now.
I like to think of these kingdom glimpses as resurrection moments.
Whenever we experience these things in this life, this is Jesus at work—right here, right now—pressing back the kingdom of darkness and ushering in the light, allowing us a glimpse of the resurrected life.
This is what shalom means. God’s kingdom here. Isn’t this what Jesus was reminding his disciples? Bring the kingdom now. He says, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Go out into all the world and promote beauty and joy and justice and wholeness and reconciliation ... shalom. Resurrection.
It is an invitation.
When we accept this invitation, we realize that everything matters. It matters when you choose a kind word over an angry one. It matters when you give money to the poor. It matters when you do your job with integrity. It matters that you speak lovingly to your spouse instead of snapping. It matters that you don’t gossip about your neighbor. It matters … that you save a bunch of peonies.
These are the resurrection moments. When the veil is pulled back and the kingdom of God is revealed in our lives.