Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota

Environmental Stewardship Commission (MEESC) Lectionary Reflection Year C, Sixth Sunday of Easter, Gospel

John 14:23-29

Jesus said to Judas (not Iscariot), "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

"I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, `I am going away, and I am coming to you.' If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe."

Reflection on John 14:23-29 by John G. Gibbs, PhD

One of the most famous sayings of Jesus comes from the pen of the John who wrote the Fourth Gospel: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid" (Jn. 14:27).

Two points of clarification: First, in this case, as frequently in biblical usage, the term "the world" in no way refers to God's "good" creation. "World" does not in this case mean globe or universe of physical matter. As much is clear in 14:30, with its pejorative use of the term: "I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me." The "world" of "humanity in rebellion against God" was evident already in the Prologue to this gospel (1:10). (See Chr. Senft, "World," in von Allmen and Rowley, A Companion to the Bible, p. 470; New York: OUP, 1958).

Second, the term "peace" is not a psychological term, for it describes relationships. Johannes Pedersen pointed out long ago in his study Israel that the kernel of Shalom's meaning is "the community with others, the foundation of life." The Hebrew concept of "Shalom" ("peace," rendered in the Septuagint Greek translation as "eirene") embraces all of life, and thus cuts across our "wall between church and state," a "wall" that leaks like a sieve. Indeed it pierces through all other dividing barriers of hostility

Shalom is a state of being within communities, between persons and families and interest groups. Shalom includes the interactions between humanity and creation. As C. F. Evans has maintained, Shalom (or John's word eirene)"is a comprehensive word, covering the manifold relationships of daily life, and expressing the ideal state of life in Israel." The adjective shalem has been translated "whole." The basic meaning of the noun Shalom is "totality" in a harmonious whole. It stresses material prosperity uninterrupted by war or violence. (See C. F. Evans, "Peace," in Alan Richardson, ed., A Theological Word Book of the Bible, pp. 165f.; New York: Macmillan, 1950).

The "peace" that Jesus bequeaths to us, accordingly, certainly includes all the relationships of life, including those between ourselves and our communities and the ecological context of all that we do and are. There can be no peace in the full sense of Shalom so long as there is no peace between humanity and "the earth and all that is in it" (Ps. 24).

The "peace" that Jesus came to bring cannot be realized only within our mental states, to the exclusion of environmental ethics. An ecologically responsible life is integral to the practice of Jesus' kind of peace. As the conversion story in Acts implies, we are in great need of a conversion within our churches to that ecological lifestyle that does honor to the God who made all that is.

John Gibbs, a retired theologian, attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN. He originally wrote this reflection in 2001. John and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:
MEESC Holy Trinity Church Box 65 Elk River, MN 55330-0065 USA

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