Last week I went through the Gallipoli exhibition at Te Papa. It was a sobering way to enter into both ANZAC day and the anniversary of the Battle of Gate Pa. What struck me was the horror, the young men caught in those battles would have been filled with such fear, hopelessness and grief as they fought against all odds to stay alive. Their lives had been turned upside down and their futures suddenly looked so bleak.
In the Gospel reading today from John we join the disciples at the last supper. They too were filled with fear, hopelessness and grief. Their lives had been turned upside down and their futures look bleak. To these Jesus offers the promise that they would not be alone. In the midst of all that would happen, both in the crucifixion and beyond, they would know his presence, and they would know his peace. Jesus would have used the Aramaic for peace which is derived from the Hebrew world shalom. Wikipedia says that Shalom (שָׁלוֹם) “is a Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquillity.” It is so much more than our use of the word.
This peace changed how they lived their lives. I have no doubt the fear remained. But it was infused with hope and love. God's wholeness changed everything. For some at Gate Pa and during the conflicts we remembered on Monday it changed how they lived in the face of those conflicts. They were no longer overwhelmed by despair. They lived offering life. We too are offered the same assurance of peace, of completeness, harmony, and wholeness. What rules our approach to life?