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Passing the Peace

Weekly Devotional for Preachers
Passing the Peace
Image: Cyndi Monaghan / Getty´╗┐

My Dear Shepherds,

I was thinking about Eugene Peterson’s comment in a letter to his son Eric, “It amazes me still how much of the time I simply don’t know what I’m doing, don’t know what to say, don’t know what the next move is.”[i] Know the feeling?

We are not merely befuddled by scheduling, recruiting, or budgets. Those are the easy parts. No, we bear the troubling weight of someone drifting from the faith, of professing believers who have no stomach for the meat of righteousness, of suffering saints struggling to trust the Father. We work burdened by our own baggage—forgiving deep wounds, preaching when our hearts are dry, and ministering with our failures in full view of our flock.

The pastor of Hebrews offers us a great gift; no mere wish or aspiration but a renewable resource, always ours for the taking:

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Heb. 13:20-21)

Here, the tranquility and shalom of God are offered to us through our Lord Jesus. We are enfolded within God’s eternal covenant, secured by our Savior’s blood and confirmed by his resurrection. Jesus—appointed heir of all things, maker of the universe, radiance of God’s glory and exact representation of his being—is now our great Shepherd, whose care and company is especially precious to us who pastor at his side.

God doesn’t necessarily bestow his peace by dismissing us from the fray. “Go on home. I’ll take care of this.” Rather his peace comes to us wrapped in his gifts of adequacy and instruction. There is a sweet subtlety in that phrase, “equip you with everything good for doing his will.” We often don’t know just what good gift we need to do our sacred work. We only know our inadequacy.

Yet how many times have you been given perfect timing, a nuanced word of love, or strength for a dark ordeal? How many times has the great Shepherd brought his authority to a sermon that had been lying lifeless on your desk, whispered direction during a muddled meeting, or brought the perfect verses to your mind when you were at a loss for words?

God also bestows his peace by “working in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ.” Peace doesn’t only elude us when we don’t know what to do but also when we simply are not Christlike enough for the challenge. Our great Shepherd cuts paths of righteousness through the wilderness of our own hearts. He reorients our backward-facing souls and cleanses our worldly minds. He makes us blessedly homesick again. God’s peace settles upon us as he works in us.

The God of peace never changes, but the peace of God, in my experience, can be elusive. Not because he is fickle, of course, but because we are; life is. Trouble seems to always find new costumes and schemes. Satan constantly stalks us. Our old nature keeps crawling off the altar. We need help. And help we have! Our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, the strong and loving agent of the God of peace, offers at every turn to equip us with his finest resources and “make us into what gives him most pleasure” (The Message).

Be ye glad!

[i] Peterson, Eric and Eugene. Letters to a Young Pastor: Timothy Conversations between Father and Son (NavPress, 2020), pp. 13-14.

Lee Eclov recently retired after 40 years of local pastoral ministry and now focuses on ministry among pastors. He writes a weekly devotional for preachers on Preaching Today.

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