I went on holiday a couple of months ago. When not sampling the local beer or haggling over souvenirs, we did quite a lot of walking up hills and visiting religious buildings. One monument was a World Peace Pagoda, one of 80 such pagodas around the world – there’s even one in Milton Keynes. A stunning vision in white and gold, it sits in the mountains, inspiring awe among the many tourists that climb to see it.
Upon entering, a huge sign tells you to be calm, for you are entering a place of peace. The majority of these monuments were built after the Second World War under the guidance of a Buddhist monk named Nichidatsu Fujii, to make people stop and think about world peace, in the hope that atrocities like Hiroshima would never happen again.
It got me thinking about the nature of peace, and how we define its existence. The Old Testament is littered with people leaving monuments to remember God’s faithfulness, from Samuel laying an Ebenezer stone to Jacob’s stone of Bethel. However, Jesus says in John 14: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” In this passage peace becomes more than a location, but a physical, transformative gift, no longer reliant on situation.
This peace was achieved by Christ’s death on the cross, when he took our chaos and swapped it with his righteousness. This peace is beyond anything we could earn or trick our minds into achieving. It comes only as a gift from God, given through the Holy Spirit. Way back in Ezekiel 37 verse 26, we’re told God’s intention to “make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever.”
And so while you may have a sofa, coffee shop, park or sacred space that calms your brain and soothes your heart, the Spirit has no such geographical boundaries. It can transform the most unlikely of situations in to places of peace. The office. The traffic jam. Even the self-service checkout at Sainsbury’s. Regardless of the areas we walk into today, let’s choose to allow his faithful, ever-present peace guard our heart and minds in Christ Jesus.
The peace pagoda I visited was in Pokhara, Nepal – a place that has recently become full of anxiety and fear after multiple earthquakes. We pray all the more for God’s transformative peace to rest on this nation.