And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7, NRSV)
The peace that surpasses all understanding. We've all heard that phrase, and said it, dozens of times. Maybe hundreds. By now we might run all the words together - thepeacethatpassesunderstanding - like in the third verse of that old favourite camp song "I've Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy". Occasionally, when we actually hear those words as they go by our lips, we stop, look around, and want to ask God, "Really??"
Peace of any kind is hard to come by these days. From national and global politics to natural disasters, from suspicion and division based on race, class, and gender identity to violence done to those on the margins, peace is hard to come by. Add in a little chaos from our personal or family lives, and peace seems completely out of reach.
Years ago, I read an interview with pastor who had been in the anti-nuclear movement in the 1960s. Despite discouraging results from petitions, protests, and calls to action, he had an amazingly optimistic attitude. The interviewer asked how he managed to maintain that outlook.
"It's simple," was the reply. "I know how the story ends."
"I know how the story ends." We know how our world's story ends. God has redeemed this world and will continue to redeem it. The peace that comes from knowing how the story ends really does confound all human understanding. That gift of beyond-our-understanding peace gives us the strength to keep doing the work God has set in front of us today: loving our neighbor, caring for those on the margins, naming and pushing back against evil of all kinds.
Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9, NRSV)