I hope you've all found a little gift on your chair. If you are reading this at home, you might like to continue once you have found yourself something soothing and floral to smell. The lavender in our garden is more or less over - we have two great mounds that grow out of small beds and across the terrace, following the sun's warmth on the stone. The lavender is quite dry now, and one of my tasks on a cold winter's day will be to make the dried bracts into little lavender bags - or so my wife might dream...
The smell of lavender is very soothing - indeed the herb has been in use for centuries as a relaxant for those with anxiety or disturbed sleep. It has anti-inflammatory properties. It is these properties I want us to think about today. If we are feeling a bit inflamed ourselves, a bit hot under the collar, we certainly need some anti-inflammatory to soothe us. Every week, or perhaps more frequently, we receive the blessing of peace, at the end of the service and at the beginning of the section of the Communion service called the Liturgy of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. So peace is a bridge from Word into Eucharist.
Sacraments are visible signs of grace, accessible to our human nature. So as we cross the bridge of peace, scented as we now are by the fragrance of lavender, it is perhaps a good moment to reflect on our relationships - with God, with ourselves, with each other and with the wider world.
God has a heart of peace. Whatever the brimstone and thunder of the Old Testament, God has a heart of peace. If you share that heart, if you are in relationship with God, you are blessed. "Blessed are the peacemakers." Jesus comforted his followers, those who really shared his heart, when they were anxious about his leaving them. "My peace I give you." He promised to send the Comforter, the Spirit of God, upon everyone who shares his heart.
This is not just to do with how you are feeling at any given moment. This is to do with who you are. It is to do with your identity as a child of God who shares his heart and therefore shares his peace. This is your identity - not a quality of feeling but an identity. It is what gives you the security to go and offer peace to another person. Not just to shake hands, or hug, though the outward action is important - the physical contact between you sealing a bond of peace - but to make yourself open and vulnerable to another in sharing yourself, your heart, your peace. To offer to make peace where there is none, to offer to heal or restore a relationship, this is the offering of God's heart. This is what the work of peace-making means.
We all share in this work, in peace-making, because we all share in God's heart. It is not easy. It demands a sacrifice of the self. But it is the work of the Spirit in us that makes it possible.
Peace be with you.