This old chapel at Augustana College (Illinois) has served as a gateway to so many souls through the generations, as God has molded and prepared them for service to our world. It can be both mystically eerie and magnificently beautiful simultaneously on any given night. This Wednesday evening is no exception. Tonight, I sit in the back and simply watch. The room is lit solely by dozens of candles, as their light cuts through the darkness. The piano has quieted to a silence, as calm has set in. Some students are gathered around the altar with their heads bowed, while others sit in the pews staring forward deep in thought. The emotions of us gathered seem almost physically palpable. Little candle flames flicker and shadows dance up and down the large walls. Over the altar, a large stained-glass window comes to life as the dark figures of the branches on an old tree just outside wave majestically, as if begging to be noticed by someone – or anyone. I am drawn to that image more than any other, as my soul also is longing to be noticed here – by God.
It is here, in this atmosphere, that I seek words for prayer. But on this night, for whatever reason, the only word that keeps resonating repeatedly in my heart is PEACE. There is nothing else but that one simple word. PEACE. Perhaps it is my unconscious hope for my family and friends. It could be my longing for this deeply divided world in which we live. Or this might be my desire for those I minister to. But on this night, I suspect instead that these are the primal cries of a weary and angry soul. PEACE! WHAT MORE NEED BE SAID!
In the hour to come, as silent souls gently wandered off, the moonlight was replaced by lightning, thunder, wind and rain. The storms of life lingering ever so close, even in such a moment of rest and sabbath. This is more than a metaphor for daily existence – it is reality. And so, with a deep-rooted sigh, I smile and remember that in and through it all, God’s moments of peace are always lurking somewhere within our reach, even if they are far too often fleeting. PEACE. AMEN.
-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)