And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:7
I knew a form of these words before I’d even heard of Philippians.
At the end of every service she would raise two fingers of her right hand and say these words:
“And may the peace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, which surpasses all human understanding, fill your hearts and minds with the love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.” So familiar it was a comfort, I eventually learned to mouth the words with my eyes closed, the blessing a bathing me in the joy of God’s peace.
It was traditions like this that trained me in the language of the liturgy before I built up any scriptural repertoire. Mouthing words that I could remember later when I needed a reminder of God’s blessing. Reminding myself of the woman who said it, the Rev. Dr. Lillian Fant Daniel, the first woman I ever recall seeing preach – and this was in my 20s, mind you – who demonstrated for me a distinctly feminine approach to the service of God in a form of ministry that eventually would seem like one that I could try. Hearing a treble voice address concerns that I had always considered the realm of men, even if I hadn’t realized my bias, changed everything.
Sometimes we forget to acknowledge the voices that have drawn us closest to God. All too often, I fail to pay homage to my origin story as a faith leader. And what she brought me was a grounding in God’s peace that has held me, sheltered me, known me even in my most difficult times.
Today, most Sundays, at the end of the service in which I have just poured out my heart, again, I repeat these words verbatim in a voice I hope might offer someone else what hers gave me. Mostly: a blessing.
May God’s peace guard your heart, your mind, this day. Amen.
Kaji Douša is the Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, in New York City./div>