The Concordia Publishing House Podcast

In Pursuit of Peace with Dan Paavola

August 26, 2020 Elizabeth Pittman Season 1 Episode 17
The Concordia Publishing House Podcast
In Pursuit of Peace with Dan Paavola
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The Concordia Publishing House Podcast
In Pursuit of Peace with Dan Paavola
Aug 26, 2020 Season 1 Episode 17
Elizabeth Pittman

Peace is hard to define and harder to achieve. Pandemic fears, political bickering, protests, financial fears, uncertainty about school, safety. The list of things that have the potential to disturb our peace could go on…and on. When our peace is disturbed and life makes no sense, where do we turn?

Joining us to talk about the pursuit of peace is Dr. Dan Paavola. Dan is professor of theology, especially in the New Testament at Concordia University Wisconsin. He also teaches in the areas of preaching and congregational teaching. He grew up on a Minnesota farm and enjoys motorcycles, antique cars and running. 

Show Notes Transcript

Peace is hard to define and harder to achieve. Pandemic fears, political bickering, protests, financial fears, uncertainty about school, safety. The list of things that have the potential to disturb our peace could go on…and on. When our peace is disturbed and life makes no sense, where do we turn?

Joining us to talk about the pursuit of peace is Dr. Dan Paavola. Dan is professor of theology, especially in the New Testament at Concordia University Wisconsin. He also teaches in the areas of preaching and congregational teaching. He grew up on a Minnesota farm and enjoys motorcycles, antique cars and running. 

Elizabeth Pittman (11s):
Peace is hard to define and harder to achieve pandemic fears, political bickering, protests, financial fears, uncertainty about school or safety, the list of things that have the potential to disturb our peace could go on and on and on. When our peace is disturbed and life makes no sense, where do we turn?

Elizabeth Pittman (45s):
Joining us today to talk about the pursuit of peace is dr. Dan Paavola. Dan is a professor of theology focusing, especially on the new Testament at Concordia University, Wisconsin. He also teaches in the areas of preaching and congregational teaching. He grew up on a Minnesota farm. He enjoys motorcycles, antique cars, and running. Welcome, Dan. Hey,

Dan Paavola (1m 7s):
Thank you so much, Elizabeth. And everyone who is listening.

Elizabeth Pittman (1m 10s):
It's great to have you here. Now. I do have to say that the running part was something I didn't know about you until I happened to read something where you mentioned that you have run 26 marathons

Dan Paavola (1m 23s):
That's right. 26 marathons. So I didn't start by having that goal one for every mile, but it, it worked out that way and I was getting ready for my 27th and I injured my knee. And so 26 seemed like a good number, you know, to say, we'll be there.

Elizabeth Pittman (1m 44s):
I think I might do 26 miles in a car or on a bike, but definitely not running.

Dan Paavola (1m 51s):
There are, there are moments involved mile 23, where is think this is the dumbest thing I've ever come up with. Oh my gosh. And then really prove how dumb I am. I kept doing it. You know, it's one thing to do it once and then say, okay, that bucket list is checked off, but it was it's. It's been good. It was a good thing.

Elizabeth Pittman (2m 15s):
Oh my goodness. Well, we've had the opportunity to talk multiple times and I always look forward to our conversations because I know that we're going to laugh, but I know that I'm going to learn something and I'm going to come away feeling encouraged and comforted, and even at peace throughout the course of the conversation. So I am so glad to have you with us today.

Dan Paavola (2m 35s):
Well, thank you. And it's your questions. It's our interaction. We've known each other for a while and it's always a pleasure to be with you. And we wish we could immediately be with everyone listening, but thank you to everyone who's listening and their creative ideas, attitude, what you and I are going to have.

Elizabeth Pittman (2m 54s):
Absolutely. And I know, you know, it seems like everywhere you look there's, that could cause us to say, Oh, I just want to escape it all. Or if I could just have some peace in my house, it's often peace and quiet, but overall, but to have some peace. And I think we tend to run into trouble with our definition of peace. Where, how is that tricky sometimes? And how does defining it incorrectly lead us down the wrong path?

Dan Paavola (3m 24s):
Well, I think that our pursuit of peace or like our pursuit of happiness, they're pretty much the same thing. In many ways, our pursuit of peace is directed by how do you define peace? See, you said peace and quiet. That's a wonderful sort of peace of place. And when I lived for 12 years in the far North woods of Wisconsin, many people move there for peace and they define that as if I could only buy the whole Lake all to myself, have the whole place and nothing, nothing, nothing to disturb it, not one ripple and, and such.

Dan Paavola (4m 5s):
And, you know, I understand that that's one definition of peace. And so it struck me that there's probably, I came up with five definitions and pursuits of peace that are unique to us. And as they're all good, they all promise peace to us and deliver. But I think we also need the intersection of God with us in that pursuit. Otherwise we'll just keep on going and going and going.

Elizabeth Pittman (4m 33s):
And ultimately God's peace is so much different than the way that we're defining peace.

Dan Paavola (4m 39s):
It really is, you know, like take that piece of place and I am all for it. We all want that. Perfect. Like quiet, no, no disturbance and such. And yet in the middle of that, it's so easily ruptured, you know, one pair of call in call and calling crows, by the way, this is an absolutely true story. We were camping on side of Lake Winnebago. It was a beautiful morning and two crows were perched right above our campsite.

Dan Paavola (5m 11s):
And they were the loudest nasty things you've ever heard. Nature has lovely. Isn't it? Not really. No, no, not really. Not when it's two crows and, and they're too far for you to, you know, for a rock hat or anything. And so, you know, to crow's cause undo your peace. God, I think stepped in and says, I think you need a sturdier definition of peace that something undone by two corals. Yeah,

Elizabeth Pittman (5m 36s):
Absolutely. Because it's a very different thing. So you mentioned your five, so let's kind of take a walk through those. I know one of them that you've mentioned was possessions and boy, is it so easy to think if I just had a bigger house, a full pantry, if I just had name your item, especially in this time where so many people jobs have been cut back, there's uncertainty about the economy.

Elizabeth Pittman (6m 12s):
And it's like, if I just had the peace of mind of knowing that I'll be able to buy groceries next.

Dan Paavola (6m 17s):
Oh, absolutely. You know, I think everyone listens here that said peace is having enough pasta and paper towels in my house during the COVID sprint that just could load up on those. And they were sorely lacking around our grocery stores pieces. And it could be defined whether it's essentials or it's kind of the extravagant, I'll be at peace when I get the car or like you said, the house or whatever. And I think it was a rich fool in Mark chapter 10, who has so much stuff.

Dan Paavola (6m 47s):
He buys and buys. He builds the bigger barns and he says to a soul, be at peace, be well, be happy. And Jesus steps in and says you fool. And instead of that piece, I think God says with Paul, be content, be content with what you have written to us by a man in jail, you know, and, and says even in chains and so contentment versus having it all. So piece by possessions, that's an easy one. The other one, the one you mentioned right away is peace found in place, the right place.

Dan Paavola (7m 18s):
If I just had the, the Lake to myself and all those, I understand that one. And I'm all for us finding a vacation place on Lake Michigan. That's wonderful. The problem with, even if you find the perfect places, you can't stay there. You know, eventually, you got to go back and everybody who's been on vacation has gone, Oh, do we have to go back? Yes, you do. And so the peace of God has to be mobile. It has to come with me and it's true.

Dan Paavola (7m 49s):
We're going to have a place of peace called heaven and he's not going to make us move at all. But until then I need a moving piece of a God who goes with me. And, and is there, even if there are two crows ruining my peace over the Lake, you know, the, the other movement I noticed. So often as peace in the past, haven't you found Elizabeth people who are desperately trying to redo their past, if only they could and find peace, you know, we're all lady Macbeth trying to rub the spot out and it doesn't go.

Dan Paavola (8m 25s):
And whether it's trying to redo, ignore that past, it's finally going to come back sort of like Nathan telling David the story about the, you know, two men, one rich, one poor, and David was confronted surprisingly by his past and his past, however, it was forgiven. And so I think that forgiveness is a crucial part of, of peace there. That's, that's the middle one. And if, if I'm not to bore at all, I'll do the next two.

Dan Paavola (8m 56s):
The next one is people. I call this the ringmaster, the circus ringmaster, you know, and the circus ringmaster has got three circles going on three rings. And, but he is, he is in charge, man. He is telling what to do and where to go. And if all the acrobats, jugglers dogs, cats, and elephants would just follow his direction, we'd be at peace. Don't, you know, a whole lot of folks who want to be the circus ringmaster of their personal world. Absolutely. And if these people, what just listen and do what they're supposed to do the way I want them to do it, of course.

Dan Paavola (9m 31s):
And by the way, not yesterday, not tomorrow people, you know, there'd be peace. That is, that is so attractive. There's not a parent or teacher in this world who hasn't sought this kind of piece, but it's about as elusive as the one, a place that also, I feel for the ringmaster because he or she is, gets up every day and every day says they just don't listen. Yeah. Okay. So I need an intersecting.

Dan Paavola (10m 2s):
God, you don't a God who says, isn't this a striking one, our savior who says, do not think I came to bring peace. I didn't come to bring peace, but division two against three and three against two. And then he goes through all the family interrelations and we shake our head. I thought I didn't expect that. But of course he puts himself in the middle of that and he allows our enmity against each other to be poured on him.

Dan Paavola (10m 32s):
And it's in that intersection of two against three, that's a cross where we find peace. What a strange peace God gives us that had found at the angriest day of all the day we killed his son and God says, there's peace, peace. He made peace by the blood of his cross, Colossians one 20. Well, then the last one is peace in our purpose. And that's when Elizabeth, where you said about running, you know if you run marathons at some point if you're a normal human being like me, you're going to say, why, why, why am I doing this?

Dan Paavola (11m 9s):
Oh my heavens. And the only thing that keeps it going is that you practiced a lot and you practice the pace and the purpose of running.  if your focus, your practice was about the finished line. If your focus was on, I wonder how big the metal is or will it t-shirt they give me fits or what are they serving? You know, by the way, I could never eat afterward there's food afterward. But forget it. If, if your focus is on quitting, you'll quit, but you don't train to quit.

Dan Paavola (11m 44s):
You train to run and saying, that's going to sustain you. And I think peace comes in a present purpose. That for such a time, as little Mordecai to Esther, for such a time as this, God has put us into the kingdom and I understand someday I'm going to retire and I'll be glad to say, Hey, I'm retired, but there's a present purpose in right now in peace. So there's my, my five PS. I arrange them all like a star.

Dan Paavola (12m 14s):
And, and I think there's something that made me to that visually, but there you go, five,

Elizabeth Pittman (12m 20s):
There's a lot there. And there are so many different ways and we probably all it's different times in our lives latch onto one of those as what we're searching for at the moment. When we think about, let's talk about people for a minute, when we're looking around the world and we see social media filled with angry comments about the outrage of the day, be it politics or wearing a mask or not wearing a mask or insert your crisis here, how can we rise up and live peaceably in the midst of,

Dan Paavola (12m 59s):
You know, I think it's going back to that text that I used, that the Prince of peace said, I came to set two against three. Now he is certainly not to blame for our bad behavior and, and, and such. And the charity to all is a good thing. And Luther was right, putting the best construction on, I won't say it's as good as a good explanation, but you know, God's fearlessness towards our enmity, our anger that he harnessed it and used it to drive his son to the cross that he might say to us, peace, be to you, peace to the world.

Dan Paavola (13m 34s):
Isn't that an amazing thought now again, so I think there's a balance. We don't, we don't give permission. I'm using too many PS here, but we won't give permission for bad social behavior and, and such. So be kind to one another, of course, we'd say that. And as school starts, we would hope that all our children are kindly referred to and discussed or spoken of whether it's on social media or in a hallway, of course, but in the end, God is fearless even of our bad behavior, because what else is bad behavior then that we killed God's son who died us no wrong.

Dan Paavola (14m 16s):
And yet when we did that, the lights came back on, the darkness was over. And the Centurion who was responsible for his death said, surely this was the son of God. And he might've added and we killed him. And yet God says, peace be to you at that moment. Isn't that remarkable?

Elizabeth Pittman (14m 36s):
It's incredible. And I happen to be reading. Luther's writing in his Church Postil on Philippians four and particularly verse seven. And in, in his writing on that, cause I was thinking about talking about peace with you. He really draws it out clearly that when God refers to his piece in the piece that we get at the cross, it means we're going to have peace with God. Even though we will have discord with people. And it's such a hard thing for us, sinful human beings to separate.

Elizabeth Pittman (15m 9s):
And if we can focus on the peace with God, which is so much stronger and better than anything else that we could strive for in, in the five PS that you gave us, we're going to be a lot happier. And we're going to face the challenges in a, in a different way.

Dan Paavola (15m 28s):
I have a consoling word to the let's use the people, the circus ringmaster. I mean, don't you see her? She's working so hard. She has worked on so hard to accept these people that do what they should do. And she's not asking for much, just stop fighting when we eat supper or something. Don't you want to put an arm around her and say peace, be to you. And let me tell you, it won't come because tomorrow they're going to be perfect. That's not going to happen. Although I would wish it for you, but peace is with God who says, and here's the other one.

Dan Paavola (15m 60s):
I think that in the end peace is God's permission for us to say, I've told you my problems and I've got to put them in your hand and I'm going to give you thanks. So the three steps of Philippians four, six by prayer and supplication with Thanksgiving and you know what God I'm going to have to let it be with you. And somebody is going to say, well, Elizabeth, aren't you worried? Shouldn't you be worried? Sounds like I should be, Oh gosh, maybe I better take up my worries again.

Dan Paavola (16m 30s):
And God says, don't all I'm giving you permission to be at peace because you've talked to me, asked given thanks. And you remember cast all your cares on Him for He cares about you. So I think in the end, permission is not a bad kind of synonym for God's peace.

Elizabeth Pittman (16m 51s):
There is such a relief that comes with that. And I love Philippians four seven and the peace, which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ. Jesus. Part of it is that that's been burned into my mind because my dad ended all of his sermons with numbers. So growing up for years and years, that was always the ending of his sermon. So it's, it's in my head. But when you think about it, it's, we don't understand this, this, this amazing, his piece that he's given us is so beyond our comprehension, but it really does calm you down when you have, you know, confessed, your worries and your fears and your sins.

Elizabeth Pittman (17m 34s):
And you do receive that permission to say, I've got where he says, I've got this. It's it's, you can just, at least for me, I can feel myself physically exhaling and calming down and sometimes takes me way too long to get to that point because, you know, I want to fix it. I'm going to find peace on my own terms. But once I get to that point, I'm like, why didn't I go here?

Dan Paavola (17m 59s):
And it's usually a sort of a, you know, a step by step process. I would love to I'm a 2:00 AM warrior. And if I'm there tossing and turning, you know, and Holly could wonderfully say, Oh, just go to sleep. I would love to say what that is a good idea. I should do that. You know, she's wonderfully patient and says, I think it's that step by step process, by the way, I usually fall asleep on Thanksgiving, sorry, God. But you know, after I've told you all my worries and what I think we maybe ought to see getting done.

Dan Paavola (18m 29s):
That's supplication. Isn't that amazing when I just follow that process and I start to give, thanks, wake up this morning. I fell asleep on Thanksgiving. I'm sure God is okay with that. You know, he wouldn't mind if we be longer thinking, but it takes that time. And, and you said it's that matter of understanding his peace, that passes understanding someone will say to, well, Elizabeth, how can you not be worried? You know, frantically worried, how can you not be worried?

Dan Paavola (19m 0s):
And you could almost say, you know, I don't really know, except that I've asked God, I trust him. And it is beyond the understanding of those who are outside of that piece. That's the nature of God.

Elizabeth Pittman (19m 17s):
So while we're here and I'm thinking in terms of possessions in place, if we're going to be content, how can we get to a point where we can say, okay, I'm content with what I have and I'm going to shut. I'm going to stop wishing for and thinking if only, or when this, then I will be at peace and we will be content, how can I focus my energy and my thoughts too.

Elizabeth Pittman (19m 47s):
I'm going to be content. Right,

Dan Paavola (19m 49s):
Right now, I, I use this idea in a previous book with CPH, our way home, about the Lord's prayer. And, and I, I said, I grew up on a dairy farm, as you said, it's like standing on a dry Western, Minnesota Hill watching the rain. That's falling on your neighbor's fields to the North and South and not on you. Does God still know how to reign good things on people? Oh yeah. Just look around, you know, your neighbor to the North or neighbor to the South.

Dan Paavola (20m 21s):
They're getting exactly what you're waiting for. The things that you've defined as I need this to be content is right there. You know, on the one hand, that could make you bitter and angry, how come she got, how come they got it. But I think, on the one hand, it does remind us, he still knows how to do these things. He knows how to give the very gifts you and I are waiting for. And then we need a consoling father, again, kind of image of a God who puts his arm around our shoulders and says, why are you so worried?

Dan Paavola (20m 52s):
Your heavenly Father knows what you need of them from him of him. And look at the lilies of the field, the birds of the air before you ask your father knows what you need. And we went through a terrible drought in 1976 when I was a young man on the farm, you know what, the next year it rain, it rained that winter. You know, we came back, we didn't start. And if God will reassure us, I know how to give good things. In fact, look around you. I can, and in its time, but for now we're together because otherwise you and I know that if I get the one thing I say, I must have now been aware, I'll

Elizabeth Pittman (21m 37s):
There's always going to be another. There'll always be another next thing.

Dan Paavola (21m 41s):
Wait for Christmas. And when your cousin sends her four page, Christmas letter complete with multicolor, you know, sorry, I don't care how good your life is. It will are up to hers. Yup, yup, yup, yup. Yeah. Yeah. See, I like, I like, and your silence says, yeah, we all got that cousin. It's a faint terror, but we'll have somebody's life. Let's be better than buying.

Dan Paavola (22m 11s):
Absolutely. I don't have cousin, by the way, all my cousins are listening, but just an illustration.

Elizabeth Pittman (22m 20s):
No. And I will say my, my cousins. Are great. And so, so we're, we're speaking in hypothetical. Yeah.

Dan Paavola (22m 26s):
Somebody else I've heard about,

Elizabeth Pittman (22m 28s):
Well, and that's not helpful because if we're supposed to treat each other with gentleness and respect, and then we have to remember that if we have this piece, then we need to treat others with that same piece so that they can see our piece re you know, the peace of God reflected in us. It's also helpful sometimes to remember that, you know, God's going to use the struggle and he's going to use the struggle to drive us back to him. So we remember, we need to cling to him and have his arm around our shoulder, in the midst of all of the,

Dan Paavola (23m 2s):
You know, it's like the disciples where they were going to go away. They'd been on their missionary journey. Jesus says, let us go to a lonely place that we might find rest. Doesn't that sound lovely? And of course, there's you remember the story is that when they landed, the 5,000 people had seen their approach and gathered, Oh, they must have been so disappointed the disciples. And so then Jesus feeds, teaches, and feeds. So their plans went out the window and couldn't have been a peaceful day. And yet what story follows is the storm on the Lake and, and such.

Dan Paavola (23m 37s):
And these, these men are confronted from crowd to storm, the essence being, but I'm with Jesus. And in the end, he says, why are you so worried? You know, why, why I was with you? And even though I appeared to be sleeping, why were you worried? I think that catches us in our moments of worry and conflict. And we imagined God is sleepy, even though he's almost to be here, but he must be asleep. He doesn't know what's going on. And he looks at us and says, why are you so worried?

Dan Paavola (24m 8s):
I'm here with you. And we're reminded. Yes, that's right. Yes, you are.

Elizabeth Pittman (24m 13s):
There's, there's a lot of Bible verses that speak to peace. And one that has been rattling around in my head for some time has been John 1633. And this is because my oldest son, who's going to be confirmed this October. Years ago he chose John 16:33 as his confirmation verse. So he was in fourth or fifth grade that he chose us as his confirmation verse. And it's, it's one that I hadn't thought a lot about until over the last year or two, I started thinking about it more and reading commentary on it more.

Elizabeth Pittman (24m 45s):
And I found the sermon or writing that Luther did on it. And he said that this, he describes the verse, take heart in this world. You will have trial, but take heart. I have over come the world. But, but about this verse Luther says, it's Jesus, his friendly farewell to his disciples. And I love that so much because to me it's so comforting because he's speaking words to his disciples that, Hey, you're my, you're my disciples. You're going to have challenges.

Elizabeth Pittman (25m 15s):
Satan's going to come after you, but take heart. I've got this. You can have peace. And there's, there's something so reassuring about that of he's letting us know he's got this.

Dan Paavola (25m 29s):
Like when, when major events happen and people are very anxious about what turns out an election or something like that, we don't just have the promise of balance. All things will go this way. Then they'll go back this way. We have the promise of what you just said. I've overcome the world. Isn't that better than just everything has its day. I'm all for Ecclesiastes. These three, you know, time for building time for tearing down. But we have more than just everything needs its day or time, because that means half our life has to be conflict.

Dan Paavola (26m 3s):
War bitterness. No, no, no. We have God who says I've overcome the world. Even though I know those things are there, but I've overcome the world. And because of that, you can have peace.

Elizabeth Pittman (26m 16s):
And his peace is the best place for us to rest in no matter what, 2020,

Dan Paavola (26m 22s):
Or our current data, you know, we're doing this right now in 2020, and I'm not sure how long podcast life is. I suspect that someone a few months down the road and, and dad might say peace, peace, what? These people don't know the troubles that I'm facing. And yet I think God says, yeah, I've seen it all. I I've seen whatever problem it is that you've got different names, perhaps different immediate, you know, effect.

Dan Paavola (26m 53s):
But God says I've seen it all.

Elizabeth Pittman (26m 56s):
So to sum up our pursuit of peace, dr. Paavola, where should we look?

Dan Paavola (27m 2s):
Well, all these things that I described are good in themselves. It's okay to want that perfect place. It's okay to be the circus ring master. And somebody needs to tell these people where to go. It's okay to pursue these definitions because God will, he will have us in perfect order. And heaven will be a beautiful place. And all those other points, but left to ourselves will be on an endless pursuit of more and more and more.

Dan Paavola (27m 34s):
And God says here, let me intersect that and step into that moment. So you don't have to wait for peace. I've got a piece with me right now in the midst of conflict. We say I gave peace to this world on the day I died. You talk about conflict. I've got peace right now. Even if there are two crows calling above your head and ruining your camping experience, I've got peace for you right now when not everything has come yet.

Dan Paavola (28m 5s):
And you're not even sure if it will. That's all right, I'm with you. And so I think it's that immediacy of God's being with us along with him saying, I understand why you're pursuing that. And someday I'll fulfill those dreams beyond your imagining, but you don't have to wait pieces now with him. That's his permission. And in being in our place,

Elizabeth Pittman (28m 27s):
Thank you so much for joining us today and reminding us that our peace, our true peace resides in Jesus, our refuge, and nowhere else.

Dan Paavola (28m 38s):
Oh, thank you. I appreciate it. It's wonderful to be with you and thank you. And all of Concordia publishing house people will do a wonderful job. Bringing these ideas to life.

Elizabeth Pittman (28m 49s):
We're glad that you joined us today. Thanks, everyone for listening. We'll catch you next time. Thank you for joining us on this episode of the Concordia publishing house podcast. I pray that this time was valuable to your walk with Christ. We'd love to connect with listeners on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @concordiapub Visit cph.org for more resources to grow deeper in the gospel.