In Luke chapter 10, Jesus sends a crew of his followers out ahead of him to the towns he would soon visit himself. Like many who came before Jesus, their job was to prepare the way. This reconnaissance mission was designed to test the waters to see where Jesus’ message would be received with openness and consideration. In verses five and six Jesus says to them:
“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.”
I’m not sure we can universally extrapolate this exchange a couple thousand years ago to our current reality but I can say that I have experienced this myself on a couple notable occasions. I haven’t exactly walked into a house and said, “Peace to this house” as a test for the residents there, but I have been in a few circumstances where I’ve met someone who promotes peace. I’ve learned over the years that these are people to befriend and to watch.
A person who promotes peace is likely a person who make decisions that benefit others more than they benefit themselves. This is a person who extends love and grace to you even when they don’t really know you or when they learn something about you that others might find problematic. A person of peace is someone who sucks the anxiety out of the room when they walk in and who treats people the same no matter their background, job, prestige, or power. This is a person who is known around town and whose name typically brings a smile to people’s face.
When Jesus sent his posse out to scout he sent them with nothing. He wanted them to receive what they needed from those they encountered. People who were generous and hospitable to them were the same persons of peace Jesus told them to look for. When we started to plant a church here in Englewood we didn’t really have anything either. Sure, we had plenty of material things but we had few relationships and certainly no clout around town. There wasn’t really any reason to trust us or to follow us because no one knew us. But at just the right time, we met a person who promoted peace and it has made all the difference.
For only 30 more days, Eric Keck will be the City Manager of the Englewood, CO. A letter of resignation was read at the most recent City Council meeting and the city groaned all at once. Eric is a person who promotes peace. He has responsibility and challenges in his day-to-day life that most of us will never encounter. He approaches these people and circumstances with grace, peace, mercy, and leadership. He did a ton of good for our city over the past four years and I am extremely jealous of the company that has snatched him up.
When I first met Eric we were eating sack lunches around plastic tables in an old, outdated building off of S. Broadway. As we sat in our creaky, plastic chairs I scanned the room and realized that other than Eric, we all matched the wear and tear of the old building we were sitting in. Eric, on the other hand, wore a tie, nice shoes, and an official City of Englewood name tag. He held a position that superseded all of us yet he ate his sack lunch with us as if we were all the same. He talked to us, smiled at us, and asked us questions as if we were all just as important as he was. I remember thinking: this is a guy I need to spend more time with.
It wasn’t long before I felt comfortable asking Eric if we could pray with and for him on some kind of regular basis. He immediately obliged and even extended an offer to pray with him in his office. For the past two years, every Wednesday morning at 7AM Eric unlocked the door to City Hall before the 8AM opening time and personally escorted a handful of folks from our church and neighborhood up three flights of marble steps to his office. We gathered around the conference room adjacent to his office and spent the next thirty minutes praying for Eric, our city, our churches, our friends, our neighbors, and our enemies. It was powerful, memorable, and perhaps one of the most important parish rhythms I’ve been a part of since we started planting The Sacred Grace Englewood.
At the end of April 2018, we hosted a party at our church to celebrate two years of being in and for Englewood. We told stories, clinked glasses, gave gifts, and celebrated well. Perhaps the most meaningful moment of the evening came somewhere in the middle when I invited Eric Keck, our City Manager, and Chief Peace Officer to join me on stage. He could have been doing any number of important things that evening but he chose to share it with us. He took the mic and with deep humility and gracious words shared with our congregation how much our church and especially our regular prayer rhythm meant to him. He even went as far as to say,
“If it were not for our weekly time of prayer and encouragement, I would have quit this job a long time ago.” I’ll never forget that moment and I’ll never forget the peace extended to us from Eric throughout our first few years of planting a church for this community.
I’m not sure what is next for our city. I’m not sure who our next City Manager will be or what City Council and our citizens will do differently to treat that person with more respect and peace than they did with Eric. I do know this: Eric made a positive and lasting impact on our city and our church. We will continue to pray for him, his family, and for Englewood. We will continue to meet on Wednesday mornings at 7AM at City Hall to invite the Spirit of God to heal the sick, provide for the poor, and to bring flourishing to our fine city.
Persons of peace are few and far between. When you come across one, watch, listen, follow, and reciprocate.