Sermon for Pentecost 7C
Peace In The Making
This past week as a nation, we marked the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. The first event defined a new nation and called the war for independence a struggle for liberty and equality. The second event, marked a turning point in a bloody civil war to keep that same nation united. In honoring the place where so many Americans had been broken or killed, president Abraham Lincoln linked those two struggles along an arc of a common cause. Our nation, Lincoln said, is one “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all … are created equal.” The bloodbath of the Civil War was a test of whether a nation “so conceived can long endure.” Yet on that battlefield, Lincoln called on the people who were still living to resolve to bring about what was yet unfinished. I suppose he meant to win the war. Yet, what the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address imagined, dreamed and hoped, however, was a peaceable kingdom beyond the end of the conflict, a way for people to live together in liberty, equality and peace.
The peace is so much more than an absence of open hostility. Peace seeks a resolution to the conflicts that divide us in the first place, an end of hatred and hostility that keep people divided and protect the privileges one group at the expense of others. Peace requires confession and forgiveness and makes a way for reconciliation that gives all people an equal place at the table. That remains our struggle, and one that God has uniquely gifted and called us to as God’s baptized people, because we know that peace comes to this world as God’s gift and as God’s blessing. It is God’s hope and dream for this planet and its people.
The Gospel of Peace
Peace, then, is no small, throwaway greeting. It is God’s blessing and grace for us where God creates an environment where all of God’s people can live together in God’s love and enjoy God’s blessings without fear, without competition, and without rivalry. To greet each other with the peace of God signals a deep connection to the people around us. It is the recognition of Christ in another person. In giving and receiving God’s peace, the forgiveness we have received from Christ Jesus works its way out into our community, bringing healing and wholeness.
When gather as one family around Christ’s table, we eat and drink together in the peace that Christ has won through the sacrifice of his body and blood for us. At this table, we celebrate the coming of God’s kingdom. This meal is foretaste of God’s promise of a world united and at peace in Christ – a world where the lamb and wolf lay down together, in peace.
Emissaries of God’s Peaceable Kingdom
As Jesus made his way to Jerusalem (the city of peace), he walked as the lamb of God in a world of wolves. Along the way, he sent out 70 disciples to announce the coming of God’s kingdom, God’s peace, before he arrived. Jesus sent them out like sheep among wolves. When Jesus arrived in their village, God’s peace came to them in its fullness, but until that time, wherever they were received, the disciples healed the sick in Jesus name, and ate and drank with the people of the village in peace, unity and in anticipation of the redemption and restoration of all things in the Christ. Through their ministry, the power of Satan, the power that keeps the world divided, was broken. Lives were healed, relationships made whole.
That’s a good way to look at this week ahead. Jesus is sending us out to announce God’s peace. By speaking that blessing and by doing it too, we bring good news to the places God sends us this week. That’s evangelism. We think of evangelism as inviting people to church, growing this church, getting people to come to church. But it is really bringing the good news of peace into people’s lives by introducing them to Jesus through the things we say and do. We have a blessing to speak – peace. We have a blessing to put into practice – healing, friendship, fellowship. We have good news to share in what we say and what we do.
A recent Barna Poll asked Christians if they felt they were called by God to do the job they were doing. Most did not. It is difficult to sense to God’s call to do the work many of us do. But maybe that’s the wrong way to look at the work we do, the way we make a living. What if we think of work as the place we’re sent by Jesus and in Jesus’ name to announce and enact the coming of God’s kingdom, God’s peace? I think then we can start to see our true calling, our true vocation flows out of our baptism, we are called, gathered and sent as peace-filled emissaries of God’s kingdom.
Wherever we are, whatever we do, our true calling, our real job is to bring God’s peace, to love and serve and heal, following Jesus’ example, to strive for peace and justice in all the world. In many cases, that means being sent out as sacrificial lambs in the middle of ravenous wolves, into a world still in the grips of Civil War. But then we must remember that is not the slaughter of conflict and war that brings real and lasting peace; but the nonviolent, loving, peace offering of Jesus’ own body and blood on the cross that has broken the power of sin, death and devil and given us life now and forever. Receive God’s peace. Live God’s peace. Share God’s peace. … in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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