The Gift Of Peace

I have the greatest confirmation class (and mentors!) ever!  I am definitely not perfect in my teaching, but it’s fun to come together and learn about how to grow in faith.  I designed a curriculum called “Celebrating Questions”.  The basic idea is that we are rejecting the notion of “spoon fed” Christianity and encouraging the confirmands to ask questions in order to build a strong foundation for their own faith.  It’s so much fun!

Look how beautiful the front of the church looks!

It’s bizarre – it doesn’t really feel like it’s the Christmas season right now.  Does anybody else feel that way?  But the decorations help!  Everything is starting to look so festive!

(Deb, Woody, Lori & Larry – you guys are awesome!)

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Today’s sermon … enjoy!

Mark 1:1-8

The Gift Of Peace

Peace is a gift; it is not a natural state of being.

I have thought about this a lot over the past several years. When the planes hit the twin towers in 2001, my naïve 16-year-old understanding of the world came crashing down as I realized that wars were not just things found in dusty old history books, that our country was not perfect and that violence in our world was real.

When I was working as a chaplain at an Atlanta hospital and responded to my first call to tend to the family of a gunshot victim, my post-seminary idealistic expectations that ministry could not possibly be as hard as everyone had always told me crumbled as I realized that violence in our country and in our communities is real.

When I was in seminary and taking a course on pastoral care with victims of domestic violence, a classmate shared with us the story of her own abuse and the loving and supportive home that I grew up in was suddenly tainted as I realized that violence in our homes in real.

We live in a broken world. It is not pleasant to think about, but it is the truth. We live in a world that is full of conflict, war, turmoil, devastation and fighting. From the small things to the big things – we live in a broken world. And we have to work hard for peace.

Every week in my pastoral prayer I pray for peace (peace in our homes, peace in our communities, peace in our country and peace in our world). I never change the wording of that prayer. And it is not because I run out of time when I am writing it, it is because I so desperately want peace to prevail on earth. And so I wonder if I keep saying those words, if I keep praying those words, if I keep holding onto those words, that peace on earth will one day become a reality.

A few months ago Bruce and I were in Plymouth and walking through a park when we came across a six-sided post. And on every side of the post was the phrase, “Let Peace Prevail On Earth” in different languages from around the world. I took photos of the different sides of the post and have them framed them on the altar this morning. I thought that – in addition to lighting our candle of peace, to singing our prayer for peace (like we did with the children this morning) and praying our prayer for peace like we will later in on the service – it would be nice to also have a visible reminder of our prayer for peace as we center ourselves around the second Advent candle.

I have realized, I have learned over the past several years that peace is not something that just exists; it is something that we have to make happen. And we can; I know we can. Peace can prevail in our homes, in our community, in our country and in our world. It can happen. We can make that happen.

This morning’s scripture comes to us from the very beginning of the Gospel according to Mark. “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” the Gospel says. In other words, this is the beginning of the good news that Jesus Christ, Son of God and Prince of Peace will live and walk as one of us – and the world will never be the same. John the Baptist said, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me … I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” And, as I say during baptisms, it is the Holy Spirit that cleanses us – and unites us always. It is the Holy Spirit that can help us to bring peace on earth.

The Gospel of Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels – and if you look carefully, it only chronicles Jesus’ life. There is no birth narrative leading up to the arrival of Jesus. There is no post-resurrection narrative that unpacks what happened long after the tomb was discovered to be empty. It follows Jesus’ life and ministry in its most true form. It purely follows Jesus as he brings the gift of peace to the world.

Today we light the candle of peace in anticipation of the arrival of the Prince of Peace. We are reminded of the gift of peace that God gave to us and continues to give to us through this Advent and Christmas season. Peace is a gift.

Here is the thing about peace: I do not think that it is possible for any generation – no matter how hard they work – to achieve a peace on earth that will last forever. I think we live in a broken world – and that is our starting point. And because that is our starting point we all have to then commit to waking up every day and working hard for peace – and then go to sleep and wake up and be willing to start all over again. Into each generation individuals are born who will have to do this as well. And it isn’t easy – it won’t be easy. But it is possible. Peace on earth is possible.

We live in a broken world and every day we have to work for peace. We have to give the gift of peace to those around us, even when it is hard, even if we do not like the person and even if we just do not have the energy that day. Making the commitment to give the gift of peace every single day is the only way that we will truly achieve a peace on earth that will last forever.

Anti-Apartheid activist and former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela once said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” I was thinking about this idea that fear is always present and that we just triumph over it with courage and started to wonder if violence is always present – but that we triumph over it with peace.

Nelson Mandel said, “Courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”

What if we said, “Peace is not the absence of violence, but the triumph over it.”

“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

The peacemaker is not one who does not experience violence, but one who conquers that violence by responding with peace.

How can we give the gift of peace?

The word “gospel” is a term that is most often used in the New Testament to talk about the Christian message. The word itself means “the good news”. And when we talk about the good news of Jesus, we are talking not only about the good news that Jesus taught and preached, but also the good news that Jesus brought to the world through his human ministry.

What did Jesus bring to the world through his human ministry? What does the Christmas story actually mean for us? The story does not end at the manger – that is where it begins. The manger isn’t even in this gospel – it only tells the story about what happens once Jesus walked as one of us.

Jesus, as a human person, brought the gift of peace to the world. He called disciples into ministry, cleansed people, healed the sick, taught parables, stilled storms, restored people to life and fed thousands in the most miraculous of ways. And there were people that rejected Jesus and rejected what he was doing in the world. And yet Jesus stared that rejection in the face and did not respond with violence. He responded with peace.

The peacemaker is not one who does not experience violence, but one who conquers that violence by responding with peace.

Jesus gave the gift of peace in his lifetime. This is the good news that Jesus brought to the world through his human ministry. This is the gospel that we read and worship.

How can we make the gospel come alive today? How can we bring the good news to the world through our human ministry? How can we experience violence, but refuse to give in to that violence? How can we respond by giving the gift of peace?

Let peace prevail on earth.

Let there be peace on earth.

Amen.

3 thoughts on “The Gift Of Peace

  1. I love reading you sermons. I also preached this weekend – on the same text – and went a totally different direction. Such is the joy of the lectionary!

  2. i am so happy you post your sermons! *HUGS*

    love the church’s decorations, and also wanted to give a big THUMBS UP to your attitude on questions, and building a firm foundation. : )

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