Good morning! Here is my sermon from this morning …
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
And Let It Begin With Me
Peace be with you my friends.
A colleague of mine posted these words on her blog on Friday:
Nelson Mandela has died. If even a fraction of the people in the world would do even a fraction of the things Mr. Mandela did for the cause of peace and justice, the world would be a much better place. If I did even a fraction of the things Mr. Mandela did for the cause of peace and justice, the world would be a much better place.
How do you even begin to pay tribute to a man like Nelson Mandela?
The former president of South Africa devoted his life to justice, peace and equality for all people. He fought against the apartheid, a government system of harsh racial segregation in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. In 1962 Mandela was arrested for leading a campaign against the apartheid government and spent 27 years in prison. But he never stopped fighting; he never gave up on what he believed to be true. He continued to write, he continued to speak, he continued to inspire, he continued to empower and he continued to effect change. And in 1994, in South Africa’s first-ever fully represented democratic election, Mandela was elected president, the first black man ever to hold that office.
“Let there be justice for all,” Mandela said is his inaugural address in May of 1994. “Let there be peace for all. Let freedom reign. The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement!”
No words will ever fully be enable us to pay tribute to this man. But it is fitting that today we light the candle of peace on our Advent wreath. We reflect, not only on the ways that Jesus brought peace to the world so many years ago, but also on the ways that we are called to bring peace to the world today.
This morning we remember the vision of peace given to us by the prophet Isaiah:
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
We looked at this text during bible study on Tuesday morning and the question was posed, “Has this prophecy been fulfilled?” Was the prophesy fulfilled through Jesus’ birth and life OR will it be fulfilled through the second coming?
I proposed a third option.
In Southern Africa, many people abide by the philosophy, Ubuntu. Roughly translated, it means, “I am because you are.” It is a philosophy about humanness, about our connection to one another, about the ways in which we sustain one another. Nelson Mandela once explained Ubuntu by offering this parable:
A traveler through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve? These are the important things in life.
Ubuntu means that the things that we do and the choices that we make affect other people. Always. And so on Tuesday morning as we read these ancient words from Isaiah and thought about their relevance in our lives today, I started to wonder if we are actually called to be living fulfillments of this prophesy.
Our Gospel reading for this morning is from the Book of Matthew. In the passage that we read, John the Baptist recalls and proclaims the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Prepare the way of the Lord!”
How are we preparing the way of the Lord? How are we preparing for Jesus’ birth, for the arrival of Emmanuel – God with us? These candles that, one-by-one, illuminate our Advent wreath are not simply a prayer for our world, but they are a call to action.
I attended a conference on Monday that opened with the Connecticut Children’s Chorus singing “Let There Be Peace On Earth.” It is such a beautiful song, but I think that, unfortunately, that line, “Let there be peace on earth” often becomes its focal point and overshadows the most important and powerful line that follows it: “And let it begin with me.”
Let peace begin with me.
As we light the candle of peace and continue to prepare for the arrival of Jesus in our midst, I think it is imperative for us to remember that peace is not just something that comes to us; peace is something that we bring to one another.
Ubuntu: I am because you are. My peace is linked with your peace. I have peace because you bring me peace. You have peace because I bring peace to you.
Our first reading of this morning’s psalm can be read as a prophesy that was fulfilled through Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection. But look at happens when we embody the Ubuntu philosophy and take responsibility for living out these words:
Give us your justice and your righteousness, O God.
May we judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.
May we defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.
May we live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May we be like the rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.
In our days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.
We read in the Gospel of Matthew this morning that when John the Baptist proclaimed that Jesus was coming he told the people who had come seeking to be baptized that he only baptized with water. Jesus was coming, John said, and he would baptize also with the Holy Spirit, a spirit that moves through all of us and connects us to one another. Ubuntu – I am because you are.
Mandela once said, “Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.” So today I implore you to let your light shine. Bring peace into this world. Bring peace to your families, bring peace to your friends and – most importantly – bring peace to your enemies. Tear down walls of division and build bridges of peace.
As you prepare for Christmas this year, feel the Holy Spirit moving through you and shine your light of peace to the world.
Let there be peace on earth … and let it begin with me.
Thanks be to God!