Tag Archives: Memorial Day

Serving and Faith Luke 7: 1-10 First St Johns May 29, 2016

[for the audio of this sermon click on above icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The observance of Memorial Day is about those who have served in the United States military and have died as a result of that service. I had ancestors who fought in the Civil War. One returned home after suffering serious injury, he lived a few more years, but his life was definitely shortened by wounds in military service, therefore someone who should be remembered and honored on Memorial Day.

The United States’ highest military honor is the Congressional Medal of Honor. It’s not a requirement, but the Medal of Honor is usually presented posthumously, that is the recipient died as a result of the action they took to be awarded the Medal of Honor. According to Wikipedia the Medal of Honor has been awarded to 3,471 members of our military. “The first Army Medal of Honor was awarded to Private Jacob Parrott during the American Civil War for his role in the Great Locomotive Chase. The first African American recipient was William Harvey Carney who, despite being shot in the face, shoulders, arms, and legs, refused to let the American flag touch the ground. The only woman Medal of Honor recipient is Mary Edwards Walker, a Civil War surgeon.[1]” Of the number awarded there are only 76 living recipients.

The Medal of Honor is awarded to any member of the military who is so qualified. The next level are the service crosses; the Distinguished Service Cross for the Army, the Navy Cross for Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, the Air Force Cross. Interesting how our second highest military honors are crosses. The posthumous rate for the crosses is not as high as the Medal of Honor, but is still significantly high. How appropriate is it that for many who sacrificed themselves to often rescue or protect others, that they should be awarded a cross, the symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice for all of us.

One particular mission in Afghanistan early in the War on Terror resulted in a few people being awarded the Navy Cross. Probably more than any time in the military history of the United States Special Forces, all branches of the military are required to have a Special Forces unit, have been utilized in the War of Terror to rescue civilian and military persons and to also perform covert U.S. operations and  to assist host countries in various military operations. There is a Special Forces prayer that is quoted in Lt Col Oliver North’s book “American Heroes in Special Operations”. The prayer is: “Almighty God, Who art the Author of Liberty and the champion of the oppressed, hear our prayer. We, the men of Special Forces, acknowledge our dependence upon Thee in the preservation of Human freedom. Go with us as we seek to defend the defenseless and to free the enslaved. May we ever remember that our nation, whose motto is “In God We Trust”, expects that we shall acquit ourselves with honor, that we may never bring shame upon our faith, our families, or our fellow men. Grant us wisdom from Thy mind, courage from Thine heart, strength from Thine arm and protection by Thine hand. It is for Thee that we do battle and to Thee belongs the victor’s crown. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. AMEN”[2]

In one of the first actions in Afghanistan, Navy SEAL Petty Officer Neal Roberts, was part of a unit to be inserted by helicopter into a mountain top area known as Takur Ghar to engage Taliban. During the approach the helicopter was hit by ground fire, engine fluids started pouring over the inside of the helicopter. Petty Officer Roberts lost his footing and went out the back of the helo: “…His buddies watched him fall about ten feet to the snowy outcropping below.” As the Chinook wheeled away from the mountain, the rest of the team watched helplessly as Roberts came under heavy enemy fire. The last they saw of him, was returning fire with his squad automatic weapon, attacking a superior force and going it all alone…”

“A drone was sent to observe and sent back video of Petty Officer Roberts fighting off the enemy for nearly an hour, first with his automatic weapon and then his sidearm until he expended all his ammunition and grenades. He was finally overrun and killed, becoming the first Navy SEAL to die in the war on terror …”[3]

I have interacted with a lot of military and also civilian public safety. They realize that they don’t work a 9-5, punch in/punch out job. They’ve seen and had to deal with situations of life and death and sometimes inhuman acts done against people. Death is a reality to most of them and unlike most people, they are very aware of their own mortality. Too often their attitude towards God, is often, like most people today, think that they’re doing good works and that will punch their ticket to heaven. Many though want to know about God, I’ve had many uplifting encounters with military and public safety people. Often they want to know how God can permit such violence and injury. This has given me the chance to talk to them about sin. God gave us free will, which means that we are free to sin and we do, quite often. For those who are not Christians they are dead in their sins, they don’t know anything other than sin. They might bargain with God and try to do works they think will earn their way. My answer is that we can’t make a bargain with God. He provided one way, Jesus! That’s a great thing. Too often I see people floundering around trying to make their own way to God and they know in their heart that it doesn’t work. We need to be in relation to God through baptism and in Jesus. Anything else is our own works and ends in failure in trying to reach up to God. But there is no mystery about it, Jesus, God the Son, told us very plainly: “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” Our way to God is obvious, it is not a struggle to be saved. Being saved might be a struggle, but in Jesus we are helped through our struggles and helped to maintain our faith through His grace, that we are living in His will.

In the same sense a Roman centurion is not your garden variety pushover. He had enormous power and authority. He certainly could have been U.S. special forces today. A Roman centurion could pretty much act as he felt necessary, for the most part was trusted to do what was necessary and his word would have much more influence than others. The centurion in this pericope would have been classified as a “God-fearer”, someone who was not Jewish, but who acknowledged the God of Israel as the supreme Creator, Sustainer of the universe. The Hebrew name was yirei Hashem[4]. They did not convert for various reasons, but they recognized the monotheism of the Jewish God. A Roman did not reach the level of centurion by getting involved with charlatans. Certainly an important point of this pericope was to show that Jesus’ power and authority was recognized outside of Jewish circles and was a precursor of the rest of the world recognizing Jesus as God as His disciples/apostles went out into the world. The centurion saw Jesus as having authority as the Roman did. If it was Jesus’ will to have something done Jesus had only to give the word. Chrysostom writes: “…the reason he had not brought him in [his house] was itself a sign of his great faith, even much greater than those who let the patient down through the roof. Because the centurion knew for certain that even a mere command was enough for raising the servant up, he thought it unnecessary to bring him.”[5] Chrysostom also notes: “While on previous occasions he [Jesus] had responded to the wish of supplicants, in this case he rather springs actively toward it.”[6] Obviously the Jewish leaders in Capernaum saw His authority also, they seemed to have no problem intervening with Jesus on behalf of the centurion. For those who deal with the very real world of life and death, they don’t necessarily know Christ as Savior, I’m sure the centurion would have reservations about making that level of commitment, but they usually know the real thing, their life often depends on it. Often as they go along in life they are led by God to know true salvation, again they finally see the authenticity. We honor those who have made a sacrifice for us, we continually hold our Savior Jesus in our heart and in our prayers as He who made the ultimate sacrifice for those who are His to have eternal life in the resurrection. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Medal_of_Honor_recipients

[2] Lt Colonel Oliver North USMC (r) “American Heroes in Special Operations” p 8

[3] Lt Colonel Oliver North USMC (r) “American Heroes in Special Operations” pp 44-45

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God-fearer

[5] Chrysostom “The Gospel of Matthew Homily” quoted in “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Matthew 1-13” Manlio Simonetti p 161

[6] Ibid

El Espíritu Santo nos da la Iglesia para servir a un mundo oscuro

[translation by Google translate]

Hacemos nuestro comienzo en el Nombre de Dios el Padre y en el nombre de Dios el Hijo y en el nombre de Dios el Espíritu Santo, AMEN

Hoy es Pentecostés, el nacimiento de la iglesia, cuando el Espíritu Santo descendió sobre los que fueron escogidos para establecer la iglesia y para ponerla en el mundo. La iglesia fue dada autoridad por Jesús a través del Espíritu Santo. Es por esto que la iglesia es importante, porque a través de Pentecostés fue facultado para predicar, enseñar, administrar los sacramentos, mantenga las llaves y ser representantes de Cristo en la tierra. Nada, nadie, no hay otra manera de que el ministerio de Cristo se lleva a cabo en la tierra que a través de su iglesia. Subrayo SU no la mía, no tuya, no la gente que lo construyó. Este fue construido y se ha mantenido bajo la autoridad directa de que Jesús ha dado a través del Espíritu Santo. Así que cuando alguien te dice que no necesitan de la iglesia, sobre la adoración a Dios sentado en la playa o en la montaña, que es sólo pura tontería racionalización. La iglesia fue autorizada por Jesús, esto es cuando nació la Iglesia, en Pentecostés, la iglesia es el ministerio de Jesucristo en la tierra, Él es el Hijo de Dios, que Él demostró a través de su vida, como dice Lucas al comienzo de los Hechos : “En el primer libro, oh Teófilo, he ocupado de todo lo que Jesús comenzó a hacer ya enseñar, hasta el día en que fue recibido arriba, después de haber dado mandamientos por el Espíritu Santo a los apóstoles que había escogido. A ellos se presentó vivo después de su sufrimiento con muchas pruebas, apareciéndoseles durante cuarenta días y hablándoles acerca del reino de Dios. (Hechos 1: 1-3 ESV)

Hoy es también el Memorial Day, que es una yuxtaposición inusual de temas. La última esperanza y la promesa del mundo es en Jesús, que la esperanza y la promesa ministrado a través de Su iglesia. Damos por sentado, que la iglesia es un recordatorio constante de la esperanza y la promesa, que es la iglesia que siempre está ahí en los puntos más importantes de la vida; nacimiento, ser parte de la iglesia, la muerte, esos momentos en nuestras vidas en que necesitan más que las limitaciones y la superficialidad del mundo, los lugares comunes vacíos de un mundo superficial, pecaminosa y sin esperanza. Nosotros, en la iglesia no detenerse en el vacío de esta vida. Nos centramos en la esperanza y la promesa de la vida eterna. Esa esperanza y promesa es en la vida, muerte y resurrección de Jesucristo, y culminaron con la aparición de Dios el Espíritu Santo en forma de llamas que bailan en las cabezas de los que nombró a Jesús para ser los evangelistas y ministros de su iglesia ” sobre esta piedra edificaré mi iglesia, y las puertas del infierno no prevalecerán contra ella. “(Mateo 16:18). Esa es nuestra esperanza y promesa, no lo que el hombre hace en el mundo, pero lo que el Espíritu Santo hace en la iglesia de Jesucristo. Es sólo a través de Él, que trabaja a través de su iglesia que tenemos la esperanza y la promesa de la vida eterna, la vida real, la vida más abundante en la resurrección.

Memorial Day es un día importante, recordamos a los que hicieron el máximo sacrificio, que recordaba las palabras de Jesús cuando dijo: “. Nadie tiene mayor amor que este, que alguien da su vida por sus amigos” (Juan 15:13 ESV) Los inicios de Memorial Day eran justo después de la guerra civil americana, una guerra que tiene cerca significado aquí en York. Algunas actividad local y sobre todo al oeste, donde la batalla más grande en la historia de América del Norte llevó a cabo, la batalla de Gettysburg. Los hombres y mujeres que murieron en una guerra para liberar a los que se había mantenido en la esclavitud, para que pudieran tener la libertad de vivir su vida.

Día de los Caídos fue instituido como “Día de Decoración” en 1868. La guerra a menudo tiene muchas causas nobles, y, ciertamente, los que murieron en el servicio a su país han dado todo, independientemente de la nobleza de la guerra, sin lugar a dudas han servido noblemente a ponerse en perjudica manera de servir a sus semejantes. Pero hay una triste realidad de la guerra, en la que la nobleza no es tan terrible tragedia. Charles Oliver era un capellán en el ejército confederado durante la guerra civil y escribió lo siguiente durante y después de los combates alrededor de Chancellorsville, Virginia 05 1863: “La guerra es una cosa tan extraña. Aquí estamos gay, descuidado, jocoso, ayer corrimos por nuestras vidas a través de este mismo campo, mientras que la muerte dealing disparó fueron barriendo sus colinas. Hoy en día algunos de nosotros pusieron los restos destrozados de nuestro valiente camarada TE Dillard en la tumba de un soldado; en este momento cuando el sol brilla tan intensamente, y la brisa besa las mejillas tan amablemente; sin embargo, estamos ahora en medio de una gran batalla terrible … Todo esto días se me ha oprimido con la idea de que era el día de reposo. “Un hombre de Dios que de buena gana se apresuró a servir a los que en medio de la terrible tragedia, recordando en medio de la tragedia que todos vamos a arrodillarse en adoración a Dios.

Especialista Emily Thompson escribió lo siguiente durante su servicio en Afganistán: “Hay un entumecimiento en el interior que me parece que no puede entender. Extraño mi casa. Sin embargo, pienso en aquellos que dieron sus vidas delante de mí, aquellos que están muriendo en este mismo instante, y me olvido de hogar para ellos aún más. Tal sentido de culpa está presente cuando pienso en casa. Deseo dejar tan mal, pero no me siento digno de salir de este lugar. De vuelta a casa deja una parte de mí detrás, uno que nunca voy a volver. Una pieza tan perdido, como los que han caído y dado todo para alguien como yo. Seis pies bajo y recordado como un recuerdo; Rezo por la paz. Juro vivir para ellos, para beber y celebrar la grandeza que son, y respirar en la vida que han perdido. Para todos y cada uno son mi sangre y mi corazón, la razón detrás de mis lágrimas, y el intenso estímulo para enfrentar otro día sin nada más que pura gratitud “.

El mundo nunca va a ser un lugar fácil para el cristiano genuino. Para aquellos de nosotros que entendemos que no es la muerte en la vida, somos bautizados y el viejo se pone a la muerte, volvemos a nacer en el Espíritu Santo y nos convertimos en hijos e hijas de Dios Padre verdadero, Él es nuestro Padre, Él es el Padre de Jesucristo, Dios el Hijo y del Padre procede el Espíritu Santo. Para ser su hijo o hija significa ser parte del sacrificio del Hijo. También significa ser habitado por el Espíritu Santo como los cristianos han sido desde que el Espíritu Santo se convirtió en parte de los discípulos y luego los guió para construir la iglesia de Jesucristo y ha estado guiando cristianos desde entonces para construir la iglesia católica y apostólica. Sin la iglesia que alcanzará a los perdidos, que le servirá un mundo herido, que estará ahí cuando se necesita orientación? No hay nadie más que estará allí para mostrarle la verdadera salvación y la vida eterna en Jesús. Usted puede venir a esta iglesia, me puedes llamar y voy a hablar con usted, yo escucho, y, a veces, sí, eso podría ser en una hora difícil del día o días de la semana. Espero que en tiempos de crisis, la tragedia, una verdadera lucha que usted me llame y quieres que te ayude. Eso es lo que la iglesia existe para y no sólo a mí, sino a otros hermanos y hermanas en Jesús. Dime, ¿dónde más vas a ser servido así? ¿Quién más va a salir y te servirán en tiempos de verdadera necesidad? La iglesia de Cristo es estar ahí en tiempos de verdadera necesidad. No hay nadie más que estará allí para usted cuando te enfrentas a los momentos de duda, la desesperación y la tragedia. Por eso, entre otras cosas vitales, que Jesús estableció su iglesia. Por eso, el Espíritu Santo descendió sobre los discípulos y los llevó al mundo a proclamar el Señorío de Jesús y ser un faro de luz y esperanza en un mundo desesperado y lleno de pecado.

Dr. Martin Luther nos da la mejor manera de conciliar Pentecostés, la venida del Espíritu Santo, el establecimiento de discipulado cristiano en el mundo y el desorden del pecado y de la tragedia en el mundo: “No basta simplemente que se predique a Cristo; la Palabra debe ser creído. Por lo tanto, Dios envía el Espíritu Santo para impresionar a la predicación sobre el corazón a hacerlo aquí y vivir en ella. Sin lugar a dudas, Cristo realizó todo quitó nuestros pecados y superó todos los obstáculos, lo que nos permite llegar a ser, a través de él, señor de todas las cosas. Pero el tesoro se encuentra en un montón; no se distribuye y se aplica en todas partes. Antes de que podamos disfrutar de él, el Espíritu Santo viene y la comunica al corazón, lo que nos permite creer y decir: “Yo también, soy una persona que tendrá la bendición. ‘”

Finalmente le pido que recuerde compañero guardacostas suboficial Nathan Bruckenthal que murió en acción y hacer el último sacrificio en Irak el 24 de abril de 2004.

La paz de Dios que sobrepasa todo entendimiento, guardará vuestros corazones y vuestros pensamientos en Cristo Jesús. Amin y Shalom.

The Holy Spirit gives us the Church to serve the world First St Johns Memorial Day May 24, 2015

[For the audio version of this sermon click on the link above]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit, AMEN

Today is Pentecost, the birth of the church, when the Holy Spirit descended on those who were chosen to establish the church and to bring it into the world. The church was given authority by Jesus through the Holy Spirit. This is why the church is important, because through Pentecost it was empowered to preach, teach, administer the sacraments, keep the keys and be representatives of Christ on earth. Nothing, no one, there is no other way that Christ’s ministry is conducted on earth than through His church. I emphasize HIS not mine, not yours, not the people who built it. This was built and has been maintained under the direct authority that Jesus has given it through the Holy Spirit. So when someone tells you they don’t need the church, about worshipping God sitting at the beach or on a mountain, that is just pure rationalizing nonsense. The church was authorized by Jesus, this is when the church was born, on Pentecost, the church is the ministry of Jesus Christ on earth, He is the Son of God which He demonstrated through His life, as Luke says at the beginning of Acts: “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1: 1-3 ESV)

Today is also Memorial Day, which is an unusual juxtaposition of topics. The ultimate hope and promise of the world is in Jesus, that hope and promise ministered through His church. We take for granted, that the church is a constant reminder of Hope and promise, it is the church that is always there at those most important points in life; birth, being a part of the church, death, those times in our lives when we need more than the limitations and superficiality of the world, the empty platitudes of a shallow, sinful and hopeless world. We, in the church don’t dwell on the emptiness of this life. We focus on the hope and promise of eternal life. That hope and promise is in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and culminated in the appearance of God the Holy Spirit in the form of flames dancing on the heads of those who Jesus appointed to be the evangelists and ministers of His church, “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18). That is our hope and promise, not what man does in the world, but what the Holy Spirit does in the church of Jesus Christ. It is only through Him who works through His church that we have the hope and promise of life eternal, real life, life more abundant in the resurrection.

Memorial Day is an important day, we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, who remembered Jesus’ words when He said: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.”(John 15:13 ESV) The beginnings of Memorial Day were right after the American Civil War, a war that has close meaning right here in York. Some local activity and especially west where the greatest battle in North American history took place, the Battle of Gettysburg. Men and women who died in a war to free those who had been kept in slavery, so that they would be free to live their life.

Memorial Day was instituted as “Decoration Day” in 1868. War often has many noble causes, and certainly those who died in serving their country have given their all, regardless of the nobility of the war, have without doubt served nobly to put themselves in harms way to serve their fellow man. But there is a sobering reality of war, in that nobility there is such terrible tragedy. Charles Oliver was a chaplain in the confederate army during the Civil War and wrote the following during and after the fighting around Chancellorsville, Va in May 1863: “War is such a strange thing. Here we are gay, careless, jocular, yesterday we ran for our lives across this very field, while death dealing shot were sweeping over its hills. Today some of us laid the shattered remains of our brave comrade T.E. Dillard in a soldier’s grave; at this moment though the sun shines so brightly, and the breeze kisses our cheeks so kindly; yet are we now in the midst of a great terrible battle … All this day I have been oppressed with the thought that it was the Sabbath.”[1] A man of God who willingly rushed to serve those in the midst of terrible tragedy, remembering amid tragedy that we all will kneel in worship of God.

Specialist Emily Thompson wrote the following while serving in Afghanistan: “There is a numbness inside that I can’t seem to figure out. I miss home. Yet, I think about those who gave their lives before me, those who are dying right this instant, and I miss home for them even more. Such a sense of guilt is present when I think about home. I wish to leave so badly, yet I do not feel worthy of leaving this place. Going home leaves a part of me behind, one that I will never get back. A piece so lost, like those who have fallen and given their all for someone like myself. Six feet under and remembered as a memory; I pray for peace. I swear to live for them, to drink and celebrate the greatness that they are, and to breathe in the life that they have lost. For each and every one are my blood and my heart, the reason behind my tears, and the intense encouragement to face another day with nothing but sheer gratitude.”[2]

The world is never going to be an easy place for the genuine Christian. For those of us who understand that there is death in living, we are baptized and the old man is put to death, we are reborn in the Holy Spirit and become true sons and daughters of God the Father, He is our Father, He is the Father of Jesus Christ, God the Son and from the Father proceeds the Holy Spirit. To be His son or daughter means to be a part of the sacrifice of the Son. It also means to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit as Christians have been since the Holy Spirit became part of the disciples and then guided them to build the church of Jesus Christ and has been guiding Christians since then to build the catholic and apostolic church. Without the church who will reach out to the lost, who will serve a hurting world, who will be there when you need guidance? There is no one else who will be there to show you true salvation and eternal life in Jesus. You can come to this church, you can call me, and I will talk to you, I will listen to you, and sometimes, yes, that might be at a difficult hour of the day or day of the week. I would hope that in times of crisis, tragedy, genuine struggle that you would call me and want me to help you. That is what the church is there for and not just from me, but other brothers and sisters in Jesus. Tell me, where else are you going to be served like that? Who else will come out and minister to you in times of genuine need? Christ’s church is to be there in times of genuine need. There is no one else who will be there for you when you face times of doubt, desperation and tragedy. That is why, among other vital things, that Jesus established His church. That is why the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples and led them into the world to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus and to be a beacon of light and hope in a desperate and sin filled world.

Dr Martin Luther gives us the best way to reconcile Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the establishment of Christian discipleship in the world and the mess of sin and tragedy in the world: “It is not enough simply that Christ be preached; the Word must be believed. Therefore, God sends the Holy Spirit to impress the preaching upon the heart—to make it in here and live therein. Unquestionably, Christ accomplished all—took away our sins and overcame every obstacle, enabling us to become, through him, lord over all things. But the treasure lies in a heap; it is not everywhere distributed and applied. Before we can enjoy it, the Holy Spirit comes and communicates it to the heart, enabling us to believe and say, ‘I too, am one who shall have the blessing.'” [3]

Finally I ask you to remember fellow Coast Guardsman Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal who was killed in action and made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq on April 24, 2004.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom.

[1] Brinsfield, Davis, Maryniak and Robertson  Faith in the Fight quoting Charles J Oliver pp 103-104

[2] Emily Thompson  Face Book post May 22, 2015

[3] Martin Luther, about Pentecost, from his 1523 church postil

Memorial Day is also praying for peace, but there is only peace in Jesus

Peace, never in the world, always in Jesus
First St Johns May 24, 2014
We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit. And all those who know the peace of Christ said …AMEN
Peace, when we think of Memorial Day, we really don’t think in terms of peace, we think in terms of loss, of death, of valiant sacrifice for a cause. Simran Khurana is quoted as saying: “On Memorial Day, pay a tribute to the sentinels of peace. Sing praises of the brave soldiers who marched forth on unfriendly terrain, come rain or snow, so that we could sleep peacefully knowing that our country is safe.” To be sure we should think of our American soldiers as those “sentinels of peace”. With a couple of disquieting examples America has been the sentinel of peace, at least peace in the worldly sense. Our fellow Americans have been sent abroad in the hope that their efforts would bring world peace. World War II would be the brightest example of those efforts. As a result many countries had been helped to recover from economic depression and the devastation of war to establish societies that have grown in peace and prosperity. Through history countries have conducted war thinking that they will be able to neutralize threats to the peace and establish a peaceful climate. Gordon MacDonald notes: “In its largest sense, it [peace] describes any system in which there is order, justice and security. The Romans talked about peace (Pax Romana), but their system was sustained through violence and intimidation. The Jews of Jerusalem had their own concepts of peace: a kingdom that mirrored the ancient reign of David. [which was founded and maintained by military force]” So we take from these examples of countries that set their ideas of peace on, “so long as you do what you’re told you won’t get hurt. Step out of line and you will be violently slapped down. Otherwise have a nice day.” The One we call the Prince of Peace was crucified in order to maintain control. Remember the chief priest’s word, “this man must die in order for the nation to survive.” That plan really didn’t work out as Jerusalem was reduced to rubble 40 years later, by the Romans in order to maintain “peace”.
Believe it or not, I am sensitive to the fact that people want to hear the pastor say all sorts of gratuitous nice things, tell everyone that it’s ok, that things will work out according to their plans. Frankly in a worldly sense, I’d feel like Kevin Bacon at the end of Animal House in the midst of a frantic, fleeing crowd, he’s standing there in his official ROTC uniform screaming: “Remain calm, all is well, remain calm.” In a worldly sense that entire scene is total fiction, all is not well. Of course we have to remain calm, but to proclaim that all is well in any sense, regardless of the economy, politics, education all is not well and never will be.
We talk about peace, but for too many of us Christians we have bought into the world’s idea of peace, which will never happen, or we cherry pick Jesus’ quotes and convince ourselves that there will ultimately be some kind of world wide utopia. In the world’s sense it will never happen. What does Jesus say about the end times, in the Gospels and in Revelation? They will be enormously violent times:“ESV Revelation 6:4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that men should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.” The Holy Spirit has maintained “peace” in the world. When that peace is removed in Revelation 6:4, those who are still in the world will see violence on a scale never before seen, even in the most violent episodes of history. The evil of man will truly show itself and all those who have been in denial of Christ and His peace, those who thought they were somehow entitled to any and all kind of peace and prosperity, on their own terms, will be left in the middle of terror and poverty. While they ignored Jesus and relied on their own means, they will find that what they trusted on earth, does them no good when God removes His protecting hand. There is no peace with man, in the entire 5,000 year history of the world, there has only been about 100 years of genuine peace. Man does not understand peace, he will never be able to bring the earth to peace and when God removes His hand at the end of time, the entire concept of peace will fall under the horrors of man’s inhumanity to man.
Many of you here have seen that inhumanity. Those in the world like to point out the times when Christians forgot Christ and took things into their own hands. The crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials. They conveniently seem to ignore the twentieth century, a time when government shoved God out of the center stage and the result? The bloodiest century in the entire history of man, bloodier then all the previous centuries combined. For a lot of you here today you have seen some form of imperialism, some form of fascism, most of us have seen communism and we are witnessing “Islamo-Fascism” in many countries of the world today. When we saw the Berlin Wall come down, too many thought that this was the beginning of world peace, about a decade later a jetliner smashing into the World Trade Center sparked a war, in at least two countries, that has lasted almost fifteen years. I’m not being a pessimist, I am being very much a realist in Christ.
MacDonald notes: “Jesus said his peace was not compatible with the “world’s” view of peace (John 14:27) “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” MacDonald also notes that “Paul referred to this as ‘the peace of Christ.” There should be no doubt in your mind that as in everything else, the peace of Christ is far different from what the world sees as “peace”.
I do love you, all of you, you are brothers and sisters in Christ, that is a really good thing. There is no better way to love another then in Christ, because in the eternal resurrection, it will be all about how we love another in Jesus. Too many like to equate it to “I’m a member of the Loyal Order of Buffalo and I love our fellow members.” Being a Christian isn’t a club or fraternity or some benevolent society. When I tell you I love you in Christ, as part of the Body of Christ, in the Fatherhood of God, that is a peace, a love that is forever, deeper than any corruptible, earthly emotion. It does not mean the superficiality of the world, it is a promise of Christ for true peace: “My peace I give you … don’t let your hearts be troubled,” There is nothing, no one, no where, on earth that gives you this true assurance of peace. There is a whole lost world out there, it blames everything and everyone, except themselves, for the lack of peace. The evil of humanity will never be overcome in the world. If anything it will become more evil and more violent.
In the violence and greed of the world we have to remember Paul’s words: “ESV Philippians 4:11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
There is only one peace for the world, that peace is, has been in Jesus. We call Him the “Prince of Peace” and so He is, the peace that will be eternal, a semblance of peace we have in the world now. But Jesus knew that there was no peace on earth and never would be and told us straight out: “ESV Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” The world rebels against Christ and like the Pax Romana believes that peace will prevail in our own way. The world can’t get Jesus right, it certainly doesn’t get “peace” right. You and I, we do have peace, we have it right here, right now. This is a peace that you cannot give to someone else, even in the middle of the violence, the greed and poverty, the hysteria of the world, I can quote Kevin Bacon and you can know calm and peace in the middle of all the hysteria. I can say: “Remain calm, all is well, remain calm.” Because in Christ we do know peace in any and every circumstance. All is well in Him.
At this Memorial Day I want to remember Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal, the only Coast Guardsman killed in the War on Terror. Please keep his wife Pattie and his daughter Harper in your continued prayers.
No doubt as Christians we are to continue to pray for peace, but with the expectation that true peace will only be realized in Christ and in His return. We who are in Him know true peace and we want to let others know that true peace is in Him. Share that reality with all you those you know.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.