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.