The Peace of Christ 5/9/10

Acts 16:9-15, Revelation 22:1-5, and John 14:23-29

  1. Little Tommy went to church with his parents at a warm, good-natured community church.  He was coloring and looking at the books in the pews as the service got underway.  At the passing of the peace, he continued coloring as his parents got up and greeted the people around them.  As the congregation was settling back into their seats, they suddenly heard Tommy pipe up, “I want a piece of Christ too!”  Promptly, four of the adults around him offered their hands and the “peace of Christ.” And the service moved on.
    1. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”  What is the “peace” that Christ gives to us?  And what makes it so important that we would share it with one another each week? 
    2. There is a clear call throughout the Bible for justice and peace-making, but this is not the peace of which Christ is speaking.  Not the cessation of war, the absence of calamities, the triumph over earthly struggles.
    3. Christ is speaking of a peace to which all mothers (and to be more exact, all humanity) strives for: “peace of mind.”  Freedom from anxiety, worry, and fear.
  2. Lydia’s openness of heart and mind
    1. How do we find such freedom?
    2. Lydia found the freedom in Christ that cannot be obtained by any human action.  We cannot control our lives enough to ever be completely free of worry.  We are not able to account for all the different things that may happen as a result of those around us or extenuating circumstances beyond our control.  Controlling the world and our success/outcome within it is not within our reach as humans.
    3. But there is a peace that comes from knowing Christ and living as a Christian … and here is where it gets sticky for us in today’s modern society.
  3. The city of New Jerusalem and the community of God
    1. Revelations speaks of a New Jerusalem and it was understood by the early church to be a representation of the church.  (what the church could be)  So when John speaks of a river of life and tree of life whose leaves will be the healing of the nations, those monuments are found within the city, the community of God.  (Cities today are not always thought of in golden, philosophical terms as a place of communal strivings and idealistic living; they are instead dirty, unsalvageable, disposable.
    2. “Here the city is no longer a dense, dark collection of human vices, but a renewed community that ‘has no need of sun or moon to shine on it’ (Rev. 21:23), for it is now the light of God that illumines its streets … The new Jerusalem is thus a place of safety and inclusion (its gates are always open) and a beacon of hope to all people (nations will walk by its light).  This, then, is the vision held out for us of the church’s own life: it is a place of consummation for the purposes for which God created humanity.”[1] 
    3. The city of God in Revelation is idealistic, utopian – some might say unreachable even.
    4. This is why it gets so sticky for us today.  We, who know intimately, how the church can fail to live up to this high standard of living, can we truly believe that the church can model for society how to live well with one another?

                                                                          i.      The recent recurrence of the continuing problem of sex abuse and child abuse within the Catholic church is a symbol of a church-wide crisis that has followed multiple ethic’s violations perpetrated by pastors upon individuals and churches. 

                                                                        ii.      How do we reconcile the reality of living in a broken world … even while we claim Christ’s light for our lives?

  1. Passing the peace of Christ
    1. Maybe peace isn’t an absence of something, but instead is its own presence.  Maybe peace is something all on its own.  Maybe it creates something positive, makes something wonderful possible.”[2]
    2. In thinking about peace I am reminded of a saying, “The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation.”  As Christians, we proclaim and participate in the New Creation, believing that a new reality is possible in Christ.
    3. “The peace that Jesus gives is nothing less than the consequence of the presence of God … [In passing the peace of Christ, we] are enacting the truth that where sin is forgiven, the new community of peace is a reality.  The gift of peace is bound up with all that makes for righteousness or right relation: love, forgiveness, reconciliation, and thanksgiving.”[3]
    4. “Faith doesn’t take away the difficult things in life; it just keeps them from dominating, from having mastery, from defining who I am and the possibilities around me.”[4]
    5. So the peace of mind that Christ is speaking of that frees us from anxiety, worry, and fear is deeply rooted in our complete and utter trust in God’s grace and love.  The more we trust that love, the more we are reminded that love created us for love.
  2. So today, after we pray for one another and affirm our faith together, when we pass the peace of Christ to one another, I invite you to believe wholeheartedly that a new reality is possible in Christ.  Believe with all your heart, that we as a community sharing this peace and this belief can radically change our little piece of the world.  And thus model the peace of Christ to the world around us.  Let us pray,
    1. Christ you have given us your peace and we confess quite readily that we are not at all sure what we are supposed to do with it.  Like children bobbling a candle in the wind, we treat your peace as though it is something fleeting, vulnerable, and weak.  Breath out you Holy Spirit upon us and fan the flames of your peace within our hearts that it may glow brightly and burn strongly for all the world to see.  In Christ’s name, Amen.

 


[1] Joseph H. Britton in Feasting on the Word, Revelation 21:10; 21:22-22:5.

[2] WorkingPreacher.org Peace for Troubled Times, posted 5-3-10.

[3] Geoffrey M. St. H. Hoare in Feasting on the World.  John 14:23-29

[4] WorkingPreacher.org Peace for Troubled Times, posted 5-3-10.

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