In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Ghost.
"If you had known…the things that make for your peace!” We spend a lot of time chasing after peace. If you were to go out and survey the people you meet in your daily affairs and ask them what they’d like to see the most, I’d guess that most of them would say “peace.” Why is that? Our world is crumbling! The Middle East is a hotbed of unrest. ISIS is constantly on the attack and seems unstoppable. Christians are being martyred left and right because they refuse to renounce the faith. We may have had some peace thinking that those things were half a world away and in a civilization that was far removed from ours. But then things got closer to home. Just five days ago a French priest had his throat slit by two ISIS soldiers right in the middle of the Mass. This didn’t happen in a remote desert village in an Islamic country. It happened in France, right in the middle of civilized Europe. Immediately after ISIS took to the Internet and threatened Christians in London and Washington, D.C. If we had any peace as Western Christians, thinking this kind of oppression and martyrdom would never reach us, Tuesday took it away.
But it’s not just international affairs that have us searching for peace. Look here at home and our cities and even our streets are sharply divided. Black Lives Matter. Blue lives matter. Trump. Hillary. Close the borders. Open the borders. Ban all Muslims. Relax immigration standards. Every issue brings a fight, a sharp dichotomy, a great gulf fixed between the two sides and everyone who isn’t on your side is dead wrong. Everyone feels that if only their side could be heard, allowed to win, and ascend to power, all the problems would magically disappear and peace would be restored. “If only you knew that my opinions, my pet cause, candidate, what have you, would bring peace, you’d listen to me and everything would be just fine.”
Political and social issues aside, how do you self-medicate, how do you attempt to bring peace into your swirling, restless mind, your broken heart, your fractured relationships, your darkest depression, your sharpest pain, all the ways you are hurt by your own sin and the sin of others? We try to find peace in alcohol, drugs prescription and illegal, pornography, affairs, gossip, slander, hate, greed, wealth, possessions, Facebook rants, suicide, lies, the list goes on and on. We search for peace in all the wrong places, and when our medication of choice fails we move onto the next thing, wandering aimlessly, looking for peace where none can be found.
It is over this that Jesus weeps. Jesus weeps for you when you cannot find peace. He does not cry tears of anger, but tears of love, tears of sorrow, tears of compassion. And you cannot find peace because you are searching for it in everyplace, everything, everyone that isn’t Him. It is as Augustine eloquently penned, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds rest in Thee.” Just like Jerusalem sought her peace in relationships that could never bring the earthly peace they wanted, and the people to whom Jeremiah prophesied found their peace in the Temple itself and not the God who filled the temple, we respond to unrest and hatred and division, that is to say, sin, not by turning to God, but by trying to find the solution ourselves. We turn from the God of peace to the once good creation now corrupted by sin and the devil. Like we just sang: “I have sinned and gone astray, I have multiplied transgression, chosen for myself my way.”
But your God’s almighty power is made known chiefly in showing mercy and pity. He has the peace which passes all understanding and wants to give it to you. He knows that life in a sinful, fractured, dying world leads you to despair, to restlessness, to sin. Satan uses it to drive you from God. So God shows mercy and pity. He does not turn His back on you even though you may turn yours on Him. He wants to forgive you, and He always stands ready to do it. If He did not want to forgive you, to restore you to Himself, to give you true and lasting peace He would not have sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for you. But He has, and for Jesus’ sake you are forgiven, for Jesus’ sake you are promised peace in heaven for all eternity.
And Jesus has given you another gift: His Holy Spirit who says to you all Jesus has said to Him. And one thing Jesus has said, and the Holy Spirit reminds you of is the promise of Jesus: “In the world you will have tribulation” (Jn. 16:33a). That may not sound like a gift, but it is. Because Jesus has warned you about tribulation in these gray and latter days, that false religion will increase, that there will be wars and rumors of wars, nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, hatred and martyrdom of Christians, people being offended by the truth, people will hate one another, and because of that “the love of many will grow cold,” (Mt. 24:4-12) because Jesus has warned you of all of this means He will be with you in all of this. He knows what is happening around the world. He has not abandoned His Church, nor will He abandon you. And in this tribulation, no matter how bad it may be, the Holy Spirit reminds you what else Jesus has said: “be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33b).
The Holy Spirit comes to you in Word and Sacrament to keep that reality of Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and the devil alive in your heart. He brings you the forgiveness that Jesus won on the cross. He reminds you that when you kneel at this rail you are in communion with all those who have gone before you and are in heaven who enjoy the Sabbath rest, the heavenly banquet, the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom which has no end.
Life in this world is terrible. It has its good moments where we are able to glimpse the love of God and the glory and majesty of heaven. But outside of those moments it’s scary, it’s full of hate and division, it’s full of uncertainty and unrest. In short, in this world there is no peace. That’s why Jesus died to win for you everlasting peace, peace which the world cannot give. In heaven there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, Trump nor Hillary, Black nor Blue, for all are one in Christ Jesus. That doesn’t mean that your personality is gone and everyone is a bland, homogenous group. No! Remember in Revelation St. John saw people of every tribe and language and nation and people. He saw diversity, but in Christ diversity doesn’t divide. Sin is done away with, and with it the hatred and sad divisions. Instead all are united in praise of the Lamb whose Blood sets us free from hatred, division, sin, death, and the devil.
Until the Lord admits you to that peace in the Church Triumphant, look to the cross of Christ. Only He can vanquish your dark fears and soothe your anguish. Look to that cross where Christ has overcome the world.
The peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Sermons from Mount Olive
Mount Olive follows the historic one-year lectionary (series of readings).