Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
Dec. 4, 2016
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
”I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
On this day when we light the Candle of Peace, I’d like to speak to you briefly this morning on the subject of Peace. Peace is a huge topic in the Bible. It’s also a big part of Christmas, as you know. Isaiah told us that the Messiah would be called the Prince of Peace. And the angels sang those famous words, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace.”
The Biblical word for peace is that marvelous word, Shalom. If you’ve been in church for a few years I’ll bet you’ve heard a preacher say that peace in the Bible is not merely the absence of strife. Shalom is much more than that. It’s harmony, wholeness, unity, justice. It’s when life and relationships are complete and whole.
As I was thinking about this subject this week, I came to realize that we learn about peace not only from the Bible, but also by seeing it in others. I’d like to tell you about 3 people in my life who have taught me about peace.
- I have a friend named Mary who has made peace the focus of her life. It’s the virtue she cherishes the most, strives for the most, and embodies the most. She meditates and prays, and does yoga and spends a great deal of time out in nature – all to cultivate a spirit of peace.
Peace with God.
Peace with others.
Peace with the world.
Peace for the world.
Peace with creation, with nature.
Inner peace, spiritual peace, interpersonal peace, world peace.
Mary thinks about peace the way Johnny Carson, Jerry Seinfeld & Chris Rock think about being funny, which is to say, all the time! Mary thinks about peace like Bill Belichick thinks about football. Mary thinks about peace the way a Golden Retriever thinks about its owner. She wants to be owned by peace. And she embodies so beautifully the peace she longs to see in the world. What a wonderful virtue to have as the focal point of your life!
2. I had another friend named Charlie who taught me about peace. Charlie would not have described himself as very religious. But he had made the faith his own. Charlie died several years ago. A few days before he died his family gathered around his hospital bed. They were all there, summoned if you will, by the seriousness of his condition. He looked up at their very sad faces and said, “You know, nothing bad’s gonna happen here.” Charlie died at peace. He truly rested in peace. And what a gift and inspiration that was to his family.
You know, studies have shown that religious people handle dying better. For Christians it’s because Christ has offered us the gift of peace with God.
Romans 5:1 says, “Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
St. Paul wrote this to the Ephesians: “Christ himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14).
The Bible has this view that the world is in rebellion against God. World history and the evening news seem to confirm this perspective. There’s a cosmic rebellion against a Creator who longs for “Peace on earth. Goodwill among men & women.” And Christ came to lead an end to the rebellion by offering us Heaven’s peace.
Remember years ago you used to hear this statement, “Those who make the wars should fight them.” I think it was a peace slogan from the 1960s. It was the idea that world leaders should just have a boxing match to decide the outcomes of wars.
Well, God didn’t make war against us. But humans have become estranged from God, according to the Bible. We’re part of this mutiny against divinity. And God, the ultimate world leader, came to us in Jesus . . . to make peace.
“Christ himself is our peace.”
“Peace I leave you. My peace I give to you.”
Charlie experienced that peace fully.
Mary strives to live in that peace daily.
3. There’s one other person I want to tell you about who taught me a lot about peace. His name is Bill. Bill’s a pastor. In fact, he’s an excellent pastor. Years ago, when we were right out of seminary Bill & I pastored churches in Pennsylvania that were right across the street from each other. It was called the “Valley of the Twin Churches.” We both came to these churches right out of seminary, filled with energy, confidence and a desire to do well. We had a great friendship and helped each other a lot, especially that first year – the first Christmas, the first Holy Week, the first church crisis – all sorts of things. But in our second year Bill & I had a conflict.
Our two churches shared some common land, and the church I served wanted to divide up the land. You would have thought we were talking about the West Bank in Israel, because the two sides sometimes fought like it was the Holy Land. Bill fought hard for his church. I fought hard for my church, both of us trying to prove our competence and leadership skills. Outside of the meetings we barely talked to each other for several months. It was awful. Every day I’d come to church, and I’d see Bill’s car in his parking lot. He’d see my car in our parking lot. But not a word between us.
It was Christmas Eve, a busy day for pastors. Bill called – “Want to come over and see our sanctuary?” “Sure,” I replied. Afterward I invited him to come see our sanctuary. As we finished I said, “Bill, I’m sorry for the tension between us. I’ve been trying a little too hard. And I’m sorry it’s come between us. We’ve been such good friends, and our friendship means a lot to me.” He accepted my apology and offered his. We talked for quite a while about the issues between the two churches. As we finished I said, “I’m sorry to bring this up on Christmas Eve. I know it’s a crazy day.” Bill said something I’ve never forgotten. He said, “What better day, than the day of reconciliation.”
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace.”
“God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.”
Christ came as the Prince of Peace, and what better way to celebrate that than reconciling with a friend.
These are some of the people in my life who have taught me about peace. I’ll bet you have people in your life who have done the same thing for you. Let us be those kind of people.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God.”