Advent, Christian living, Jesus

The Peace of Divine Purpose (Advent 2022)

Matthew 1:18-21; Matthew 2:1-15; 2 Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 2:17-18

Paul told his young assistant Timothy that God’s Spirit does not make us timid.  Instead, it emboldens us to live a life of love and self-discipline.  Paul wrote this from prison awaiting execution.  Clearly, there is a peace about living in God’s will, even when the way is unclear or involves suffering.

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In the Christmas story, we find many people who discovered peace in the midst of suffering and confusing situations because they placed their faith in God.  They believed he had a plan and trusted him to guide them through the darkness into light.  Mary had an unplanned pregnancy.  Joseph was confused how his girl could cheat on him and what to do about it.  The magi thought they knew where God was taking them, yet they ended up in the wrong city!  They almost became political pawns in the process.  Joseph, Mary, and Jesus found themselves on the run from authorities.  Eventually, they became political refugees living as immigrants in Egypt, wondering when they could return home.  They had to live in a culture not their own, learn a new language that was foreign to them.  Many they encountered day after day probably hated them because of their foreignness! 

This was just in the first few years of Jesus’ life!  No wonder the writer of Hebrews tells us Jesus was made like us.  He was human in every way.  He understands our needs because he has suffered as we have.  Jesus came into our Egypt, our captivity, our exile.  He did not break sins’ shackles from the comfort of heaven.  He was “born into shit and straw” (to quote the ever-colorful Bono from U2).  This helpless babe had to trust not only his heavenly Father, but also his parents to protect him and love him.  Jesus suffered as we suffer.  He was tempted as we are tempted.  Through it all, he trusted his Father’s plan and walked in accordance with the Spirit of God.  This is what made him the Prince of Peace.  This is how he was able to save us from our sins.

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Finding Peace in a Troubled World

The year 2020 has been turbulent, to say the least. No matter where you live, there is something happening. The chaotic confusion brought on by the sudden emergence of a global pandemic. Fear of learning you or a loved one is COVID-19 positive. Concerns over the economic instability created by lock-downs and partial business closures. The vanishing toilet paper! Political arguments about whether or not to wear a mask. In the midst of this, unfortunate acts of racial injustice have resulted in both peaceful protests and, unfortunately, riots and other violent acts.

Americans may think I am only talking about their country. But the turmoil over COVID itself and the proper response to it are ongoing worldwide. George Floyd’s death has ignited questions about justice in Israel over the treatment of Ethiopian Jews and Palestinians and in Australia over Aboriginal deaths in police custody. As always, there is also political unrest. China is cracking down on Hong Kong, provoking border skirmishes with India, and threatening Christian churches they cannot reopen unless they teach loyalty to the Party. Then there’s the locusts . . . in Kenya . . . in Pakistan. (In case you forgot about the ecological troubles.)

And so the question arises, how can we find peace in such a troubled world? Where can it be found. Isaiah also wrestled with this quest for peace in chapter 57 verses 15-21. He describes life apart from God as a tossing sea full of mire and mud. But he tells us there is a God of peace sitting above this troubled world, just as Genesis 1 tells us the Spirit of God hovered over the chaotic waters. Genesis 1 “ends” on day 7, but God has never stopped his work of bringing order and stability out of chaos and turmoil. Though he could destroy us in an instant, he patiently bears with us in our sin and injustice, prompting us forward. Calling us to repentance.

God offers peace to those far away and to those near to him. He offers healing and comfort, if we but accept it. So how do we find this peace he offers? Isaiah tells us that God not only lives in a high and lofty place far above the turmoil, but–amazingly–God also chooses to live in the midst of the turmoil, with those who are contrite and lowly in spirit. To know God, you must humble yourself and give your fears and insecurities over to God. To know peace, you must first be contrite and seek forgiveness for your sins and prejudicial thoughts. Then, you can find peace in the midst of chaos, like Betty and Curtis Tarpley. Married for 53 years, they both contracted COVID and died on June 18 within an hour of each other. Yet despite the illness, they died hand in hand, the image of peace, grace, and love in the midst of troubled times.

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Sermon: Where Can Peace Be Found? Isaiah 57:15-21

Advent, sermon

Peace on Earth

In Luke’s gospel, the angels proclaim, “Peace on earth!” at Jesus’ birth and the people proclaim, “Peace in the heavens!” at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem the week prior to his death.  Micah describes a vision of peace when the mountain of God is raised up and all nations will stream to it, yet he places it immediately after a prophecy of the temple’s destruction.  Jesus, likewise, in John’s gospel predicts the raising of God’s temple (his body) if it is destroyed and says he will draw all people to himself when he is lifted up (on the cross).  The sermon looks at the hope of peace and the promise of God through the coming of the Christ.

“Peace on Earth” Micah 4:1-5 (click this link to open)

Peace on Earth sermon