Sermon – 05-24-20 – Easter VII – Memorial Sunday – Cycle A
Scriptures: Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35; 1 Peter 4:12-14 and 5:6-11
Sermon Title: “True Peace – How to Start It”
This is Memorial Day Sunday. How does one honor war? Today we are not honoring war; we are honoring the people who served in war in order to create lasting peace. Not only people who served in war or not only people who were preparing to serve in war and lost their lives doing so. No, not only those people, but on Memorial Day it is the custom to also pay homage to ordinary people who served their families in some way and we like to think there was peace in their lives.
The truth is that peace is quite elusive – hard to come by. It is a precious commodity. Peace. Peace outside. Peace inside. Can we have peace inside if there is no peace around us?
We live in a shaking, quaking world. As soon as one threat is conquered, another arrives. Peter’s words, in our Epistle lesson from 1 Peter 4, remind us of the harsh reality, “Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kind of suffering.” Sounds like misery loves company. Sometimes, our fears are lessened knowing we have company in our fears.
Do we or don’t we believe in an active devil? Well, do we admit that evil is active in the world right up to our front door and sometimes inside? Are we supposed to be fearful 24/7. Peter says, “Discipline yourselves, keep alert.” Fear! Think of the fear the drafted ones felt and continue to feel because the wars to end all wars did not end all wars. Think of the fear of the Jews in the Holocaust! Absolute terror! There can be no peace in our hearts until we work to provide justice for every single person. Fear for some should mean fear for everyone until the fearsome situation has been changed! Lest we think that kind of fear is in the past, think again. We can wear blinders. We can listen to our favorite questionable music to drown out the sounds of the hurting brothers and sisters.
Think of the fear today by persons who are trapped in homes that are not homes but places of terror when one family member has been cheated of any breath of peace in his or her life and whose only instinct is to react with violence. These persons’ minds and hearts are totally deprived of a better way of being. “Peace, peace” the trapped persons plead silently to whomever can hear silent desperation. Who can hear this silent desperation? God. God needs us to act with compassion and savvy to bring peace like a salve to the trapped persons. If we think the trapped persons are the injured people in the home, let us not stop short. The perpetrator of this evil is trapped in his or her explosive shell, probably fearing himself or herself.
Think of the fear of the eleven disciples after Jesus was crucified and their own lives were in danger. Then, the fear they knew when Jesus left the earth and returned to the right hand of the Father. Things were very unsettled – something a bit like our existence during this pandemic. We don’t know. The unknown tends to rouse fear in our hearts and minds.
Why can’t we just settle back, do the best we can as calmly as we can? Why does fear creep into our lives? It is very easy to let the outside fear – the fear around us – throw darts into our hearts. Peter says we shall discipline ourselves. Easier said than done. Fear springs up like weeds in a vegetable garden. Weeds need regular tending (a.k.a. pulling). If left to themselves, weeds take all the moisture, all the minerals, all the sun from the good plants. Such is fear. If left to itself, fear will take all the good things from our lives – all the calmness, the security, the kindness, the problem-solving ability, the creative spirit from our souls.
We can put our fear on the back burner while we feed the hungry, minister to the prisoners, give shoes that fit the children, sing songs to the sick and the dying. Hear this: we shall witness to our leaders and lawmakers. We who are not elected, we who are nobodies in the political arena, shall be creative and find ways to influence the treatment of our brothers and sisters. Generosity is like expensive therapy to clear our minds of fear. Action in positive directions is an antidote to rising blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, freezing in place like a game of statues.
On this Memorial Sunday, let us be mindful of the courage of the heroes not only in war with artillery and bombs, but the war against immigrants, the war against disease and illness, the war against discrimination. Let us shed our war clothing and put on the garments of peace. Let us shed our military style for the negotiating table. Let us look for the sameness of our enemy to ourselves.
Jesus prayed to the Father, “All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one.
What is it that we don’t like in the “other?” Name it. What annoys us? Why do we think we better deserve to be in a comfortable house more than the “other?” Jesus did not say that we should be identical or even that appearance has anything to do with anything. We do not need to be the same. But we all deserve clean water, a safe and decently comfortable place for our bodies; each person on earth deserves food and love; medical care and respect. That is how we shall be “one with each other.” How can each of us live into activating the peace that comes from doing what is right; the rightness in righteousness. Not haughty righteousness, but humble obedience to the will of God for the persons with whom we share this time on earth.
“Share” is a key word in our quest for peace. In the early church, there was sharing. The way of Jesus. As Jesus was about to be swept to the Father in the Ascension, Jesus told his disciples to “wait” in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to find them in big measure. So they waited. But “wait” was not a forever posture. “Action” was instilled in them by the Holy Spirit when it arrived. “Go tell!” “Go serve.”
Here is the big question! For us to be one with the other “ones” in the world, do we need to convert everyone to our Christian faith? Do we?? Can love be shared with non-Christians as well as Christians? Are all Christians loving? Did Jesus mean that only the people who follow him can be part of this “oneness?” “Oh dear, are we back to the fear and exclusion of the “other?”
Will peace fill our hearts if we exclude the hurting bodies, the tortured minds, the people who do not know the love of Christ? How are we going to offer them the love of Christ if we don’t help their worldly bodies?
In John 14:27, we find these words of Jesus. “I give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give. It isn’t like the peace that this world can give. So don’t be worried or afraid.”
Ray Repp gave the world this song, “Peace I Leave with You, My Friends” To share God’s love is why I came, to show God’s kindness without end. Go now, my friends, and do the same, until I come again.
“Take my hand and be at peace; the spirit of our love I send. And with this love you will be free, until I come again.
“With this love now all will know that loneliness is at an end. Rejoice, my friends, although I go, for I will come again.
“Peace I leave with you, my friends, shalom, my peace in all you do. Peace I leave with you, my friends. I give to you so you can give to others, too.”