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Today You Are Held in Christ’s Peace (May 26, 2019)

John 14:23-29

Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. 25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 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. 27 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. 28 You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

Peace is something everyone wants, right? So how do you define it? . . .

In the midst of a lot of other stuff, one of the things Jesus promises his disciples in this text during the Last Supper is the gift of peace. What got my attention is that he says that the peace he gives is different than the peace the world gives.

Right away I want to know the difference. Why is Christ’s peace better?

When everything is going well, it’s easy to be at peace. When there is no fear, no anxiety, and you’re feeling loved by the people around us, we feel peaceful.

But really, how much of our lives are actually spent with no fear, no anxiety, or no alienation?

That points to the difference between Christ’s peace and the world’s peace.  The best peace this world can offer us is the temptation of a life without any fear, anxiety, or alienation. When you think about that, it’s an obvious lie. It can never happen.

Think about how we’re tempted into striving for a life without any fear, any anxiety, or any alienation or loneliness. A couple of basic examples:

It would start with more money. If you have enough money you don’t have to worry about your job, or your retirement, your housing, or (if you have way more money) even medical expenses. That’s a lot less stress and worry. So the peace this world does take care of some things, to be sure! But when do we have enough? Is there a point where we give up generosity in order to keep more for ourselves? Why is it that the more I put into my retirement fund, the more anxious I am about it?

The richest person in the world can still be terrified at the prospect of getting Alzheimer’s disease.  More money does not bring peace.

It also includes more power and strength. If you can impose your will or your opinions on others, you can avoid conflicts because everyone winds up agreeing with you. If you can convince people that you are right, you can dictate the terms of peace. If you have the power to impose your views, you have the power to intimidate people into backing down. Conflict avoided.

This goes beyond individual power. It’s why virtually every country in the world has a military—to impose peace in terms that are most beneficial to them. But they have to have the power to do so. So the peace this world offers means gaining power over others.

The most powerful person in the world can still be hit by a drunk driver. More power does not bring peace.

So why is it that we think about peace and security as the peace the world around us offers us? No matter how hard we strive, our lives will always be inflicted with chaos that brings fear, anxiety, and alienation.

It’s worth listening when Jesus says his peace is different. Rather than trying to remove the causes of our fear and anxiety, his is a peace that removes the fear and anxiety no matter the cause. Rather than changing our circumstances to attain peace, his is a peace that comes no matter the circumstances. Rather than working to get more to defeat the chaos, his is a peace that is a gift no matter what our abilities or our resources.

Even though it is present, it is real, and it actually is peace, this peace of Christ isn’t always easy to live. It is already here with us and for us, but we generally hesitate to relax into it. Because it involves giving up our attempts to create and control our own peace. We can only let go of that if we trust Christ to hold us in his deeper, more authentic peace. We grow in our trust of Christ as we experience Christ. This peace doesn’t come by believing doctrines or creeds, it comes in the presence of the living, risen Christ—as he and the Father “come to us and make their home with us.”

Christ’s peace grows in us as we grow in our awareness of Christ’s presence. So we need to keep reminding each other of Christ’s presence, Christ’s love, Christ’s promises. We need to remind each other that we are already held in the comfort of Christ’s peace.

So that’s what we’re going to do right now. Take a minute in silence and consider the things in our lives that are causing us fear or anxiety. At the same time, know that everyone else is doing the same thing. After that, I will remind you that “The peace of the Lord is with you always.” You’ll reply, “and also with you.” Then we will turn to those around us, and, knowing they too are experiencing fear and anxiety in their lives, we will remind each other with a handshake or a hug, saying something like, “God’s peace is with you,” or “You are held today in the peace of Christ.” But first, let us take a minute and consider our own fear, anxiety, and alienation. . .

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Posted by on May 28, 2019 in Sermon

 

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Being in Holy Moments (Transfiguration, Feb. 26, 2017)

Matthew 17:1-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

I was in Mexico with a group one time. We were touring a couple of small villages and learning about life in general for these people in abject poverty. They were telling us about the importance of their church and how they supported one another. There was a real unity in the midst of their poverty. Interesting, but it was getting toward lunch time and we had a little bit of a ride to get back. So as the conversation and interaction kept going, I kept glancing at my watch wondering how long before we could return.

It wasn’t until much later that I discovered that the Lutheran pastor there in those villages in Mexico was actually bringing insulin to a diabetic woman in one of those neighborhoods who would never be able to afford it. Somewhere he had been able to procure it, and was able bringing her life-saving supplies. It was a holy moment—his work and generosity, and her gracious appreciation. Christ was present. But I missed most of it because I was concerned about lunch.

I’m becoming more and more convinced that there are many more of these holy moments than we know. We just miss them because we’re too busy trying to do something. So we talk, or plan, or reason our way through these holy times.

I’m wondering if part of the point of the Transfiguration story is that sometimes the only agenda is to recognize a holy moment and simply be present in it. Not to analyze it, improve upon it, or even describe it, but just recognize it and be in it.

As is often the case, Peter gives us an idea of what not to do. He is chosen by Jesus, along with James and John, to go up this mountain alone. And they witness what can only be described as a holy moment. Jesus is transfigured—changed—right in front of them. Shining face, white clothing, Moses and Elijah showing up. Cloud covering them just like it did for Moses. A voice coming from the cloud giving Jesus high praise and accolades. This certainly falls within the general category of “holy moment.”

Peter just can’t help himself. Rather than be part of it, be fully present in it, he tries to improve it. “Let me just build some booths,” he says. “Because my contribution to this unbelievable moment will surely make it better.” What, just being present there with Jesus, Moses, and Elijah isn’t good enough? Don’t ruin this, Peter. Just know this is holy time and you get to be there for it. Absorb it. Live in it. Be aware that there’s more going on than you may know at the time. Recognize that when you start talking you are taking the focus off the holiness of the moment and limiting your experience of it. Just be present in it.

Sometimes the agenda is just to be there. To know you’ve been present. To experience holiness. To be in the presence of  Christ.

As Lutherans, we gather together on Sundays around Word and sacrament. We proclaim the presence of Christ with us during worship. Jesus tells us that “when two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Isn’t that here? Isn’t that now? If that’s the case, perhaps we could actually become more aware of this as a holy moment. If Christ is truly present with us, maybe we could be more fully present with him.

Try something with me. Close your eyes and sit quietly for a minute. . . .

Think of one word or phrase you need to hear right now. Take some time in the silence and consider what that word would be. Maybe it’s something you already know, or maybe it’s something new. But have that word or phrase in your mind. . . .

Picture Jesus here with you. Hear him as he speaks to you the very words you need to hear today. . . .

Just be with him and listen. . . .

Repeat those words to yourself with Jesus a few times. . . .

Go ahead and open your eyes again. Holy moments happen all around us all the time. We are made new in the presence of Christ.

We are starting the season of Lent on Wednesday. It is the 40 days (plus Sundays) before Easter. It’s traditionally a season of discipline and repentance. You’ll often hear people talking about “giving something up for Lent.” Usually like chocolate, a TV show, or even coffee (but that would not only be unhealthy, it would just be silly . . .).

Rather than any of those things, which aren’t bad, but may or may not actually help us grow spiritually, I’m suggesting we watch for holy moments during Lent. Practice recognizing them and being fully present in them. If we are experiencing the presence of Christ, stop what we’re doing and simply be with him then and there.

Today is a holy moment, here together. There are more, because Christ is active in the world. Let’s watch for him.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2017 in Sermon

 

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