Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost–Sermon
8/18/13- Year C
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In peace, let us pray to the Lord.
For the peace from above and for our salvation, let us pray to the Lord.
For the peace of the whole world for the wellbeing of the Church of God and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord.
Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth.
The Peace of the Lord be with you always.
Lamb of God you take away the sin of the world, grant us peace.
The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.
Go in peace, serve the Lord.
If there is one common thread that runs throughout the whole of the divine liturgy each Sunday, apart from Christ it is the petition, receiving, and offering of peace. In the Kyrie we begin by praying for peace for our selves, our community, our congregation, and the entire world. Having been fed and nourished at the table and received the Word proclaimed we depart in what? In peace. We do so because the kingdom of peace is what our Lord establishes. Though Christmas has been a few months ago we could probably recall Handel’s For Unto Us a Child is Born, taken from Isaiah 9:6. For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Christmas came and now we have peace, that is the great claim of our Christian faith. We are at peace, through Christ who by His death and resurrection has made us one with God and one with each other. Atonement is the theological word for this, but it is not as much of a five dollar word as it seems. It was a creation of 16th century English child’s level words “at”+ “one” + ment (unity). Through Christ we are at one unity with the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit and by baptism we are united to each other. And the Church is a mere reflection of the that everlasting Kingdom of Peace, where God will dwell with his people and wipe away every tear.
So what happened? Has Jesus forgotten the song of the angels and shepherds that accompanied His birth some 33 years ago? Did He wake up on the wrong side of the mat that first century morning? Or like St. Paul is he suffering a thorn in the flesh? How do we confess and praise this King of Peace, who himself confessed to His disciples, Do you think I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. Not only a division between the disciples and the world, but a division in the very foundation of human life, the family. Three against two and two against three. Jesus’ words sound counter intuitive to what we claim to know about this King of peace. They are harsh and they are mixed with anger, perhaps even rage about the reality that he is witnessing. The crowds fail to see their salvation staring them in the face, and at times even His own disciples don’t seem to get it. We see here a passage from our Lord that might even scare us. We don’t like angry Jesus. We like Jesus meek and mild. He’s much tamer that way and fits in the box we’ve made for Him better. We want him to be nice, because nice is of course the highest of virtues.
C.S. Lewis captures quite well the tension that is present at hearing this text in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Lucy and Susan are speaking to Mr. & Ms. Beaver and they are telling them about Aslan the King of the Wood, the great lion. Susan surprised that the King of Narnia is a lion asks, “Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” “That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking they’re either braver than most or just silly.” “Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy. “Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” Our life with Christ is not always safe, but it is always good.
We look to the world and see the danger that is so very present for those who believe and trust in this King of Peace. From the Coptic Christians in Egypt who fear for their very lives just to go to worship and whose churches are continually being destroyed by Islamic extremists. To Christians in China and Vietnam who live under the daily threat of government oppression and force. There are places in this world where those under the banner of Christ have not seen civil peace in quite some time, where the division of three-against-two is a daily reality. His baptism has been completed in His death and resurrection and the fire that He longed to be kindled at Pentecost has been let loose on the world through the Holy Spirit. The faith Jesus longed to stir in the hearts of those who first heard Him speak has now spread to the ends of the earth. And His baptism and His fire has been kindled in us. Because of that we too will feel the division of which our Lord speaks.
For Christ is not indifferent to our lives, to how we think, act, and feel. He does not blindly go along with our desires. He is not nice, for niceties sake. But He is good and He has laid claim to our lives. As St. Paul reminds us we are not our own for we were bought with a price. A price, as St. Peter reminds us, not of gold or silver, but the precious blood of Christ. That is the Truth and reality of which we now live and gather together to confess and proclaim to the whole world. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead to the glory of God the Father. The prince of Peace has come and it is no one other than Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man. There is no other name or false god or political institution or self-creating spirituality that can save and redeem. Only Christ. And that confession will always cause strife and division not only with the pantheism of the world, but even in our own lives. For His truth and His Word are always shaping and forming us to live more and more into His life and less into ours. The old Adam killed, so that the new man may live, shaped and molded by the cross. Actually calling us to love, forgive, and show mercy to others just as He has shown us.
In the face of this division of our flesh and spirit and discomfort though our Lord has promised to us, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. For the Peace of Christ is not the absence of conflict though we pray mightily for that day and for us, but for now it is His abiding presence in the midst of it and through it. It is the joy of knowing that we are God’s and that He is with us in the Valley of the Shadow of death. That is the promise and peace which the Cross truly gives to us. That peace is what the church continues to pray for. It is that peace which we receive at the table and extend to one another in Christ’s name. And it is that peace in which we are sent out into the world to serve the Lord, for though Jesus is not safe. He is now and eternally good.