Summary: Peace seems so elusive; the armistice signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month was not permanent, and now we are dealing with the 11th of September. But we are never more near deliverance than when our troubles deepen, and we can wait ac
Peace! What an elusive thing peace is! Most of the time, we don’t have peace. And when we get it, we cannot keep it. Peace is hard to come by and even harder to keep.
In a railway carriage in the forest of Compiegne, in France, gathered representatives of imperial Germany and of the allied nations, to sign an armistice calling for the end of hostilities. This armistice, signed in 1918, came after more than four years of terror, fighting in muddy trenches, facing the horror of chemical weapons, and enduring combat from the air for the first time. This armistice came at the cost of millions of lives – a million and a half French lives, a million and a half German lives, a million British lives, about 88,000 American lives, and Russia – probably more Russians killed than all the other countries put together. What an immense cost for peace! And would this peace last? Would it be permanent? You know the answer. Barely twenty years later, Germany was on the march again, and the world was plunged into another horrible conflict.
Since then, Korea, Vietnam, and scores of skirmishes too numerous to count. Peace – where is it?
It is not my purpose to analyze political and military history. I am here to think with you about peace, about what you and I are called to know about peace. Deeper, I am here to proclaim the good news that peace is on its way. Whatever comes, and at whatever cost, peace is on its way. God has guaranteed it!
There’s something wonderfully symbolic about that World War armistice we celebrate today. November 11 is Veterans’ Day, because the end of that war was proclaimed for the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of that year. At 11:00 on 11/11, all shooting stopped. I say it is wonderfully symbolic, because we use the phrase, “eleventh hour”, to designate something that has just about run out of time. “Eleventh hour” means that something happened just before a disaster would have occurred. Somebody is about to be evicted, but money comes in and the rent is paid, we say, at the “eleventh hour”. Someone needs an organ transplant, and just before the body breaks down, here comes that donated organ – at the eleventh hour. Just in time.
Peace at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 83 years ago. And now where are we? Picking up the pieces after yet another “eleventh” -- eleventh day of September. We wonder where peace went and whether it can ever be kept. We worry about the thousands of lives lost on the eleventh of September, about anthrax cases, about American service personnel, and, I hope we are concerned about innocent Afghan civilians. Will peace never come? Cannot this world settle things, once and for all? How are you and I going to find peace for ourselves in such conflicted times?
But I have already said it – God has guaranteed that peace is on its way.
Jesus led us to see that when things are the most troubled, then that is when our deliverance is most near. When this world is most troubled, then that is when God is about to act decisively. Jesus knows we have trouble in this world, but Jesus wants us not to miss something hopeful thing – that when it all looks bleak and dismal, that is when God is going to do something glorious. When things are the most troubled, that is when our deliverance is most near.
Did you notice how much Jesus uses, in this passage, the phrase, “a little while”?
"A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me."
The disciples were confused by that. They wondered what this “little while” thing meant. But Jesus responded again,
"Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, ’A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’? Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.
“A little while … but your pain will turn into joy.” You see, just as storms are often at their most intense just before they pass over … just as the night’s darkness seems to deepen just before dawn … well, Jesus used the best example of all. He spoke about mothers and the pain of childbirth. It’s very intense just before the child is born. Ah, but then what? The wonder of a new life in the world. The glory of life. And it’s worth it all. Friday I visited one of our members, Dr. Gina Standard, at the hospital. This was her third child. All three of them had to be delivered by C-section. Gina went through intense pain. But if you could see the smile on her face as she held her little daughter, you would know how right Jesus is – “a little while … but your pain will turn into joy.”