Summary: God give us a word of peace to prepare our spirits, to acknowledge our pain in prayer, to believe God's promise and covenant, to accept God's provisions as his gift to the world, and to know that God's plan is for us to have His peace.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The Word as Peace
Text: Luke: 1: 79
We continue in our Advent theme: “What God Gives” Last Sunday, we examined what God gives is his word as power, if we believe we can become a child of God; then we can inherit the benefits of his children.
This Sunday I will make the argument that what God also gives is his word as peace.
Many of my colleagues have questioned the practice we have established here of sharing my sermon themes and texts a month in advance. They would argue that I am not leaving room for God to move on my spirit and provide a relevant word for the house. I would argue in turn if we understand our walk with God is a journey. I believe God does speak through the Pastor/Prophet with words that leads his community through the journey of life. Much like in Exodus when we see God symbolized as going before us by day as a pillar of smoke and by night as a pillar of fire. I believe that God is ahead of us pleading with us to make Him the focal point of our lives: “seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.”
On my own power, I would have never attempted to preach a message on this Sunday, after the week I have just experienced, that what God gives is his word as peace.
Because I come this moment wounded in my spirit; this week was a spiritual gut check. For the question was not being poised in some academic sense, the question was being personally poised. The experience was not vicarious. The experience was intimate:
Do you believe that God is a Balm in Gilead?
Do you believe that you can lift up your eyes into the hills from whence cometh your strength and know that your strength comes from the Lord?
Do you believe that the joy of the Lord is your strength?
Finally, Do you believe that through prayer and supplication with Thanksgiving you can make your requests known to God and that God will give you the peace which passeth all understanding?
I stand here wounded, bruised, battered and pained to affirm as a witness and to provide a visible testimony of the word God gives to you and to me is this: no matter what storm you may be going through, or storm you may have to go through – God can speak a word of peace to your spirit in the midst of your storm.
Advent is the perfect time to say as the angels did say: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.”
In this sense peace is not the absence of tension, stress, strain or pain; peace in this sense is the presence of God.
Therefore, what God gives his word that his presence in you is an ultimately divine peace.
Henri J. M. Nouwen, a Catholic Priest who taught at Harvard and Yale Divinity Schools wrote in his book, The Wounded Healer, that my assignment as Pastor is not to take away pain. My assignment is to deepen our understanding of pain so that it can be shared.
My assignment is not to take away your loneliness, but to help you understand your loneliness so that you don’t have to run away from it but accept it as a basic human condition.
Wounds are integral to our human condition.
I want you to know that pain can be transformed from an expression of despair into a sign of hope. That’s why I say and believe that when you are hurting; don’t run from God, but run to God.
I want you to know when we ever learn how to s one another’s burden, then we will experience the peace that the hymnologist speaks of, “here bring your wounded heart, here bring your anguish. Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.”
Or better yet the words of Jesus “come unto me you who are heavy leaden and I will give you rest”.
Rest - that’s his presence and that’s peace.
Advent is the perfect time to affirm: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.”
This text stands in affirmation that what God gives is his word as peace.
The prelude to this text is that the angel not only came to Mary to foretell of the birth of Jesus, but the angel also came to Zechariah, the husband of Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin. Zechariah, a priest, had been in the temple praying for a child.
He had a problem.
For many years, he was in pain. He was wounded by the awesome reality that he had no one to carry on the ministry as an heir. Everyone knew his problem and was aware of his pain. As he blessed the babies of the community, as he participated in their circumcision. As he celebrated their Bar Mitzvah, he conducted those religious rites with the ever-present wound of being childless.