Our Word is “Peace”

A sermon, based on Luke 10.1-11, 16-20, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the 4th Sunday of Pentecost, July 7, 2019

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fist-fight, water & fire

We live in a hyper-reactive world. Tensions and tempers, personal and ideological, political and theological run high and hot. The “still, small voice of God” that Elijah, on the mountaintop, heard(1) cannot be heard above the din that, these days, passes for dialogue. Many, it seems to me, listen less and talk more; spouting opinions, oft stated as facts, while dismissing the views of others who disagree, if not also the others themselves.

Jesus shows us another way.

Christ Sending Out the Seventy, James Tissot (1836-1902)

Heading toward Jerusalem, Jesus sends seventy disciples, an expanded group beyond the original twelve, on a mission journey. Once in Jerusalem, he knows he will be killed. With the shadow of the cross of his crucifixion looming on the horizon, there is an immediate and imperative need for his disciples to gain experience, to practice carrying on his work.

Jesus sends them in pairs, so that each always has another for support and for conversation; for, “greet no one on the road,” there is no time for idle chatter…

They are to take no provisions, relying on the hospitality of strangers…

If they are welcomed, they are to remain where they are and not waste time looking for better room and board. If they aren’t welcomed, they are to wipe the dust from their feet; less as a condemnation of those who don’t receive them and more as a sign of the need to move on…

In these close to final days of Jesus’ ministry and his life, every word of instruction is spoken with breathless energy and urgency.

Although it’s Jesus talking and we, as Christians, are his disciples, let’s be honest, this is not a trip that we would take! Or even think of taking! Would any of us, each of us with our individual wants and needs, preferred appetites, habits, and creaturely comforts embark on a journey without money for necessities and emergencies, a change of clothes, or food; leaving ourselves to depend on the kindness of strangers and without choosing our traveling companions? No!

Nevertheless, as we continue our Season after Pentecost exploration of discipleship, what it means to follow Jesus, one thing is clear: In two millennia, the Christian message hasn’t changed. What Jesus told his disciples then, he tells us now: Proclaim to the world, to all we meet through our presence and in our words and deeds; what we say and do whenever we show up…

First, “peace.”

Jesus does not call us to follow him, and then send us into the world to share our opinions, what we think is true, or our judgments about those with whom we agree and disagree. Yes, we, as human, have a right to our opinions and judgments. But, as Christians, our primary proclamation is peace. Not our peace, but God’s peace that passes all understanding,(2) for it is beyond human imagination to conceive and human power to create. In the Hebrew, shalom; God’s oneness, harmony with us. And when we receive God’s peace, then we are at-one with everyone, whether or not we agree; because our peace isn’t based on our agreements, but rather and only because of what God has done in Jesus!

Secondly, related to peace, and astoundingly, Jesus entrusts to us to proclaim the inaugural declaration of his ministry: “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”(3)

The kingdom of God. God’s being and doing, who God is and what God does. For me (for I bid that each of you discern what it is for you), it is love and justice, unconditional benevolence and fairness for all people in all ways at all times.

Jesus sends us into this hyper-reactive, über-partisan world, where folk quickly take sides and divide. And you and I, in our presence, in our words, in our deeds, proclaiming “peace” and “the kingdom of God has come near,” on any day, at any time, may be the only Bible someone else reads, the only sermon someone else hears, the only Jesus someone else sees.

 

Footnotes:
(1) 1 Kings 19.12
(2) Philippians 4.7
(3) See Mark 1.15

Illustration: Christ Sending Out the Seventy, James Tissot (1836-1902)

4 thoughts on “Our Word is “Peace”

  1. Paul,
    To obtain Peace, it’s so great to be shown a different way. You’ve mentioned previously that you love to be right, and who doesn’t?? I’m finally starting to look at other ways to ensure that Peace. One of the things I got from this sermon that actually surprised me, was your point about Jesus sending the folks out in Pairs as support for each other. One of the struggles I believe I’ve had of late is the fact that I’m no longer part of a pair, and I sometimes feel as if I lack support…. BUT in reading this sermon I know that finding peace also involves relying on the Kingdom of God for that comfort and Peace. I have to be open to that “different way” of thinking and that when I look to my left or right even though I may not see another physical being next to me, I’m not alone. As long as I continue to remember that, I’ll be Golden. I don’t want to take sides or divide, I just want to love and support and follow Jesus.

    One of the things this sermon reminds me of was being in Maine. A place I’d never been where everything was new and different. I didn’t know anyone there so there were no sides to be on. At one point I even recognized that I wasn’t afraid of being alone, especially overnight. I realized that the Peace I felt was the fact that I knew God was with me. That was such a Great feeling and recognition that coursed through my body!

    Thanks for this… Much love!

    Like

  2. AND what your comments stirred in me – truly, anew, for I’ve thought and felt this before; many times – is the recognition that even when I am alone I have come to know and to believe that there are people, many, who care for me, think about me, desire the best for me. As that is true for me, it is true for you, for I am one of those folk for you – always and in all ways.

    In this, another revelation via the miracle of social media. My first-year seminary roommate, whom I’ve not seen since we graduated in 1977, recently got in touch through FB. And, wonder of wonders, he and his family have retired to a SC town 45 minutes from Spartanburg. We’ll be getting together soon. This experience also reminds me of how close folk are and can be, that is, thinking of us, even, perhaps especially, when we are least aware (indeed, not aware at all!)!

    And, yes, amen, God is with you, which is the meaning of the word “Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7.14), which, of course, we Christians apply to Jesus.

    Love you beyond the telling

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Paul,

    And I am one of those folks for you too!!!!!

    Wow!!! That’s going to be so awesome to see your former roommate again!! Can’t believe he’s in SC too!!! That is amazing!! You are so right about folks who think about us that we aren’t even aware of!! I got an email from a woman who heard me speak in 2016 a few months after Tim died. She says she’s focused on having plans & backup plans for her mom in case something happened that was out of her control. Then two weeks ago her husband died suddenly. She said she was able to just grieve for him because she’s financially ok to take care of her mom herself because of what she learned from me. Of course her note made me cry. She says she’s been to dozens of presentations since mine but none have had the person impact on her than mine had. So I’m truly never alone!!

    Love you back!!!

    Like

  4. A beautiful story of the woman who wrote to you recounting her experience of the death of her husband and how is can and will carry on in light of what she learned through you and the clear lens of your life’s experience!

    We humans can touch and do touch the lives of others. Sometimes, for ill. Sometimes, I pray, most times, for good. Such is true in this wondrous case.

    Love

    Like

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