Sermon – October 13, 2002

October 13, 2002

Pentecost 21


Philippians 4:1-9

How many of you remember the cartoon by Gary Larsen called, “The Far
Side?” One of my favorites was two panels, one was the dog owner and dog.
The first panel is labeled, “What the dog owner says,” something like,
“Hello, Fido. Good Dog. I brought you a treat, Fido.” And the next
panel is labeled what the dog hears, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, Fido, blah,
blah, blah, Fido.” Well, that’s kinda how I heard my pastor growing up.
something like that dog. Blah, blah, blah, Jesus, blah, blah, blah.
Only certain words would come through. Except for one thing. Through
all the blah, blah, blah, and all that I didn’t understand about grace
and sin and redemption, and all I had to sit through, I remember one
thing clearly from Sunday to Sunday. It was the second lesson of our
readings today. Many pastors would end their sermons with these words
“And may the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts
and your minds on Christ Jesus.” I remember the peace which passes all understanding.
That was so beautiful and so profound an idea
even to a child, that it became what I thought the church was. The
church was the place for some people to find that peace that passes all
understanding that would keep their minds on Christ Jesus. That’s what I
thought the church was about, and I think I was right about that.

Think about why you came to church this morning. It’s not a trick
question. I can think of a lot of reasons not to be here. The Sunday
morning news programs are terribly interesting to me, as Im sure they are
to many of you. Wouldn’t you love to be hearing the political pundits
knocking around the debate over going to war with Iraq. It’s a little
chilly, but Im pretty sure the golf courses are open. It’s fall, the
leaves are changing. Nice morning for a drive.

I know that most of you worked hard this work, at school at home or in
your jobs. And when Sunday morning comes, it would be good to sleep
in. But you and I are here.

Why do we take the trouble? Oh, no trouble. Because one of the
reasons we’re here in this church, among these people, singing these songs,
praying these prayers, listening to the words of grace, I think we are
here because this is a place of peace. I think we are here because we
know that somehow being in conversation and contact, gathered around
the word and table and font brings us some peace. A peace that is not
ours in any other context.

That is so important, because I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say
I don’t think there is an abundance of peace in our lives.

We need to have a place where there is peace. And we know that this is
such a place. . .the body of Christ. You see, it is one of the
primary intentions of the gospel of Christ come, of God’s faithfulness is
that peace would rule in our lives. We have countless examples in Jesus
word. Let’s remind each other.

When he encountered the storm, the word he bore to still the chaos and
the wind and the swirl and the rain was Peace! We bring into this
place the chaos of our lives, the storms in our relationships and
understanding and we seek that word and that assurance and that intervention of
God’s peace.

To the disciples in the upper room, Jesus’ first word was peace. The
confused and bewildered and frightened disciples who just three days
before had witnessed his execution. He comes to them and says peace. So
we come with our fears and confusion and bewilderment and seek a word
of peace, hope for a word of peace.

Jesus healed the woman who had come to him, and said to her, “Your faith
has made you well. Go in peace.” There are those among us who are
ill. Some gravely. Some are troubled in ways we don’t see, whose sense of
peace is challenged by anxiety and fear and struggle that illness and
brokeness can bring. But to that anxiousness and fear the Lord brings
the word, “Peace.”

When Jesus left the disciples he said, “My peace I leave you. My peace
I give to you. A peace which the world cannot give.” To those who were
feeling abandoned and not strong enough for the journey that was before
them, feeling not fit enough for the call, Jesus stood before them and
said, don’t worry about it, with my peace you will be courageous and you
will persevere.

To the chaos and fear and anxiety and illness and abandonment in our
lives, the word of Jesus stands as a heavy counterweight, a stronger
power. . a greater promise.

In our lesson from St. Paul today we hear these most gracious word. . .
.”Pray with thanksgiving and supplication and the peace of God, which
passes all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds on Christ
Jesus” Paul says the way to connect with that peace, to live into that
peace and that graciousness is through thankful prayer, through
speaking with God. It’s not confined to the bricks and mortar of this
building, of course, but sometimes we need to be reminded that that gift of an
intimate conversation with God is ours at any moment, and is always
shared to our benefit. This is ours at any moment.

Paul goes on to say that which is true and honorable and just and
pleasing and excellent and praiseworthy, think on these things. And the God
of peace will be with you.

It’s important to note that Paul has a very particular understanding of
peace. He speaks of peace as something resolved. He thinks of
reconciliation or resolution. That’s his meaning for peace. That the
things he identifies, justice and truth and excellence are those things,
which bring reconciliation and resolution, and peace.

Doesn’t it just drive us the craziest when things are unresolved or
worse, broken, shattered, ragged? We call them in the most benign form,
loose ends. But in the more troubling forms, they are separation and
division and heart break. When Paul speaks of peace, he speaks of
resolution and reconciliation and healing.

The peace which Christ bears, which Paul proclaims, is not a call,
friends, for us to retreat to some mountaintop where peace is held in a
secret box. . . that’s OK from time to time to retreat in solitude.
Jesus often did that. . . but when he was making peace, seeking peace,
doing peace. . . . he was busy. . . . remember. . . calming storms,
healing, reassuring, finally suffering . . . among and for the people.

The peace we are granted by God through Christ is a peace borne of
faithful living. . . not retreat, but advance. . . into the present and the
future. . . . Much that troubles us in our lives, takes our peace are
those things that are unresolved. . . not the least of which is the
future. Naturally that is unresolved in this specific plane of
existence, but the peace that Paul speaks of is the peace that the future is
assured. That through Christ we are reconciled to God, that that which is
broken will be made new, and that nothing that seeks to break our peace
can separate us from God. Because we are justified by faith, we are at
peace with God.

Often the past troubles our peace. Guilt over mistakes we’ve make or
sins we’ve committed, but when we come to this place in true repentance,
our forgiveness is resolved. . . and the peace of God follows that
understanding, the peace which the world cannot give.

When we answer the call to peace, when we gather seeking peace, that is
an act of faith, showing a dependence on God and the consequence is
that our faith is more vibrant and our hearts are more peaceful.

Jesus offers us, through his presence and grace, the opportunity to
live each day in peace, regardless of what goes on around us. It is a
liberating peace beyond our understanding, given as a gracious gift. We
came to church this morning seeking the same thing, that peace which
passes all understanding. Its here for us. Grab it in abundance and
rejoice. Amen

Copyright (c) 2002 by Pastor Robert J. Rasmus