Sunday, April 11, 2010

Easter 1 2010 Sermon Notes

“Peace be unto you. As my Father has sent me, even so send I you.”+

The connection of these sentences can hardly be accidental. It is as if Jesus is saying to the Apostles: “Do not be afraid, for in the same way I have lived with a definite purpose from God, and empowerment to fulfill it, you will receive the same from me: purpose and power. You are not lost and aimless, you are not abandoned, and you do have a reason to live.”

But the reassurance Christ gives his Disciples is not just given on the basis that they are to be sent with a mission from God. This reassurance is part of the mission. In other words, as Jesus brings peace from the Father to them, they are to bring the peace of Christ to others. This is clear from the fact that he immediately goes on to give them by the Holy Spirit the ministry of forgiveness of sins, which brings men and women peace with God.

That this is the nature of the Apostolic ministry is confirmed by Acts 10:36 and Colossians 1: 20-23. In the first, Peter describes his ministry as “preaching peace by Jesus Christ”. In the second passage, St Paul also connects his work to this peace: “[It pleased the Father] having made peace through the blood of [Christ's] cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister”. Peace comes from the Father, is manifested and enacted in our Lord, and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is given to mankind in the Gospel preached by men appointed to this role in the Church.

But this experience and mission of peace is not restricted to the clergy, who fulfill to varying degrees the Apostolic role. Galatians 5:22 puts peace as one of the fruits of the Spirit for all Christians, along with things like love, gentleness and patience and self-discipline. That implies that peace is not only a passive, receptive enjoyment by us, but also an active and generous movement out from us.

What is this peace, and how do we live in it and share it? The obvious and usual meaning of peace is the absence of conflict, fear and uncertainty. And this meaning is certainly supported in the Scriptures (e.g., Ephesians 2:14b, John 14:27, Psalm 4:8). But peace also has a positive content in Scripture. Psalm 119:165 says “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall make them stumble.” Isaiah 26:3 has this: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Romans 5:1 :“justified by faith, we have peace with God”. Ephesians 2:14: “[H]e is our peace”. Colossians 3:15: “[L]et the peace of God rule in your hearts”.

Thus we see that divine peace involves the security and stability of mind that comes from trust in God and His word, the assurance that comes from justification/forgiveness, and the love and union with Christ that provides guidance and certainty.

So, the path to peace with God, others, and within ourselves, is simply the path of faith in and love for Jesus, with a deep devotion to his word lived as well as read. And following this path will allow us to be ambassadors and fountains of peace. As we live by faith and meditate on the Scriptures we will forgive those who sin against us; make peace between others in conflict, pouring oil on troubled waters; and radiate the joyous light of Christ that reveals the Divine Presence. For it is on the foundation of the trustworthiness and mercy of God, and His promise to be with us and in us, that all inner and outer peace is built. And so I say with Christ, and in His name, “Peace be unto you.” +

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