Sunday, December 19, 2010

Peace Sunday Sermon

This sermon was exciting! I got a call at 5:00am that my dear friend and Senior Minister was sick and could not preach. So I got ready, went to church- did a little research and writing and was ready to go by 7:15! Big time thanks goes to my close friend Emily Nourse for her Advent devotion that I quoted verbatim.

Peace Sunday
Isaiah 11:1-10
December 5, 2010

My good friend Emily works for the Department of Human Services in Nashville. We were both trained at Vanderbilt and prepared for a life of ministry. Mine is here in a church congregation. Her congregation looks a little different. Each day she ministers to the poor and hurting in Nashville. She has a special passion for working with women. These women are often impoverished, victims of violence and mothers who are trying to provide for their families. To say the least, where Emily works is often chaotic. Emily is actively involved in her congregation at Eastwood Christian Church in East Nashville. Together they wrote an Advent devotion book this year and

Emily had this to say about peace:
“Peace…It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”
This quotation hangs on the wall of my cubicle at the Department of Human Services. The Department of Human Services can be chaotic, loud, frustrating and disruptive. There can be babies crying, people in distress, children running around and laughing, and, above all, people in desperate need of help. I hung this quote on my wall because it reminds me each day that most things about this world are not quiet and are not easy. Many things within this world are loud and challenging and painful. This quote reminds me that the things worth doing are not easy, painless or effortless; the things worth doing are those things that involve grappling with the messiness and chaos of this world.

Part of the mystery of the Christmas narrative is that Jesus was born in a stable, a place of chaos, a place that was messy, probably loud and disruptive. As we prepare ourselves with expectancy and anticipation for Christmas joy let us remember that true peace comes not from the outside world but from within each one of us. When we can find a calming peace within ourselves we are able to anticipate with expectancy not only the Christ child but each person that comes to us in their messiness and need of comfort and hope.”

Emily’s devotion was a helpful reminder to me that I have a role in the peace of the world, by being a peaceful person within my own heart and life. Finding peace for myself allows me to share hope and comfort with others.

The beautiful words of the prophet Isaiah picture a world of peace for us. This image of what has been called the peaceable kingdom is a favorite for some of us. In the Message bible, Eugene Peterson calls this section of scripture “A Living Knowledge of God”
He says it this way,
“6-9The wolf will romp with the lamb,
the leopard sleep with the kid.
Calf and lion will eat from the same trough,
and a little child will tend them.
Cow and bear will graze the same pasture,
their calves and cubs grow up together,
and the lion eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will crawl over rattlesnake dens,
the toddler stick his hand down the hole of a serpent.
Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill
on my holy mountain.
The whole earth will be brimming with knowing God-Alive,
a living knowledge of God ocean-deep, ocean-wide.”

What a peaceable vision this gives us! Peace Sunday is the second stop on our advent journey. This week we pause for this time of worship to remind ourselves what we are waiting for, longing for and hoping for when we anticipate the birth of Christ. The Israelites of Jeremiah’s time were waiting on an earthly ruler- they were waiting for a King David type figure to come in and do God’s work in the world. We are waiting once again to be reminded that our Savior has come into the world. Our Savior is Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

When the baby is born, peace comes with him. He is not bringing with him a magic pill or a magic key that will cure the world of war, and anger and ugliness between friends and family. He brings to us simply the reign of God. The reign of God includes a peace that has already been given to us; a peace that many of us still struggle to accept within our own hearts and lives. What we are waiting for then is for “the whole earth to be brimming with knowing God-Alive, a living knowledge of God ocean-deep and ocean-wide.”

Perhaps instead of waiting we need to be creating peace within our own hearts, minds and lives. The reality is until God’s realm is realized- life is not going to get any less chaotic messy. Most of us will have to work hard at creating a peace in our hearts in the midst of our ever-hectic lives. We have to find and nurture those things that bring us peace. For my own heart to be at peace, I have to spend time with God. I have to be in worship, I need to sit in my chair in the morning before the whole household is up and read my Bible and my devotion book and pray. Then I usually text my prayer partner and check in with her. I can skip these things in the morning. Most likely my day will still be chaotic, messy and noisy. But when I take time to create a space of peace in my own heart I am more able to provide comfort and hope to others and I am more likely to feel it myself.

I’m not sure what it is for you that makes you feel most peaceful but I encourage you to think about that, discover it and practice it. December is not typically the most peaceful month on our calendars. And yet in our spiritual life it is a time when we are called to draw closer to the ultimate source of peace. God is breaking into the world once again, and bringing the peaceable kingdom. Will our own hearts be at peace enough to allow God’s peace in? I pray that each of us would experience God’s peace this Advent season. Amen.

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