Easter – 2017

April 16, 2017  

Matthew 28:1-10

“Do not be afraid.”
“He has been raised from the dead.”
“Go and tell.”

Fourteen words that changed the world.

“Do not be afraid.”
“He has been raised from the dead.”
“Go and tell.”

It was after the Sabbath. In the hazy gray-ness of dawn, the light just beginning to shine, the two Marys went to see the tomb.
They did not go to see the body of Jesus—they went to see the tomb. Just as we go to cemeteries to visit the graves of those we love, buried there, Mary and Mary went to see the tomb of Jesus.

Suddenly there was a great earthquake.
There had been an earthquake just days earlier, when Jesus died. Now, again the earth began to shake. The stone covering the front of the tomb where Jesus was supposed to be laying rolled away, opening the tomb. The women saw an angel of the Lord descending from heaven, coming down from heaven like lightening. The angel sat on the stone that had rolled away. The angel’s clothing was white as snow.
Who was he?

“Do not be afraid” the angel said.

The guards, big strong men there to protect the tomb from grave robbers, were afraid. They were so afraid they began to shake and then “became like dead men”—which, I think, means they fainted.

“Do not be afraid.”

Why not be afraid? There was an earthquake! The stone rolled away. An angel dressed in white descended from heaven like lightening. Yes, be afraid!

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary listened to the angel.

“Do not be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus. He is not here. He has been raised from the dead. Come and see. Then go. Go quickly and tell his disciples.”

Do you think Mary and the other Mary heard anything beyond those words “”He is not here…?”
Maybe they heard the part where the angel said “He has been raised from the dead.”

“So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy…”
Yes, they were afraid.
Yes, there was great joy. Jesus was alive!

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Do you think Mary and the other Mary needed the angel to tell them to go and tell? Wouldn’t you have wanted to run and tell everyone—everyone who loved him. Everyone who cared. Everyone he told he would be back but who probably never believed it…

Yes! Go! Tell!  He is alive!

Then suddenly!!! Suddenly!!! There he was! Jesus! Standing right there, in front of them!

“Greetings!”

Greetings?!?! You were dead! You were dead, Jesus! Now you are alive!

They must have fallen at his feet. Luke writes “They came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.”

Do you think they were crying? I think they were crying. I think they covered his feet with their tears.

Then, those words again: “Do not be afraid.”

Are you kidding?!?! You were dead! You were dead, Jesus! Now you are alive!

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Jesus speaks to us: Go and tell. Go and tell.
In the year 2017, the message is the same. Go and tell. Go and tell others who Jesus was, who Jesus is, why you worship Jesus. Go and tell others, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” Go and tell others, “Jesus loves you.” Because he does. Jesus loves us all; Jesus loves the world.
Go and tell others.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Amen!

 

Good Friday – 2017

April 14, 2017  

Matthew 27:45-53

Darkness covered the whole land. Which was odd because it was the middle of the day.
Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Even his words were dark…
Jesus felt forsaken. Renounced. Abandoned.

The darkness was for us.

His words still ring with agony. We hear the despair. We hear his suffering.
And then we know that despair ourselves, we suffer—because we know this all happened for us.

The sins of the world were on his shoulders. The sins of the world brought darkness, an all-encompassing darkness. A darkness that screamed for light.
God saw the world living in darkness and brought Jesus to the darkness to be the light.

People heard Jesus cry out. People knew he suffered. People struggled to help him, offering a sponge soaked in wine to wet his lips. But they couldn’t stop his pain. They could not end his suffering.

He cried out again, again with a loud voice.
Then he breathed his last. He entered the darkness.
For us he died.

And the earth shook. The curtain in the temple was torn, ripping from top to bottom what had, until that moment, separated all but the most holy from coming near the sign of God’s covenant with God’s people.
God’s promise, God’s covenant, was to be with the people of Israel, to protect them, to love them, to be their God forever.

But then darkness fell, Jesus died, the earth shook and a new covenant was born.
This new covenant was with all people. It was a new promise. For God so loved the world…

For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son, so that everyone who believed, everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.

This is the light of Christ. This is the light that shatters the darkness. The darkness cannot overcome it.

Darkness fell because of us, because of the darkness that lives in human hearts. Jesus cried out into the darkness of Good Friday.
His pain was ours. His despair was ours. He carried his pain and despair for us, so that we would never know the agony of being forsaken. He died in order to free us from the darkness of death.

We re-member the death of Jesus today. Our sacrificial lamb.
We relive the darkness.

But then, we know, there was light.

Amen.

 

 

Maundy Thursday – 2017

April 13, 2017  

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Lent has now ended.
Holy Week is upon us.

Today we remember: Jesus offers us absolution—he offers us forgiveness, he offers us pardon, he offers us release from the guilt we might feel because of our sin. As we celebrate communion—we receive his sacrifice of body and blood.

Today we remember just how much Jesus loves us as we eat the bread and drink the wine.

In Psalm 116 it is written:
The danger of death is all around me; the horrors of the grave closed in on me; I was filled with fear and anxiety. Then I called to the Lord, “I beg you, Lord, save me!”

We have been saved from death, by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

And so we receive a new commandment. Jesus said
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

On Monday our Hebrew brothers and sisters celebrated the Festival of the Passover. At Passover, families gather from near and far, sharing a simple feast of roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. It is a time to remember the first Passover, when God saved the Chosen People from bitter suffering. A plague was upon the land, killing the firstborn of every family. Lamb’s blood was painted above the doorway of each Hebrew family’s house so the plague would not affect their families. They were, literally, passed over.

Jesus, our sacrificial lamb, protects us. He protects us from the consequences of sin. Our sin.

And he tells us to love one another.

The Maundy Thursday liturgy used to carry these instructions, to be read to the congregation:

Within the community of God’s church, God never wearies of giving peace and new life. In the words of absolution we received forgiveness from God. This absolution we should never doubt, but firmly believe…
We who receive God’s love in Jesus Christ are called to love one another, to be servants to each other as Jesus became our servant…
I
t is, however, in Holy Communion that the members of Christ’s body participate most intimately in his love.  (LBW)

May we know Christ’s love, today.
May we share God’s love, today.
May we live God’s love—each and every moment of our lives.

Amen.

Palm Sunday – 2017

April 9, 2017  

Matthew 27:11-54

There is a tension to this Sunday—a tension mirrored in its identify as both the Sunday of the Passion and as Palm Sunday.

There is no other day in the church year quite like today.

Today we move from a jubilant celebration of the triumphant entry Jesus made into Jerusalem to the story of his death. The movement is dramatic. It is tense.

From palms to Passion.
From celebration and honor and praise to death on a cross.
From King to suffering servant.
From glory to humiliation.

Our Processional Gospel was full of glory and triumph.
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of [Jesus] and that followed were shouting “hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!

Later in the day the people were silenced.
Only days later the disciples forsook Jesus, abandoning him to their enemies.
Only days later, Peter denied Jesus not once, not twice, but three times.
Only days later Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss.
Only days later the crowds who had screamed hosannas to Jesus cried out to Pilate, begging him to crucify Jesus.

From praise to Passion.
From glory to Golgotha.
From honor to humiliation.
From hosannas to jeers and curses.

This day is a doorway, opening the way of the cross.
This day we feel the tension of “the way.”

In a way, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem he was laying down a gauntlet. His entrance was royal, it was extravagant, his entrance was holy.
All these years later—we re-create his entrance, expressing our own words of praise and thanksgiving, our own hosannas, honoring Jesus as our royal leader.
There is always a sense of excitement about Palm Sunday. There is such joy. Such happiness.
We can get lost in those hosannas, overlooking the challenge of the parade. As I said, Jesus laid down a gauntlet. He was challenging religious leaders when he declared the kingdom of God was at hand. He was threatening them with his own power.
All her did was ride into town on a colt. A borrowed colt. Yet his ride into town ushered in his reign of love. Without him saying a word. His kingdom was and is a kingdom more powerful than any other earthly authority.
The religious leaders of Jerusalem felt the threat of that power. They were afraid.

And so they manipulated events to have Jesus killed.

Jesus knew he would die. Jesus knew no earthly death had the power to end his reign as ruler of the universe. Jesus knew the actions of the leaders of Jerusalem guaranteed his own victory.

By crucifying Jesus, his enemies gave him new life.
Such is the irony beneath the irony of the day.

We began our service with hosannas and praise. The hosannas and praise didn’t bring about Jesus’ victory.
He found victory in death.

We can only survive the horror of knowing Jesus died by knowing his death brought victory over evil. Victory over sin. And salvation for us all.

We know next Sunday is Easter. We rest in the assurance of that day even as we remember Jesus journey toward the cross.
We re-member his death, knowing his death brought us all the promise of eternal life.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Lent 5 – 2017

April 5, 2017  

Luke 23: 26-28

In these verse, we find Jesus walking to his death. The instrument of his death, the cross, was being carried by another man, Simon. Simon walked behind Jesus. Led by soldiers, followed by mourners, Jesus and Simon were walking to Jesus’ death.

The mourners loved Jesus.

They had been there, at his trial. They had been there to see him receive 39 lashes, wounding his back. They had been there to see a crown of thorns pressed down over his head. Now they accompanied him, walking behind him to Calvary. To his death.

Jesus said: Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.

Jesus knew that they would suffer more, those mourning women. Even as he walked to his certain death, he cared about them, and about others. As he hung on the cross, Jesus prayed to God, asking for forgiveness for his enemies. As he hung dying on the cross, Jesus assured the penitent thief hanging next to him that he would be in paradise. As he hung dying on the cross, Jesus worried about his mother.

The death and resurrection of Jesus have not ended suffering in our world. Jesus promises us forgiveness, Jesus promises us love, Jesus promises us new life—but there is no promise of an end to suffering.

What we know in our suffering is that Jesus is with us. Jesus is loving us. Jesus hopes for us.

World-wide, over 8,700 children under the age of five die of starvation every day. It is estimated there are 1.7 million homeless adolescents in the United States. It is estimated that a child, by the age of 18, has seen 200,000 acts of violence on tv. 75% of employees in the United States steal from their employers. There are businesses now offering conferences on church security, conferences that include sessions on having armed guards and on the need for terrorism protection.

Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me but weep for yourselves and for your children.”

Jesus doesn’t want our tears to be for him, he wants them to be for the world. Even then, tears aren’t enough a response. We need to do something.

Jesus calls us to obedience. Our obedience is manifest in the love we have for others. For the starving. For the homeless. For victims of violence. For people who live in fear.  For each other. For our neighbors. For ourselves.

Amen.

 

 

 

Lent 5 – 2017

April 2, 2017  

Ezekiel 37:1-14

The Israelites were living in exile. They were far from home, far from Jerusalem. They were lonely. They were homesick. They were suffering.

Into Israel’s suffering walked a prophet: Ezekiel.

In the 20th century we might have called Ezekiel a “new age” kind of guy. He had visions. He dreamed dreams. Ezekiel would go into a trance like state, sitting motionless for hours, not speaking to anyone, not hearing anything, focused on his dreams. He had visions.

You might remember the song: Ezekiel saw a wheel, way up in the middle of the air…”
The song describes one of his Visions. As does our first reading. You heard the story read. You heard me tell the story again. You heard how Ezekiel heard bones rattling and saw them migrate together, with muscle growing on them and skin growing to cover the muscle. You heard how the wind blew, bringing the bones to life…

The vision was a message from God. Ezekiel believed all of his visions, all of his dreams were messages from God. Because he believed his visions were from God—the Israelites believed they were messages from God. They believed Ezekiel was a prophet.

God spoke many things to Ezekiel; God spoke to Ezekiel about God’s judgment. God spoke to Ezekiel about hope. God made promises to Ezekiel, promises of new life for the Israelites. Ezekiel shared these dreams with the Israelites. He warned them they were being judged because of their sins. He promised them they would receive new life. Ezekiel promised the Israelites they would return home…

In Ezekiel 33:32 it is written that, to the Israelites living in exile, Ezekiel’s preaching was like a love song. The Israelites loved to hear Ezekiel speak. They didn’t always do what Ezekiel told them to do, but they listened. They needed to hear what Ezekiel was saying. It gave the Israelites hope.

The Israelites exile was a time of despair. So, when they heard Ezekiel speak about a valley full of dry dead bones, they saw themselves. They were despondent. They were lifeless. When they heard Ezekiel say that the bones began to rattle, they felt their own spirits shake with new life. When they heard the bones coming together, with muscles forming, and skin growing, they saw themselves coming together as a people. When they heard Ezekiel describe a mighty wind blowing through the valley they felt the wind blowing them, reviving them, revitalizing them.

Ezekiel’s dreams and visions gave the Israelites hope in a time of despair, in a time when God seemed distant, maybe God seemed gone. Ezekiel brought God back to the Israelites.

Each of you, and I may have had times of despair, may be feeling despair in this time, might feel despair in the future… we might feel like those dry dead bones. We might believe we have been abandoned by God. We might think life is dry, life is barren, life is brittle, life is empty. Or we might experience God as being far from us. Distant. Away.

There are times in life when we need someone to breathe life into us, when we need someone to rattle our bones and wake us from our despair.

God gives life to lifeless people. Every day. As baptized Christians we have the power given to us by God—to wake every day cleansed, to wake every day forgiven.

As baptized children of God promises us each day we live is a new day, a hopeful day, a day of love and light.
Look around you. See the signs of life that exist in this place. See the signs of life that live in your homes, in your schools, in the places you work. See people helping other people. Hear the laughter of children, the laughter of friends and family. Look outside and see the grass greening. See the rivers flowing. Hear the birds singing. Discover the flowers rising out of the ground, reaching toward the light.

Experience the new life that comes when you are part of a community of faith, such as the community we have here. This gathering of people can be, this gathering of people is your family of faith. These people can be, they are your sisters and brothers.

Ezekiel believed God would give new life to the Israelites. This promise is a promise given to us. God breathes new life into this place, God breathes new life into all of us as we gather. The new life God gives us frees us to give life to others, breathing God’s love and light out into the world. God’s gifts of love and new life free us to love, to share signs of new life with others.

May it be so, God.

Let it be so.

Amen.

Wednesday Lent 4 – 2017

March 29, 2017  

John 16:16-24

I’ve been trying to imagine what it was like when I was born.
My mom is a short woman. She says she always looked enormous when she was pregnant because she had such a tiny frame. When she had me, she wasn’t with child she was with children—twins.
I imagine her near the end of that pregnancy, sitting in a chair, her unborn twins filling her lap. I imagine my older brother, only one years old at the time, trying to climb in her lap but not being able to, because there was no room for him. I imagine him crying. I imagine my older sister, only three, running to comfort him, falling down, and starting to cry. I imagine my mother wanting to cry herself, wondering how in the world she was going to cope with four children three and under.
I imagine the pain of her labor—pun intended—my sister and I were born on Labor Day.

Jesus told the disciples:
When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world.

When a child or children come into the world, when a child or children come into a family, whether by birth or by adoption, most often there is joy. There are smiles, there is laughter, there is hope. There is love.

Then the child, the children grow and struggles and arguments and rebellions and misunderstandings and disappointments and feelings of guilt or failure mix in with the joys and the hopes and the laughter.

All of this speaks well to our relationship with God.
God brought us all into this world, birthing us. God brought us into a world filled with suffering and joy, pain and pleasure, distance and intimacy. And God promises us, in the midst of this chaotic tumble of life experiences, we will never be alone.

No matter what we do. No matter who we grow up to be—no matter our choices, no matter our mistakes, no matter our talents, no matter anything we neglect or forget or withhold or refuse—God promises us we will never be alone.

Jesus told the disciples he would be leaving them. They would see him. Then they would not see him. Then they would see him again. It seemed like a riddle. It was a warning. I’m going to go. It is going to hurt. But I will return. And there will be joy again.

There is joy. There is love.
God our heavenly Creator brought us into this world. God is with us every moment of our lives. God ushers us out—into life eternal.
There are tears of joy. There are tears of pain. Through it all God is with us.

Amen.

 

Lent 4 – 2017

March 27, 2017  

John 9:1-41

Here’s some interesting information about the gospel of John, specifically the chapter I just read.
A recent biblical scholar, doing some research on the gospel, discovered that the phrase “put out of the synagogue” (which we see in verse 22) is used three times in John’s gospel, but nowhere else in the New Testament and in no other known Jewish or Christian writings of that time.
Knowing this, the scholar proposes that this phrase to “put out of the synagogue” refers to the Benediction Against Heretics that was introduced into the synagogue liturgy sometime after 70 CE (AD) and probably between 85 and 95 CE (AD). On the basis of this benediction, [the scholar] concluded that the Fourth Gospel was written at the end of the first century… in and to a community that was being expelled from the synagogue, and that this conflict with the synagogue decisively shaped [John’s] story of Jesus.
(The New Interpreter’s bible, vol. 9, p. 657)

As it says in verse 22 of our reading, the parents of the blind man whom Jesus healed feared the Pharisees that interrogated them. The parents feared the Pharisees because, if the parents were to confess that Jesus was the Messiah, they would be “put out of the synagogue.” The Pharisees questions were a trap. And, in real life (in the late first century), this was happening. Christians were put out of the synagogue for confessing their faith in Jesus.

This gospel story isn’t really about the healing of the blind man. It isn’t about the mud and the spit and Jesus breaking the Sabbath law, as interesting as all of those things are. This story is about recognizing Jesus as Lord. It is about Jesus, about Jesus being the “revelation of God’s works” (NIB, vol. 9. P. 656).

It may not be possible for us in the 21st century to understand the threatening possibilities of this story. At least here, in La Crosse, WI we aren’t going to be thrown out of our congregations or out of our communities for confessing Jesus as Lord. We aren’t experiencing conflict because of our faith. We aren’t being persecuted because of our faith.

So what does this story say to us?

Interestingly, one scholar noted that for Christians, this story (and the entirety of John’s gospel) shows that “Sin is defined by neither the presence of an illness [which many people believed in the time of Jesus] nor the violation of the law [as the Pharisees were inferring], but by one’s resistance to Jesus” (NIB, vol. 9, p. 661).
Are we “resistant to Jesus?” On one hand, the very fact of our presence here this morning tells us we are not. On the other hand, maybe.

Certainly we are here because we confess Jesus as Lord. In fact, that is one of the things we do WHILE we are here. We confess our belief in “Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord…” (Apostles Creed).

But when we walk out that door… when we leave church… do we carry our confession of faith with us? Or is our belief in Jesus something we reserve for Sunday mornings? When is the last time you openly told someone you believed in Jesus? Someone standing outside these doors of faith?

People might know we are active in church. They might know we give time, talent, money to church. They might know you go to church. When is the last time any one of us explained to someone else that we believe in Jesus, and why we believe?

A lot of people like their faith to be comfortable. I like my faith to be comfortable. Today’s verses are a challenge to me. And so I’m challenging you.
I’m calling us to take that 2nd step—if we haven’t–to actually, when the occasion allows, explain to people what it is we believe about Jesus Christ and why we believe it.

Jesus has come into our lives, into our hearts, into our stories… today’s gospel reading prods us to tell that story. To be evangelical. To tell others that Jesus is Lord.

May God give us the strength and the courage and the confidence to do so.
Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 4 – 2017

March 27, 2017  

John 9:1-41

Here’s some interesting information about the gospel of John, specifically the chapter I just read.
A recent biblical scholar, doing some research on the gospel, discovered that the phrase “put out of the synagogue” (which we see in verse 22) is used three times in John’s gospel, but nowhere else in the New Testament and in no other known Jewish or Christian writings of that time.

Knowing this, the scholar proposes that this phrase to “put out of the synagogue” refers to the Benediction Against Heretics that was introduced into the synagogue liturgy sometime after 70 CE (AD) and probably between 85 and 95 CE (AD). On the basis of this benediction, [the scholar] concluded that the Fourth Gospel was written at the end of the first century… in and to a community that was being expelled from the synagogue, and that this conflict with the synagogue decisively shaped [John’s] story of Jesus. (The New Interpreter’s bible, vol. 9, p. 657)

As it says in verse 22 of our reading, the parents of the blind man whom Jesus healed feared the Pharisees that interrogated them. The parents feared the Pharisees because, if the parents were to confess that Jesus was the Messiah, they would be “put out of the synagogue.” The Pharisees questions were a trap. And, in real life (in the late first century), this was happening. Christians were put out of the synagogue for confessing their faith in Jesus.

This gospel story isn’t really about the healing of the blind man. It isn’t about the mud and the spit and Jesus breaking the Sabbath law, as interesting as all of those things are. This story is about recognizing Jesus as Lord. It is about Jesus, about Jesus being the “revelation of God’s works” (NIB, vol. 9. P. 656).

It may not be possible for us in the 21st century to understand the threatening possibilities of this story. At least here, in La Crosse, WI we aren’t going to be thrown out of our congregations or out of our communities for confessing Jesus as Lord. We aren’t experiencing conflict because of our faith. We aren’t being persecuted because of our faith.

So what does this story say to us?

Interestingly, one scholar noted that for Christians, this story (and the entirety of John’s gospel) shows that “Sin is defined by neither the presence of an illness [which many people believed in the time of Jesus] nor the violation of the law [as the Pharisees were inferring], but by one’s resistance to Jesus” (NIB, vol. 9, p. 661).
Are we “resistant to Jesus?” On one hand, the very fact of our presence here this morning tells us we are not. On the other hand, maybe.

Certainly we are here because we confess Jesus as Lord. In fact, that is one of the things we do WHILE we are here. We confess our belief in “Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord…” (Apostles Creed).

But when we walk out that door… when we leave church… do we carry our confession of faith with us? Or is our belief in Jesus something we reserve for Sunday mornings? When is the last time you openly told someone you believed in Jesus? Someone standing outside these doors of faith?

People might know we are active in church. They might know we give time, talent, money to church. They might know you go to church. When is the last time any one of us explained to someone else that we believe in Jesus, and why we believe?

A lot of people like their faith to be comfortable. I like my faith to be comfortable. Today’s verses are a challenge to me. And so I’m challenging you.
I’m calling us to take that 2nd step—if we haven’t–to actually, when the occasion allows, explain to people what it is we believe about Jesus Christ and why we believe it.

Jesus has come into our lives, into our hearts, into our stories… today’s gospel reading prods us to tell that story. To be evangelical. To tell others that Jesus is Lord.

May God give us the strength and the courage and the confidence to do so.
Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Lent 3 – 2017

March 22, 2017  

Luke 19:41, 42

This was the day Jesus made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Riding a colt into the city, Jesus entered as people shouted “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38)

The Pharisees, leaders of the temple, told Jesus to tell his disciples to stop shouting. Jesus told the Pharisees that, if the people stopped shouting, “the stones would shout.” (Luke 19:40)

But they didn’t get the message. Jerusalem, the city of God, rejected Jesus. Those chose to deny his identity as the Messiah, the King of kings, the Prince of Peace.
And so Jesus stood, looking over the city, weeping.

“If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace.” (Luke 19:42).

Jesus. The Prince of Peace.

Jesus wasn’t the kind of king people expected. He wasn’t a military leader, like King David had been. He wasn’t adorned with jewels and dressed in purple robes like King Solomon. Jesus was a carpenter’s son. He rode into town on a borrowed colt. Bringing the peace of God which passes all human understanding. Jerusalem didn’t understand.

And so Jesus stood, looking over the city, weeping.

I have been thinking about this peace Jesus brought. I’ve been thinking about our centuries old rejection of his peace. I’ve been thinking about the world and the violence we manage to sustain in nation after nation. I’ve been thinking about the victims of wars, century after century of people dead because of a human belief that violence begets peace. I’ve been wondering what is wrong with us, that we cannot seem to find peace?

Jesus brought peace. Why can’t we build on that peace he brought to the world, and create peace in our lives? In our world? I’ve been wondering: how do we do that? How do we make for peace?

A student handed a paper in for an assignment at school. I read his paper. I was shocked by the violence of his words. His words were racist. His words were arrogant. I’m struggling to know what to do with that… how do I turn his assignment into an opportunity to learn about peace between people? To understand that every person has ultimate value, ultimate value just because we ARE. Just because we EXIST.

I’ve been visiting a man who is not well. He has made bad choices; we all have made bad choices in life. How do I help him find peace in his heart in what might be the last moments of his life?

It’s a struggle.

There is an answer. Jesus said himself, he brought the answer to the world. Just as the words we will sing tonight tell us, Jesus IS the light of the world. The Prince of Peace.

In all that we say, in all that we do, as followers of Jesus, it is important that we bring peace. That we know peace in our own hearts so we live that peace as we encounter others.

I have selected as a hymn a song about Jerusalem, a song usually sung in anticipation of our life after death. I want us to try to imagine peace now—in this life, in this moment. I want us to sing these lyrics believing we can bring Jerusalem to life now—that we can make Jerusalem a peaceful city now. We should not have to wait for peace.

Jesus brought peace to the world. Let’s, in this moment, find the joy that comes with knowing peace.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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