2018-08-05 - 10. Sunday after Trinity - Kreissängerfest - Dekan Theo Jäckel

Other translations of the sermon:


Sermon: Topical - Seek peace and pursue it!


Grace be with you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

I read from Psalm 34, the verses 12 to 15. Today’s sermon will however not concentrate only on the words of the Psalm, but rather on the topic for this service - Seek peace and pursue it!


 

12 Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,

13 keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.

14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; Seek peace and pursue it!


The topic for today’s service and the watchword for 2019. I cannot see many people disagreeing with this watchword. We are living in a time of tension and turmoil – worldwide and here in our country – South Africa. Peace has been the mantra of political campaigns – from both the left and the right – for many years.

 

But if almost everyone wants peace, then why is it so difficult to find? Why is peace so elusive? Perhaps the reason lies in the fact that we tend to see and define the word “peace” so differently. During my preparation for the sermon I looked up the word and found the following:

 

Peace - freedom from disturbance; tranquillity.

Peace - calm, calmness

Peace - bliss, joy, nirvana

Peace - a state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended.

Peace - when people are able to resolve their conflicts without violence and can work together to improve the quality of their lives.

 

Everyone seems to want peace, but what does it mean, from a biblical perspective, to truly seek peace. It is a question that, I believe, we struggle to answer. Part of this is because our first instinct, and understandably so, is to simply end the guns from firing and from people being killed. Yet, the other side of the coin is that, often, we’re not sure what it means to truly seek peace. We don’t know where to begin, and, thus, we don’t know how to interact in our communities, our nations, and our world to seek true Christian peace. To really seek peace means we must get to the deeper issues involved. We need peace that transforms society and promotes humanity as being created in the image of God.

 

Peace that is more than the absence of bullets. Peace that transforms societies. Peace that promotes humanity as being created in the image of God.

 

Where can we find that peace?

 

I read verse 14 of Psalm 34 again: Turn from evil and do good; seek shalom and pursue it.

 

The peace that we are told to pursue is very specific. It is “shalom.” This is the primary word for peace in the Old Testament. It refers to so much more than simply the absence of conflict. Shalom refers to relationships between God with women and men (Psalm 85:8) and relationships between people and nations (Genesis 34:21/ 1 Kings 5:12).

 

Shalom is often tied to a covenant or a promise kept and true biblical shalom refers to an inward sense of completeness. Although it can describe the absence of war, a majority of biblical references refer to a type of wholeness that encourages you to give back in thankfulness.

 

Peace begins within the individual and then spreads to the larger community. In order to seek peace, we must first find peace with ourselves.

 

I read the first part of a quote by Thomas Merton: “Man is not at peace with his fellow man because he is not at peace with himself.”

 

How do I find peace within myself? We often struggle with the answer to this question. Many people try to find peace and make peace but it has in fact already been done. God has done it through Christ.

 

Once again the entire quote of Merton: “Man is not at peace with his fellow man because he is not at peace with himself, because he is not at peace with God.”

 

Because of the empty tomb, we have peace. Because of His resurrection, we can have peace during even the most troubling of times because we know He is in control of all that happens in the world. God has given us his peace. We need only take it. In the gospel of John Jesus says: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

 

Matthew Henry states it very well:

“Christ died and left a will in which he gave his soul to his Father, His body to Joseph of Arimathea, His clothes to the soldiers, And His mother to John. But to His disciples, who had left all to follow him, He left not silver or gold, but something far better – He left his peace.”

 

We have been created in the image of God? Jesus Christ lived and died for each one of us. He has promised us a peace that surpasses all understanding. We have the right to live with God and with God in us. We are accepted and redeemed through the blood of Christ. We live from this grace of God, who accepts us, also when we stumble, fall and make the wrong decisions, think the wrong things, or act inappropriately. God gives us his peace. We cannot make peace with God and ourselves – we can only receive it through the grace of God.

 

Seek peace and pursue it!

 

Turn from evil and do good; seek shalom and pursue it.

 

Thomas a Kempis once wrote: “First keep the peace within yourself, then you can also bring peace to others.”

 

We will only find true peace within ourselves if we have accepted the peace that God offers through Christ. This peace we can then seek to give to others with his help. We are then however no longer seeking a peace that simply ends violence, but rather one that desires communities to be transformed, people to see their enemy as their brother or sister. Peace that is rooted in the love of Christ, and not in a desire to end violence because it suits our interests. Peace that is rooted in a desire to do what is right, to do what is just, and to do what is loving.

 

I close with a quote from Martin Luther King from a sermon he held on loving our enemies: "Christ said: Love your enemy." And it’s significant that he does not say, "Like your enemy." …………… Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them…………. So somehow the "isness" of our present nature is out of harmony with the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts us. And this simply means this: That within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we come to see this, we take a different attitude toward individuals. The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation that hates you most has some good in it; even the race that hates you most has some good in it. And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every man and see deep down within him what religion calls "the image of God," you begin to love him in spite of. No matter what he does, you see God's image there. There is an element of goodness that he can never sluff off. Discover the element of good in your enemy. And as you seek to hate him, find the center of goodness and place your attention there and you will take a new attitude."

 

Amen

 

May the peace of God, that surpasses all understanding, bless and preserve you now and unto eternal life.


Amen.


 

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