Truly from a bountiful array of possible sermon themes, I felt the Lord lead to a particular theme this morning “He/Christ is our Peace.” As I heard the rain pouring on dry ground so I thought of how often our lives are so thirsty for peace. The sermon text is below the sermon audio (they only approximate to one another).
Sermon preached at Trinity Church, Newport RI
Sunday July 22nd 2018
The Reverend Alan Neale
Having signed the Anglo-German Declaration with Adolf Hitler on September 30th 1938 Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain stood on the steps of 10 Downing Street, London and announced, “My good friends, (I) have returned Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.”
All too sadly, we know, the ‘nice quiet sleep’ did not endure for many days and the peace to which Mr. Chamberlain referred proved only too fragile and transient.
Compare and contrast Ephesians 2:14 Paul declares in ringing tones to the Ephesian church and to the church for generations to come, “Christ is our peace”… and this peace has proved to be constant, irreversible and impermeable to all attack. “Christ is our peace”… it is the understanding, the deep appropriation in our being, that enables us daily (in the words of Appeaser Neville Chamberlain) “to go home and get a nice quiet sleep.”
With enormous economy of word, St. Paul makes in this single verse three statements about peace that encourage, inspire and transform us.
But first… let it be known that before ever nations and leaders talked about the importance of peace in local, national and global arena; it was the God of Abraham and the God of Jesus, it was Judaeo-Islamic-Christian Scriptures that pronounced the signal, primal and psychic importance of peace. To wish another peace, to strive for peace is to live and breathe an atmosphere in which peace (at-one-ment) is available for us in relation to our creation, ourselves, our fellows and our God!
The Person, the Process and the Purview of Peace.
First, the Person of Peace.
For Paul, for the church, for us it is not possible to speak of peace without speaking of the person of Jesus Christ. I am not permitted to talk of peace as some disinterested, impersonal, objective and academic subject. It is by His presence and by His work that Jesus creates peace – in his very body the awful tragic work for peace is wrought! (Cf. the Fraction!)
But there is more… peace on any scale (simple and profound), peace must involve both person and personal commitment. No leader of family, industry, church or state… no leader with integrity can espouse a vocation to peace unless she/he first be on the path of personal peace and reconciliation. Jesus makes this unutterably plain, it is simply incontrovertible. When we sue for peace, we are to invite Jesus into the dynamic; and when we sue for peace, we must expect to carry some pain even within ourselves… for the work of peace involves person.
Second, the Process of Peace.
Now I hesitate to proceed along the path of such detailed exposition that even the word “is” becomes eloquent and yet here… in this text, the use of present tense is expressive and articulate. We know that Paul was convinced that the work on the Cross was an historic event, we know that there was a sacrifice once made that need never be repeated, we know he believed we have been saved (a done deal) and yet… Christ is our peace. The past reference does not preclude the present experience of peace and the ongoing commitment to process. Friends, there are so many instances in our lives where we are aware of only “peace in process”… friendships remain in tatters, once close relationships are tentative and fragile… we do not lose hope because we are people of process.
It is a devilish ploy that encourages us to surrender the process because we have not achieved the perfect result; yes, we stand on firm ground of peace achieved between women/men and God but that peace needs be worked out in daily living. It is, to refer again to WWII, as if we celebrate the event of D-Day and yet still labor towards V-Day, final victory.
Third, the Purview of Peace.
“He/Christ is our peace” – the arena, the place, the purview of peace is, and always will be, in community. Christ is our peace and this peace may not be unilaterally snatched as belonging to one group or one caste or even one individual. Christ is our peace and what is afforded to us must be exercised, tested, expressed in community… it is no toy with which to play, but rather a tool with which to work; it is not for occasional adoration and stored away, it is for our engagement for the living of these days.
Later in Ephesians 2 (verse 17) Paul urges the proclamation, the sharing of peace and this, friends, we do not only by word but also by example.
How can we expect those as yet outside the church community to believe “Christ is our peace” if we show ourselves patently, palpably unable to work out peace and reconciliation amongst ourselves (doubtless, the prospect of Prayer Book revision will challenge our vocation to peace in community!)
So the Psalmist declares (Psalm 117) “How wonderful a thing it is when brothers and sisters dwell in unity… for there the Lord has commanded the blessing”… yes, for there is the blessing of a powerful, life-transforming witness to the peace that Christ affords.
Christ is our Peace – the person, the process and the purview.
I grow in my faith that the very words of Holy Scripture carry within themselves a power that thwarts the evil and promotes the good; I grow in my faith that the very words of Holy Scripture uniquely and solely effect change that is radical and pervasive.
I ask you to carry this text with you into this coming week… and when you confront, or are propelled into situations, of angst, dis-ease and conflict to stop and recite this text often… “Christ is Our Peace.”
I finish with words from our final hymn..
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.