Text: Romans 15:4-13
Function: To see the importance of peacemaking during this time of advent
4For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. 5May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the ancestors 9and that the gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
“Therefore I will confess you among the gentiles
“The root of Jesse shall
the one who rises to rule the gentiles;
in him the gentiles shall hope.”
13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Welcome to the second week of Advent. Last week we focused on the power of Hope as it helps us to prepare for the changes that God is bringing on society through the teachings of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Remember, the 4 themes of Advent are Hope, Peace, Love and Joy. So, I choose our text because of that last verse, “May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you might abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
He mentions three of the four themes, Hope (he mentions twice) and peace and joy.
The implication about the power of the Holy Spirit in this passage is that the Spirit of God fills us with joy and peace. Remember, hope is a conscious decision to have faith and it is the emotional acceptance of what faith can do.
Hope, in spiritual terms is a mystery to me, still.
But, that was last week. This week, we are looking at peace and the passage tells us that through the power of the Holy Spirit we get peace.
I also believe that peace, in the spiritual sense, is mysterious.
Well, I suppose everything that is associated with the power of the Holy Spirit is mysterious since it is God at work and not us.
Peace, to me, is the calm that comes from resting in the trust that God is in control and we are living according to God’s will for us in our lives.
That does not mean that all that God wants for humanity is accomplished already, God left the church on planet earth to transform it into a place where everyone has a chance to receive justice and mercy from God and others. And Jesus told us that we are to take up our own crosses and follow in His footsteps. Jesus died to change the course of humanity from one of empire to one of mutual love and respect for each other. A peaceful existence between us all. And this passage is about the Jewish people giving up their own racial pride and accepting non Jews into the family of God because God has called us to break down barriers between people. God has called us to be peacemakers.
I can look at the angst in this world and all the violence and mistrust and greed and selfishness and as we know, when we let that overwhelm us, we can lose hope. But, we respond to the condition that the world has become with the Hope that Jesus’ power to change humanity has not wavered and the mission of the Church, to bring the family of God and God’s new way of doing things, loving others as much as we love ourselves.
The response in faith, to the evil of this world, with the hope of faith leads me to a sense of peace.
I love the beatitudes, the blessings, given to us in Matthew 6:
They are the blessings of what Don Kraybill, the author of Amish Grace, the book the Lifetime movie Amish Grace was made of documenting the forgiveness of the Amish after the Nickle Mines School Massacre. It was right in our neighborhood and one of my parishioners was the first EMS on the scene. We lived the horror of that massacre.
Don Kraybill calls it the Upside Down Kingdom. The blessings are different from what the world around us values. It has nothing to do with riches or worldly success, but attributes of the way the Holy Spirit works in our lives.
I think my favorite, or the one that hits me the most from the list is “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”
I think the most important part of our worship is our prayer time and every week you hear me pray that God would fill us with God’s Holy Spirit so that we can become the peacemakers that God has called us to be.
I know that I titled the sermon, The Power of Peace in a way to help you understand the power we have as Christians when we follow the teachings of Jesus. And I want us to finish with that.
Jesus is called the Prince of Peace and Jesus made peace between God and man and Jesus made peace between man and fellow man.
Jesus is the prince of Peace.
And yet, the Prince of Peace took extreme action with both His words and deeds when He confronted the injustices that surrounded Him.
His message was powerful and it changed the course of history.
And they killed Him for that message.
And He calls us to follow His example, to take up our crosses and follow Him.
I hope that doesn’t mean that we have to be martyrs for our faith. But we do need to put to practice what Jesus taught us and Jesus warned us that if they treated Him so, they might also treat us badly.
That is part of what it means for us to live by faith. We are trusting in our heavenly reward and laying up for ourselves treasures in heaven instead of earth.
Jesus is the Prince of Peace, but it came to Him at a terrible price.
It makes us willing to give ourselves in our testimony so that we too can be witnesses to the peace that Jesus has called us to make.
This week, we celebrated the life and death of Rosa Parks who simply refused to allow the system of oppression to continue and instead of giving up her seat to a white man, she was arrested and started a movement.
She was a peacemaker. The Civil rights marches followed the non-violent teachings of Jesus.
Her protest was a peaceful silence in the face of oppression and the power of that peace changed a culture. Jesus was a work in her.
Jesus has called us to non-violent responses to the situations that we face. We Brethren practice the principle of turning the other cheek when we are offended because we have hope in the ultimate power of peace to either shame or expose the systems used to perpetuate violence against peoples.
It isn’t a call necessarily to silence, but a call to trust in God to take care of us when we are oppressed.
I hope the severity of the price that the Prince of Peace paid to get His message out doesn’t discourage us from practicing the peace that Christ has given us.
To me, it came first when I asked Jesus to forgive me and live inside of me. I remember that day, a peace from God came over me and I knew that I was forgiven. Jesus came into my heart and I felt His presence there, as a four year old little boy.
It is inspiring and it leads us to live our lives in service to God by serving others and trying to bring the peace that Jesus offers.