Let us pray: Dear Savior, keep us from all harm and danger. Preserve us from bloodshed, violence and discord. Let us lead our lives in rest and quietness while appreciating and meditating upon the many blessings You send our way. Accomplish this by making us wise as serpents when it comes to the world and gentle as doves when it comes to each other. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GREAT UNIFIER AND BRINGER OF ETERNAL PEACE
TEXT: Ephesians 4: 1-7, 11-16
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
My mother always said: “Politics is dirty business.” This past week again proved how right she was and is. A quick internet search concerning congressional “town hall” meetings and what has been happening in our nation confirms this. It seems many people, especially the elderly, are concerned about the health care debate in Congress along with other issues. They are trying to meet with their congressperson during this August recess. Basically, as I read the stories, old people and distraught voters are getting roughed up by union thugs, elected leaders are venting their anger, and even our President in an email to his supporters is telling them to “hit back twice as hard as the other side.” Unfortunately, some are taking that message literally. Turmoil has ensued. The whole thing is sad, frightening, and just makes me want to crawl into a hole.
But, instead of doing that, I have come to church this morning to share something positive and uplifting with each of you. It comes from the prayer for peace imbedded in the Order of Evening Vespers, which also happens to be my all-time favorite prayer. It is asking God to grant us a “quiet life and peace at last.” So, looking at our lesson, let’s ponder:
MY FAVORITE PRAYER AND HOW IT COMES TRUE
When times get tough, people get ugly. Some of you have seen more of that ugliness than others. Certainly the Great Depression was ugly, but it was shared ugliness in that everyone was in the same boat—broke. During the ‘60’s’ antiwar movement, I remember the ugliness of the Chicago riots and the race riots around the country. We’ve had other such times up till now, too. And during all of that, God’s people have tried to maintain dignity, unity, and respect even when it came to those they disagreed with. St. Paul is under house arrest in Rome on a trumped up charge of undermining the powers that be. Christian persecution and political turmoil was swirling around and through every city under Roman rule. Christians thought the end times were upon them. Should they simply crawl into a hole and try to ignore it all? Should they become political agitators and take up arms against Rome? Or, should they show by example that the Christian faith was literally “the most excellent way?” Listen to what the imprisoned Paul tells them: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
When the world—whether it be government, job, or your extended network—becomes discordant and threatens to pull you into their emotional storm, it’s hard to be both peaceful and quiet. After all, you and I live in the world. Ah, but recall that Jesus says “we are not to be of the world.” That’s where the Church comes into play. Here we are governed by God’s love and forgiveness for us in Christ. Here we give each other a fair hearing. Here we operate with respect for every soul because Christ has redeemed every soul with His blood. Here the unity that comes from being a sinner, saved by God’s grace, simply must be practiced because Christ showers it upon us daily. Here, all bend to the truth of His Word instead of the arguments of men because God’s Word is truth! And thus, the Christian Church is really our oasis for real rest and real quietness.—Good thing, too. For can you imagine life without it?
Human beings are basically concerned about trying to order and control their existence in the short term. Not God, however. He’s always concerned about the long term. He’s in our lives eternally. And so, we always need to take the long view of life if we want to handle and overcome short-term upset. To help us do that, God raises up leaders in His kingdom. And through those leaders He seeks to apply heavenly forgiveness and the eternal strength of His love to us. Through them He reminds us that this life is Spring training and heaven is the World Series championship that He has insured for us with His very life.
Every Christian has special gifts from God. Every Christian can and should work at spreading rest and quietness among their fellow believers. Every Christian can and should show the world how turmoil is handled and overcome through faith in Christ, thus winning souls by extending God’s peace to them. Paul touches on how all this takes place when he writes: “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all each unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
How does all this apply to our ugly world today? The same way it applied to Paul’s ugly world. That is, we search the Scriptures, try to keep the commandments, follow Christian ethics in all we do, and confess Christ. We don’t let temper, emotions, or personal gain—whether it be money, fame, fortune, or power—get in the way of helping our neighbor in every need and praying that even our earthly enemies may see the light. If we do that our relationship with God will be one of rest and quietness and the people that count the most to us will also be blessed.
Today our nation often seems to be run by schoolyard, childish games of one-up-man-ship and name calling. Where are the adults in all this mess? Well, the adults are in God’s Church. It’s up to you and I to help our fellow citizens out of their messes. None of us has the “luxury” of childish finger-pointing. And by clinging to our Christian standard of behavior and trusting in Christ to help us, rest and quietness can still come upon our land. Or, as Paul says it so well, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning craftiness of men in their deceit scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
My favorite prayer is asking for: “rest and quietness.” And it can and will come true by living our faith and by “speaking the truth in love” to others. For ultimately it’s not human beings, or political parties, or financial wealth that sets people free, no, it’s the truth that sets people free. And the greatest truth of all is that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief one.” Yes, only the humble heart is ultimately peace-filled and at rest. Amen