Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The war to end all wars...

Sermon preached for Pentecost 25, Proper 28B, on Sunday, November 11, 2012.

   Today is St. Martin’s Day – not the Martin you are thinking about but the saint for whom Luther was named.  Martin of Tours was a soldier saint who left one war for another, the proclamation of the Gospel.  For most of us, however, today is Veterans Day or, as it began, Armistice Day, or if you are in the British Commonwealth, Remembrance Day.  It was the end of World War I and the remembrance of its 20 Million dead that gave this day its birth.  Author H. G. Wells wrote urging the cause of that first world war coining the phrase "the war to end all wars."  But it wasn't.  The shift from Armistice Day to Veterans Day came in 1954 when another war to end all wars claimed 60 Million dead, 1/3 combatants.  And the wars go on.
    Nothing we do is once and for all time.  Nothing we do is done once but effective for all people.  Neither war is once for all nor is peace.  To our cry for peace and an end to war, only God can give answer.  To the weariness over parents burying sons and daughters and families burying husbands and wives, dads and moms, we can make no promises.  All we can is pledge to work for real and just peace and an end to armed conflict.  If we want an end to war, there must be blood strong enough to bleed for all — the living and the dead.  If we want peace, there must be a life good enough to die for all and strong enough to live forever.
    Every war claims to be fought to end war but it does not and it cannot.  Wars between people cannot be eradicated because these wars stem from the war within us.  What we fight on the battlefields of this world is but a shadow and expression of the war begun in Eden and still fought against God.  This war is against our own souls and identities as the children of God.  This war cannot be mediated or peace negotiated until sin is rendered powerless and its death is disarmed by the Lord of life.  This war turns brothers and neighbors into enemies, creates conflict that divides and conquers, alienates and condemns, and brings eternal death.  Sin has wrecked a terrible price from us and upon us.
    War on the battlefield and the guerrilla war of terrorism ends as only war can – with death and with destruction.  It is no different for us in whom the war of sin against our Creator and the war of death against His life wages.  The end is always the same.  Destruction and death, eternal death.  No more and no less.
    But we gather here today to acknowledge the one battle that lives up to the promise  “once for all.” It is the only battle fought to end all battles and the war waged to end all wars.  Christ fought this war to quiet our souls and deliver to us the perfect peace that had so eluded us since the sad days of Eden and our rebellion.  This is what Hebrews speaks about in chapter 9.  He has appear once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of His very self.  Just as man dies once and then faces judgment, so Christ was offered once for all to bear the sins of the many and to save those who trust in Him as Lord and Judge of those whom He has saved.
    Christ fought once to end for all sin's war.  In the fulness of time God sent forth His Son wearing our flesh and blood.  He became as one of us, though without sin He was not immune to death.  His death is what has ended death.  He came as one of us that He might die in our place the fearful death and render its destruction impotent by His resurrection.  He died only once but it was the death of the one holy and righteous man, the Son of God, and so it had the power that no death before Him or after Him could have.  He paid our debt.  He ended our captivity to death.  He stopped the cycle of war.
    Unlike all other deaths, His death has healing power.  His death brought forth life.  In the midst of His suffering and death was the birth of life so strong that death could not contain it and so big it enlivens all the dead and dying.  A world captive to death and disappointed by the broken promises of peace looks for the one who can keep the promise – to Christ given for the life of the world, the life that death cannot end, cannot steal, cannot overcome.  That is the miracle of Calvary – not that one man died which is of little importance – but that man who died paid for death so that all who look to that death might live in perfect peace forevermore.
    He saves those who wait for Him – a euphemism for trust.  When Scripture speaks of waiting it is not like the waiting of the impatient in the drive up line at the bank or the frustrated in the doctor’s office tired of reading outdated magazines.  Waiting means trusting.  He saves all those who trust in Him.  From the innocent child whose life was taken before it barely began to the guilty who squandered its every opportunity to the aged whose minds have grown dim and bodies fragile.  He saves all with the death powerful enough to pay death off and He saves all with the life stronger than death ever was.
    On Veterans Day we come acknowledging that wars still beget wars and peace is a barren woman with no children to follow her.  Except in Christ.  In Christ is the death that kills death and the life that never ends.  His sacrificial payment was made not for Him, but for us.  His suffering has bore the unlikely fruit of peace for those who trust in Him.  His offering still pleads  on behalf of all, its blood price of freedom bestows peace for you and for me and all who will receive Him.
    Dear friends, of wars there is no end, as Scripture says, until Christ.  He is the end of war and the dawn of hope to a people wearying of trusting any one and any thing.  On this Veterans Day offer our gratitude to those who died and will still die to protect us and to give us a fragile peace.  We come lamenting the personal death we carry within us and the impersonal death that claims the guilty and the innocent on battle field after battle field.  Where is our peace?  It lies not in leaders negotiating or the might of man.  It is in Christ alone.  Where is our hope?  It lies not in princes or earthly kingdoms.  It is in Christ alone.  Where is death's match?  It lies not human accomplishment.  It is in Christ alone.  Where is the war to end all wars?  It lies not in the battlefields of the past nor the conflicts of the future.  It is in the Christ alone.  He lived to die and  died that we might live.  Once for all.  Nothing added or needed.  His death completes the war sin’s rebellion began.  This is the peace that will not disappoint us.  This is the peace we yearn to know.  This is the peace strong enough to carry our burden and bring us finally home to the place where death is unknown.  God give us this peace in Christ.  Amen.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, this war must run its course first:


War on terror, or war on humanity?

Anonymous said...

What gives? St. Martin's Day, as well as Veterans Day, is November 11 (I believe I'm correct here as this is our Patron Saint's day, and Martin Luther, born on Nov. 10, was baptized on the 11th, hence the "Martin" of his name). Was this post drafted on the 11th and simply posted two days later?