Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tribulation from the World, Peace from Christ

Sermon preached for Easter 6, Sunday, May 9, 2010.

     I must admit that I get a billion and a half of those tear jerking emails that show you some sentimental picture and tell how a smile changed somebody’s day.  Although I suppose it is true to some degree, most of the people whom I speak to as Pastor are not smiling and a smile will not change the mountain of hurt or pain that has touched their lives.  No matter how much I want to smile it away, I cannot – not for my family whom I love or for members of this church family.  Tribulation is part and parcel of life in this world.  And a smile cannot erase that tribulation.  Now don’t get me wrong I have nothing against smiling, I am all for it; it is just that we need much more.
    We often assume that peace on the inside comes from peace on the outside of our lives.  In other words, if our lives are good, if the job is good, if the money is good, if health is good, if things are going well, then we will be good.  But I am here to tell you that the river of peace flows in the opposite direction – not from things outside in but from the inside, from Christ who lives within us by baptism and faith, flowing outside to the tribulations and trials of our lives.
    Peace does not flow from the outside in but from the inside out.  From the Christ placed into the heart by the Spirit working in baptism; from the heart to the rest of our lives.  Amazingly those who have the most to complain about on the exterior of their lives are often those who possess the greatest peace on the inside.  And the other way around; those with things going their way on the outside are empty of peace on the inside.  I say to you that you cannot wait for life to be good to be happy, to have peace, to be content.  Peace comes from Christ and his peace is still while turmoil, trials, and tribulation rage on around us.  Where Christ is, there is our peace.
    In the Gospel for today, we heard Jesus preparing His disciples for His death, resurrection and ascension.  The day will come when you will not seem Me. The disciples had grown used to Jesus presence with them.  The things that they had seen and heard were upsetting to them but having Jesus there in front of their eyes was comforting.  His presence was the source of their peace.  But Jesus prepares them for the day when this will change.  Though Jesus will no longer be visibly present, His gift of peace will still be theirs.  They will see Him not with their eyes but with the eyes of faith.
    The day will come when you will be scattered and dispersed, says Jesus. In other words, the day will come when you will feel alone and not be able to find comfort in the presence of brothers or sisters in Christ.  But you will not be alone.  Jesus is telling them that they may not see this fellowship with their eyes but they have been bound together in the blood of Christ and nothing can steal this unity of faith from them.   Not even death!
    The day will come when you will face tribulation, says Jesus.  But even when it seems you  are under the gun and life has taken you down, you are not alone, not without the power and peace of God to sustain you in this trial.  Turmoil and trials will not depart from this life, but Jesus is still here with us and in us by baptism and faith.  He speaks peace in the face of tribulation.
    Despite appearances to the contrary, if we are in Christ, we are never alone, never without Christ’s presence and peace, never without the fellowship of believers to support and encourage us.  Where Christ is there is His peace. Where Christ lives in us by baptism and faith, we have His peace – no matter how difficult or upsetting our lives may be on the outside. Though the world be in turmoil, we have the peace of a cross where our sins are forgiven and an empty grave where the hope of everlasting life is born.
    We who live in Christ by baptism and faith have received the blessings and benefits of that cross and empty tomb.  We live in that perfect peace won for us by His saving death and life giving resurrection.  We are not the defeated who limp along in fear but the victorious in Christ who stand firmly rooted and grounded in Christ.  The victory is ours not because we see it or accomplish it but because He gives it to us by His death and resurrection.  The victory is ours not because life is smooth or easy but because we live in Christ and He lives in us.
    Don’t wait for your live to be good in order for you to be happy.  Don’t wait for your lives to be fair before you enjoy contentment.  Don’t wait for life to be comfortable or easy in order for you to know peace.  These things are yours not because your life is good on the outside, but because Christ lives in You and with Him the fullness of what His suffering, death, and resurrection has born.  It is a dangerous things to believe that when life is good, you will be okay.  Every one is okay when life is good.  You do not need God when life is good.  We need to know that we are good when the bottom drops out of our lives.
    Peace flows to you not because everything in your life is good.  Peace flows to you from Christ, from Christ into your heart by baptism and faith, and from there into the rest of your lives – whether or not the rest of your life ever becomes easy.
    Today we remember those who showed a mother’s love to us.  Their love freely given is a great gift.  Mom loves us, bears our struggles, is wounded with us in all our pains, and would do anything to make it better. It is a free gift from her but a painful for her.  Because she is willing to suffer the pain of loving us, we know her nurture, care, and peace.  So when you remember Mom today, give thanks for the love that loves you even when it hurts her.
    Where does such love come from?  Only from the God who loves us and is willing to bear the painful cost of that love.  The God who is wounded by our pain, bears our struggles as His own, carries all the weight of our sin, endures our death for us, and desires only what is good and beneficial for us... Peace is ours only because of such love come to us in Christ.  It is not the fruit of a good life but the gift of this unimaginable love shown to us in Christ... the pefect peace that passes all understanding is ours because He has overcome the world.  The peace that passes all understanding is ours because He has made us His, we belong to Him by baptism and faith, and He surrounds us with His love and care every day.  The peace that passes understanding is ours because still He lifts us up when we fall by the grace of forgiveness and feeds at the honored place of His table when we deserve nothing of this kindness.
    This day and this life will never be easy, but we live in Christ and peace is ours no matter what this life is like.  It flows from Christ to us by the gift of baptism and faith.  It is fed and nourished on the body and blood of Jesus.  It is our gift no matter where we go, what happens to us, or what tribulation befall us.  Peace is not the fruit of a life made perfect or successful in human terms but the fruit of His death and resurrection, gladly given to us in grace.  If Christ is ours, peace is ours.  Amen

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