Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Streets of Peace.

For the last two weeks we have been talking about bread.
More to the point we have been talking about the substance of our lives.
The first week we talked about the importance of knowing God’s love for us, last week we talked about seeing through the eyes of faith.
The theme that I wanted to talk about today is peace.
After our week of Vacation Bible School I started to think that perhaps it would have been better to talk about faith this week.
Because what we learned at vacation Bible School was that no matter who we are, what we do, what happens in our lives, we should always (if you were in Vacation Bible School help me out with this) TRUST GOD!
Faith is about trusting God.
But then I thought about it some more and realized that peace is the by-product of faith.
When we trust God, we have faith, than our lives have peace.

This morning we are not merely talking about peace as the absence of violence.
Although, I pray and hope for the day when their will be no more killing or hurting each other.
Today we are talking about something even more substantive then that type of peace, because even if there is no violence we still might not have true peace.
We are talking about the peace that comes deep in our souls when we can know that everything works out for the best despite the evidence in front of us.

What Jesus offers to us is not a life free from the tumult of the world, but rather a peace that is substance for the journey that we take in life.
The people of Jesus’ day misunderstand what Jesus is offering to them.
Not a peace that comes from the known things of this world.
But rather a peace that can only come from knowing God.

A couple of weeks ago I was in New Orleans with some of our youth at a national youth gathering, and 36,000 other Lutherans 33,000 of which were high school youth.
It was an amazing thing to see and be a part of.
We would be walking down the streets of New Orleans and wherever we went we saw other youth wearing t-shirts from other congregations around the country.
We would approach another group and someone would start shouting and yelling.
And as we walked by each other we would give each other a high-five, or in some cases a fist pump.
I was wondering why life was not more like this.
Why don’t we get excited to see strangers coming down the street?
Why don’t we give out a howls of greetings to new people.
Why are we not friendlier in our everyday life?
While walking the Streets of New Orleans and greeting strangers I thought to myself this is what the kingdom of God looks like.
A place where we are all one with each other, where there is friendship offered quickly, where we don’t judge each other, where there is no threat of violence.
It was peaceful.
It felt like all was right with the world.

Then on Friday morning while we were at our Practice discipleship day we were told about the shooting in Aura Colorado.
It was a brutal reminder of the world that we live in.
How peace in this world is hard to come by.

But I want to say this morning that both things are real.
The sense that we get from our faith that all is well and the unsettling truth in the world that someone would walk into a movie theater and kill people for no reason; both things are part of our existence.

This is where I believe Jesus meets us.
It is at the intersection of peace and disturbance.

Jesus tells us this morning two important things.
The first is that he comes from the Father.
“I am the living bread that comes down from heaven.”
Jesus is not of this world.
The things that he teaches us are not about his personal agenda but about God’s agenda.
Jesus wants us to know that his view of the world is larger and more magnificent than we can see from where we are.
This is why his opponents had such a hard time understanding him.
They were too firmly planted in this world.
All they saw in Jesus was a carpenter’s son, a peasant, someone who did not measure up in their worldly standards.
But Jesus is trying to say that he is so much more than that.
He comes not from this realm, but from the realm of heaven.
He sees the plan beyond today’s troubles.
He can offer peace because he knows the plan.
Jesus could see into eternity and knows, and reminds us, that God leads us there.
Jesus knows that God brings us to streets where all people are friends and where peace reigns

On the other hand Jesus tells us that God does not merely stay in the clouds.
God does not hover above us.
Jesus makes it clear that he is the bread.
Jesus is part of our daily lives.
Jesus in saying we will eat this bread, his body, gives us a glimpse into his own violent death.
Jesus is not exempt from the real violence and lust for revenge that pervades our world.

In New Orleans we talked a lot about how Jesus breaks down walls that divide us.
The cross was the world’s attempt to put up a wall that would keep us away from God and one another.
But it was the cross that God used to bring heaven and earth closer together.
It is the cross that draws all the hurting souls to God’s peace.

An instrument of death becomes the sign of life.
An instrument of revenge becomes the place of forgiveness.
And instrument of violence becomes the place of peace.
We can look at the cross and know that even though things seem glum it is in our darkest times that God is at work.

I was thinking about Jesus on the cross this week.
We know that Jesus did not want to die.
We know that Jesus was grieved to have to die.
How did Jesus find peace among the name calling, whipping, thorns, nails, and pain?
How did Jesus find peace to offer the other criminal a glimpse of the kingdom?
How did Jesus find peace to offer his crucifiers forgiveness?
How did Jesus find peace not to retaliate with the sword?
How did Jesus find peace beyond the violence?
That answer is through trust in God.
Trust that this was not the end, but only the beginning.

Today God through Jesus offers us that peace.
Peace to offer forgiveness, to find the kingdom of God through the violence.
Peace to face difficulties not because God is above us, but because Jesus walked among us, and now gives us substance for the journey.

May all of you know the peace that only comes from knowing God and trusting in God.

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