Shalom

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Second Sunday in Easter, Year A May 1, 2011 Second Sunday of Easter, Year A Acts 2:14a, 22-32, I Peter 1:3-9, John 20:19-31
Easter Sunday April 24, 2011 Easter Day, 2011 Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; John 20:1-18
Good Friday April 22, 2011 Good Friday John 18:1-19:42
Maundy Thursday, April 21, 2011 April 21, 2011 Maundy Thursday 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011 April 17, 2011 Palm Sunday Mathew 27
Fifth Sunday in Lent – Raising of Lazarus April 10, 2011 Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 11:1-45
Fourth Sunday in Lent April 3, 2011 Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A John 9:1-41; Psalm 23
Second Sunday in Lent, Year A March 20, 2011 Second Sunday in Lent, Year A Genesis 12: 1-4a; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3: 1-17, Psalm 121
First Sunday in Lent, March 13, 2011 March 13, 2011 First Sunday in Lent, Year A Matthew 4:1-11, Romans 5:12-19, Romans 8:18-25
Ash Wednesday Sermon March 9, 2011 Ash Wednesday Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Last Sunday After Epiphany March 6, 2011 Last Sunday after Epiphany Matthew 17:1-9
Don’t Worry About Tomorrow February 27, 2011 Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Isaiah 49:8-16a; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34
Choose Life February 13, 2011 Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Deuteronomy 30:15-20; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37
We are the Salt of the Earth February 6, 2011 Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Matthew 5:13-20, Isaiah 58:1-12
Shalom January 30, 2011 Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A Matthew 5:1-12

 

Shalom

Sermon Date:January 30, 2011

Scripture: Matthew 5:1-12

Liturgy Calendar: Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A


A recent letter from a friend mentioned a book that her book club has been reading called The Looming Tower, by Lawrence Wright. 

In the book, Wright describes how Al-Qaeda developed into 9/11. 

My friend went on to say that “the book is profoundly discouraging because there seems to be no way to speak to or with Muslim terrorists.  Religious zeal can’t be economically or sociologically explained and altered as some Americans have thought or like to think in a generous hope that all problems have solutions.”

The book club members left that day, and I quote, “feeling as if we could become paranoiac fearers for our safety.”  

The majority of us in this room remember 9/11.  We have all felt that fear for our safety.

And for many years now, we have been a country at war, at war with intractable enemies with whom there really does seem to be no way to speak.  

We live in a broken world, a world full of conflict and wars that date back as far as human history does.

War is a reality. 

In the gospel according to Matthew, at the beginning of chapter 4, after Jesus was baptized, he was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 

The devil takes Jesus up a very high mountain.  Jesus and the devil look out across the magnificent view, across God’s good creation, all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor, and the devil says to Jesus,

“All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 

What does the devil see when he looks over the world? 

The devil misses out on seeing God’s good creation and instead, he sees the reality that he himself has created—the reality of a world caught in an endless cycle of war and violence and evil.  

The devil sees all the kingdoms he has established—kingdoms full of splendor, kingdoms like that of Herod, who is ruling Galilee, a part of the Roman Empire, an empire whose rulers have glorified themselves at the expense of millions of people who have been exploited, who live in poverty, who have been dislocated, who  are slaves.

The devil sees this reality, and offers this broken world, cloaked in its tawdry splendor, to Jesus.

How tempting this offer must have been to Jesus—to take this mess and to straighten it out. 

But the devil will turn over these kingdoms only if Jesus will fall down and worship him.

And Jesus says,

“Away with you, Satan!”  for it is written–

“Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”

Then the devil left him. 

After the temptations end, Jesus comes down from the mountain, and goes to live in Galilee, in Capernaum, not far from Tiberias, the seat of the Roman government in Galilee. 

Jesus has the audacity to go through this province under Roman control proclaiming the Good News. 

“Repent, for the kingdom of God has drawn near.” 

Jesus is living in a different reality than the one that the devil has shown him on top of the mountain.

Jesus is bringing the splendor and light of the kingdom of heaven into the midst of the people who live in the darkness of a broken world.

No wonder the people are flocking to him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.  Jesus is healing them, healing them of every disease and pain, curing the demoniacs, the epileptics, and the paralytics. 

Now we come to today’s reading.

Seeing the crowds following him, Jesus takes them up the mountain to look down on the world. He wants them to see the world through his eyes, to see a new reality, not the devil’s broken mess, but instead, the world, God’s good creation, full of the kingdom of God.

Jesus wants to tell them what life will be like in the kingdom of God.  Who will receive divine favor in this new reality that Jesus is calling into being with his words?  Who will be blessed?

Those who will receive divine favor in this new reality are the poor in spirit, those who depend, not on themselves, but who have a humble dependence on God’s grace and love for them. 

Those who will receive divine favor are the ones who mourn when they see people suffering over the brokenness of the world, mourning because they can see no way to solve the problems that create so much hurt and brokenness.  And so they mourn.

Those who will receive divine favor are the meek—the ones who are reconcilers rather than retaliators in their relationships with others. 

Those who will receive divine favor are the ones who hunger and thirst after righteousness—the righteousness of God.  They long for God to set things right instead of being arrogant enough to think that they can set things right themselves.

Those who will receive divine favor are the merciful, the ones who have compassion for others and the willingness to forgive those who have hurt them. 

Those who will receive divine favor are the ones who are pure in heart–

Those whose devotion is to God alone, and to nothing and to no one else.

And now we come to the beatitude that may trouble us the most of all, and may be the hardest one for us to imagine as we try to imagine God’s kingdom here on earth.

Those who will receive divine favor are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. 

But what about that letter from my friend?  What about our safety?  War is a reality, here and now. 

Every Sunday we pray for our soldiers.  We pray that we may continue to have freedom. 

Soon, Alex will be deployed.  He will be in danger.  And we will pray that he will be safe, that he will have strength and courage, and that he will return home to us unharmed. 

How can we support Alex and our troops, and at the same time receive divine favor as peacemakers? 

As I said last week, we live in an in-between time, the time of now, and not yet. 

We have already entered into the “now” of the kingdom of heaven on earth, because Jesus has come here to be with us, to lead us in the paths of righteousness and truth.

But we also live in the time of “not yet.”  The kingdom of God has yet to be fully realized on this earth, and we continue to live in a world so broken that war is still necessary.

“Blessed are the peacemakers. “

We are on the mountain with Jesus, and we see, as he speaks these words,” blessed are the peacemakers,  a new world spread before us, a world full of shalom, the Hebrew word for peace.

When Jesus talks about peace, he is talking about the shalom found throughout the Bible—he is talking about completeness, fullness, perfection.

He is talking about tranquility, rest, harmony.  He is talking about the very Kingdom of God. 

Peacemakers seek shalom–

the rich peace  that comes about when people work hard to end hostilities through reconciliation; to end hostilities between individuals, to end hostilities in communities, to end hostilities between nations—with the goal being harmony and cooperation that will be to the advantage of everyone. 

But the kingdom of God has yet to be fully realized on this earth.  And because we also  live in the time of not yet, we support our wars, and participate in them.

But as Christians, the children of God, disciples of Jesus, we must, at the same time,  long to be divinely blessed because we also struggle to be peacemakers.  

Even though our country is at war and we support that, we can seek peace and pursue it and work for it in our families.

We can work to reconcile our differences with our spouses, with our children, with our parents.  We can seek tranquility in our homes.

The world watches the church all the time.  Why? 

Because the world is so torn apart that it dreams for and longs for shalom. The world knows that  Jesus came and said, “Repent, for the kingdom of God has drawn near.”

And the world is still waiting to see if those of us who claim to be his disciples can live as if the kingdom of God is even possible on this earth. 

We can choose, in this Christian community, to be witnesses to what Jesus saw that day on the mountain—the kingdom of God drawing  near in the lives of his disciples. 

We are witnesses to the kingdom that is coming when we live in shalom with one another—when we worship the Lord our God with all our hearts and souls and minds, when we serve God with gladness and singleness of heart,  and when we carry out the second commandment, loving one another as ourselves,

By working together to reconcile our differences, by living  in harmonious cooperation that completes us, that fills us all with the richness of God’s love.

Inevitably, our efforts at peacemaking may seem feeble and fruitless at times, and even though we will be unsuccessful —

every time we choose the hard work of making peace, we keep the vision of the kingdom of God alive. 

And in this world of now and not yet, simply keeping the vision alive is sometimes all we can do.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. 

And as God’s children, we pray to God our father for peace, for shalom, for fullness, for completion.

 “O God,

Who would fold heaven and earth in a single and universal peace:

Let the design of your great love

Lighten upon the waste of our wraths and sorrows,

And give peace among nations

Peace in your church

Peace in our homes

And peace in our hearts,

Through the Prince of Peace we pray,

Your son,

Our Savior,

Jesus Christ.

Amen.

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