NOTES FOR A MORE COHERENT SERMON FOR PEACE

FIRST LESSON: 2 Maccabees 1: 1 – 6

The Jews in Jerusalem and those in the land
of Judea, to their Jewish kindred in Egypt,
greetings and true peace. May God do good
to you, and may he remember his covenant
with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, his
faithful servants. May he give you all a heart
to worship him and to do his will with a
strong heart and a willing spirit. May he open
your heart to his law and his commandments,
and may he bring peace. May he hear your
prayers and be reconciled to you, and may he
not forsake you in time of evil. We are now
praying for you here.

GRADUAL AND TRACT

O pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall
prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy
walls: and plenteousness within the palaces.
Alleluia, alleluia. Praise the Lord, O
Jerusalem: praise thy God, O Sion. Alleluia.

In Jewry is God know: his Name is great in
Israel. At Salem is his tabernacles: and his
dwelling in Sion. There brake he the arrows
of the bow, the shield, the sword, and the
battle.

GOSPEL: John 20: 19 – 23

When it was evening on that day, the first day
of the week, and the doors of the house
where the disciples had met were locked for
fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among
them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he
said this, he showed them his hands and his
side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they
saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace
be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I
send you.” When he had said this, he
breathed on them and said to them, “Receive
the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any,
they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins
of any, they are retained.”

SERMON PROPER BEGINS

On a beautiful summer day in a peaceful
city war seems far away. Unless we are
refugees from places of conflict, are a veteran
or currently serving military or have such
people among our friends and our families, it
is hard even for war to seem real. We have to
work hard to make war alive in Toronto as it
is something that happens elsewhere. And yet
we are at war. Canadian military units are
serving overseas in places of conflict;
individual Canadians are volunteering for
service in the military of countries such as the
U.S. and Israel; Canadians are going to other
lands to take part in religious wars. No
matter how nice it is in our community today,
no matter how comfortable we may feel in
our lives, there are wars being fought and
people are dying and our friends and
neighbours may be involved. Peace is in our
world, but it isn’t present everywhere.
War isn’t what Jesus came to live among
us for. War isn’t what Christians are called
to be—we are called to peacemakers, not
warriors. And, while throughout our history
Christians have taken part in wars, we have
never forgotten that Christ came to bring
peace. We hear it in the scriptures and we
read the pronouncements from church
leaders. We have fallen far from the central
teachings of our faith if we don’t embrace this
essential reality that peace is what we are
called to witness for.

 

There are times when I wonder how hard
it must be to be part of a peaceful witness.
All we have to do is not pick up a weapon or
strike out at someone. Just like the best way
to address hunger is to feed people and the
best way to address homelessness is to
provide someone a place to live, the best way
to build a peaceful world is to not add to the
violence in it.

 

Christians in the world need to become
more consistent in our witness for peace.
Our churches can’t send out the contradictory
messages of calling for an end to war and
providing chaplains to the military. God isn’t
on the side of those with the most battalions;
God is on the side of everyone. Our peace activists                                                  have to stop sending out contradictory messages.                                                     We can’t call for an end to war while doing apologetics for one
side or the other in a conflict. God isn’t on
the side of those most in harmony with our
ideas; God is on the side of everyone.

 
There are among us the unseen victims of
war—from soldiers with post-traumatic stress
syndrome to people who have seen their
entire family killed by a missile. There are
victims of war around the planet, from
Christians crucified by ISIS in their effort to
re-establish the caliphate to those killed when
their shelter was bombed to those whose
aircraft was shot down to the children who
are forever scarred by what they have
experienced while hiding in a bomb shelter.
And, as Dwight Eisenhower stated so clearly:
“Every gun that is made, every warship
launched, every rocket fired signifies in the
final sense, a theft from those who hunger
and are not fed, those who are cold and are
not clothed. This world in arms is not
spending money alone. It is spending the
sweat of its laborers, the genius of its
scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not
a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the
clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a
cross of iron.”

 
War is evil. We are called to do good and
to overcome evil. As people that pay for war,
as people who participate in many ways in
supporting movements and institutions that
could be working for peace, as people who are
called to be living examples of the shalom
kingdom, we need to do better. We may not
know how to achieve peace on earth but we
do need to start somewhere. We need to find
ways to avoid violence in our own lives, we
need to find ways to not be so complicit in
violence in our community and around the
world. From praying for peace to being a
voice against war to being a more gentle
presence in a harsh world, we can do things in
our lives that will change the world. Let us
do so; lives depend on it.

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