Rev. Joel L. Tolbert
Happy are the Peace-makers
A sermon series for Lent on the paradoxical blessings of the beatitudes as we walk with Jesus toward the cross.
Week 4 of 5, preached March 27, 2022 at the 930am worship
It’s the fourth Sunday of Lent. We are walking with Jesus toward Jerusalem and getting closer. This Lent, we are talking about HAPPY, not the false promises and shortcuts and quick fixes the world promises will make us happy, but Jesus’ wisdom and teaching about the ingredients of true happiness. We are using Jesus’ Beatitudes, and stories from Luke as Jesus walked toward Jerusalem.
We’ve heard happy are the poor in spirit, happy are those who mourn, happy are the meek, happy are those who hunger and thirst for justice, happy are the merciful, and happy are the pure in heart. Today, two more...
9 “Happy are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 “Happy are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Scripture Luke 10:1-11
After this, the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into God’s harvest. 3 Go on your way. Look, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’
Sermon Happy are the Peacemakers?
Take 90 seconds, turn to someone you didn’t come to church with today, and wonder together, what does Peace mean to you? What does Peace mean, to you? Ready? Go!...
Okay, what are some of the definitions of Peace yall came up with?
Great, thanks everyone again for playing along.
The Greek word behind Jesus’ words and today’s scripture about Peace is Εἰρήνη and by one Greek dictionary it has at least four different forms. Peace can mean:
1) national tranquility, exemption from the rage and havoc of war between nations, something the people of Ukraine are desperate for even now.
2) communal security, because peace and harmony make and keep things safe and prosperous for everyone in and around a community
3) peace between individuals, healthy, honest relationships, and reconciliation when there are cracks in those relationships.
4) peace inside an individual, the Messiah's peace, Jesus’ calm, confident, compassionate, convicted way of being and acting consistently in this world, no matter the cost or resistance.
Notice the wide variety of meanings in this one little word, peace. Before we can talk about trying to make peace, let’s spend some time seeing these pieces of peace.
First, Peace as internal to an individual… No matter what storm or chaos is going on around us, we can seek to be at peace within myself. We can trust and remember I am child of God and I am not alone. We can seek to have integrity and wholeness, consistency between my thoughts, emotions, words and actions, because peace inside oneself means never being at odds within oneself. When Christ spoke of his peace, this is what he was saying. Christ’s peace is a consistency, and a calm resolve to be himself in thought, feeling, word, and action. When the Christian church teaches attendees about peace, we often focus on this aspect of peace, the internal personal style of peace.
Making this peace for people is one of the reasons church exists. It’s one of the main reasons people still bother to give church a try. A person has a life issue, and they are not at peace. They come to church hoping to have some of the peace Christ and the church promise. Unfortunately, quite often, we people look for peace by first solving the external problems. We assume if we fix the issues around us, then we will have peace. So people come to church, or a pastor, and describe the problems in their life... with a spouse, with a career, with their body. They come with questions of the mind or worries of the heart, and they ask, and sometimes expect, pastors and churches to solve those problems so the person can have peace.
That is a hard moment for me as a pastor. I see the person’s desperate desire for peace. I can help them find some sense of peace thanks to God in Christ by Spirit and scripture. But I cannot do so by solving their problems for them. I cannot fix their marriage for them or heal their body. I cannot pay their bills or change the habits of their young-adult child. I cannot bring the person they grieve back from the dead. I cannot turn back the hands of time to when things seemed to be better in our country. So I brace to see if the person before me will learn the lesson of internal peace despite the external chaos, or if they will hold on to the expectations of solutions and fixes in order to find internal peace.
Much like Jesus teaches the 70 here, as your pastor, that’s what I try to do for you and anyone I meet. I try to store up enough peace inside myself, consistency, compassion, courage to face the problems of the world, to try to build a little bit of Kingdom, and to have some sense of peace inside myself when it fails. Jesus told them Go, give your peace to them.
Next, peace is also relational. It’s one thing to have peace inside oneself even when others around us are not practicing peace. After all, we cannot control their words and actions. We cannot make them believe or embody peace. So, Jesus implores us to practice the ability to fall back to his peace, a personal inner peace, when others reject it.
That personal internal peace, finding it, having it, keeping it, is essential but is not enough. In this scripture, Jesus sends out disciples in pairs to visit and prepare people in every town for peace, to recognize and live the kingdom of God today. Give them some of your peace, he says. Its not okay to find internal peace, and then hoarde it. In relationships, offer your peace to them, and if they reciprocate, great! You both have peace inside yourselves and with others. You are both happy! But, if they will not receive the peace you bring, let it return to you.
Peace is also communal. It’s great to be at peace inside myself, but when others beyond me, in my community, are not safe, my peace compels me to attempt to share my peace with them too. Its not enough to have peace inside myself, and inside my key relationships. If I see a neighbor, a stranger, an enemy even not yet at peace, that is not only their problem. Its also mine. Christ’s peace compels me to go and give my peace to them. If I am secure in my internal peace, I can offer it at no risk and try to give my peace to others. Its why the Presbyterian Church has long been about hospitals and schools more than evangelism. Its why this congregation is now a Matthew 25 congregation, with our eyes becoming clearer on the issues of systemic racism and poverty right here in our town and county. We have a sense of peace inside ourselves, and we go and try to share and grow a wider peace. We are seeing the broken peace of our neighbors and we are not afraid, in fact, we are courageous enough to go into those seemingly impossible situations and try to bring some semblance of peace into them.
Last, national peace. It feels like it’s the other side of the world. A man who has no sense of internal peace is trying to find some sense of peace by fixing an external problem, that the former empire is not as big and strong as it use to be. He is grabbing old lands back for his homeland, and he is willing to bomb civilians, children, in order to get it. Putin’s desire for power and a renewed Soviet empire is somehow connected to his desire for peace. He will never find the peace he is looking for that way. And while he looks for it, he is raining war down on others all around him.
How are we to make peace into that situation between Ukraine, Russia, and Eastern Europe from the Eastern Shore of Maryland? I don’t know. But I do see that our leaders are just as confused sometimes, and are making tough decisions with fingers crossed that slow down his ability to do harm, that shield those who are in harms way, that limit the likelihood of future acceleration of international war. I am grateful they are working so hard to stop war. I just hope they are working to make peace, without laying down their principles of truth, justice, and love in the process.
These four types of peace… it would be so nice if we could simply define peace as internal. If you came here and I taught you how to have internal peace, and you helped me find mine when I lose mine. Then we take that internal peace, and give it to our friends and family. Then we take that peace and give it to our town and community. Then we take that peace and give it to our country and to every country to the ends of the world.
But notice the sermon Jesus teaches the 70 to preach. There’s a difference between those who will and will not receive peace. To those that will receive peace, great. To those that will not receive the peace, no problem, we walk away and dust our sandals off. But to both groups they get the same message, the same sermon. The Kingdom of
I hope you have some sense of internal peace. If not, I will help you with your and you can help me with mine.
I hope if you have stuff going on in your life that is disturbing your peace, remember, your peace is yours. It’s a gift of God. Nobody can take it away. There is no risk in trying to share it because its yours, and nothing beyond you can change that peace that is yours.
And then, imagine, if everyone took their peace and gave it away to eveyone else until everyone had it, to the ends of the earth. If we all did that, the Kingdom of God wouldn’t just be at hand. It would be real, and right here, right now.
To God be all glory and honor now and forever.
Scripture Luke 14:25-33
25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26 “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace.
33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
What if this cross he talks about has something to do with our inner peace. Do we have enough of it to go and build something new, or is it fake? Will it crumble and fall? Let’s get our internal peace in order, and then go, give it away, and build a great house, and make peace.
Now, blessing, laughter, and loving be yours, and may the love of a great God who names you and holds you as the earth turns and the flowers grow be with you, this day, this night this moment and forever more. Amen.