A Perfect Peace
By Rev. Heidi L. Barham | December 10, 2017
Read John 14:25 - 27
Let’s be honest, some lessons in life need to be repeated – often. Simply because we did not learn the lesson properly the first, second or even third time. That is why Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come to teach and remind us of all that Jesus said. As we look around the world today and the state of crisis that we are living in, it would seem that a refresher course on how to live at peace with one another is definitely in order.
From the threat of nuclear missiles being launched from North Korea that have the potential to start World War III to UN Peacekeepers being killed in the Congo -- to shootings at a high school in New Mexico -- to car jackings and random shootings taking place on the streets of Cleveland -- there is clearly a need for a study review session on what it takes to obtain A PERFECT PEACE.
In our Old Testament reading this morning, the Prophet Isaiah wrote, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Or as the Message Paraphrase reads, “People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole, steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit.”
In other words, obtaining that sense of A PERFECT PEACE is not a one-and-done deal. It is something that we must continually focus on, continually strive for, and continually seek and trust God to provide.
And as we look at everything that is going on, the world as we know it is in a state of turmoil. Listen to these words from the verses immediately preceding our New Testament lesson as they are found in the Message:
“Because a loveless world,” said Jesus, “is a sightless world. If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him—we’ll move right into the neighborhood! Not loving me means not keeping my words. The message you are hearing isn’t mine. It’s the message of the Father who sent me.” (John 14:23-24)
It certainly feels like we are living in a loveless and a sightless world. Would you agree?
A world that has lost sight of the One who comes to bring peace -- the One who speaks peace to the storms in life -- the One who offers us His PERFECT PEACE.
But I will be the first to admit that it is awfully hard to even imagine what peace might look like in this day and age. In fact, let me share with you a story that I came across from a book entitled, “A Wardrobe from the King” which is a Bible study book on the armor of God:
Long ago a man sought the perfect picture of peace. Not finding one that satisfied, he announced a contest to produce this masterpiece. The challenge stirred the imagination of artists everywhere, and paintings arrived from far and wide. Finally, the great day of revelation arrived. The judges uncovered one peaceful scene after another, while the viewers clapped and cheered.
The tensions grew. Only two pictures remained veiled. As a judge pulled the cover from one, a hush fell over the crowd. A mirror-smooth lake reflected lacy, green birches under the soft blush of the evening sky. Along the grassy shore, a flock of sheep grazed undisturbed. Surely this was the winner.
The man with the vision uncovered the second painting himself, and the crowd gasped in surprise. Could this be peace?
A tumultuous waterfall cascaded down a rocky precipice; the crowd could almost feel its cold, penetrating spray. Stormy-gray clouds threatened to explode with lightning, wind and rain. In the midst of the thundering noises and bitter chill, a spindly tree clung to the rocks at the edge of the falls. One of its branches reached out in front of the torrential waters as if foolishly seeking to experience its full power.
A little bird had built a nest in the elbow of that branch. Content and undisturbed in her stormy surroundings, she rested on her eggs. With her eyes closed and her wings ready to cover her little ones, she manifested peace that transcends all earthly turmoil.
Talk about a picture PERFECT PEACE.
And that is the type of peace that we read about in Philippians 4 where the Apostle Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
But how can we possibly not be anxious about anything? By trusting in that PERFECT PEACE that can only come from God; trusting that the same way in which God has blessed us with His provision and protection in the past is the same way that He will bless us in the middle of whatever we may be encountering in this present moment.
That is why the Holy Spirit reminds us of, that what God has done before, He can surely do again.
Now, I am sure you have heard me say on more than one occasion, when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, it is not a free pass to a perfect life. It does not mean that we will never encounter hardships and challenges again.
In fact, just the opposite is true. As Jesus said in John 16:33 (MSG), “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”
The PERFECT PEACE that Jesus gives to us is not the absence of trouble, but it is the calm assurance that He will be with us always. It is the confidence that He will never leave us nor forsake us. It is the certainty that when times get rough, the Lord will be right there with us in the boat speaking peace to the winds and the waves that threaten to overtake us.
And let me suggest, that it is this PERFECT PEACE that we need like never before.
The newspaper and Internet headlines suggest that the world is quickly moving away from any semblance of peace. My heart was saddened as I looked at all of the stories in the news about the increase in protests, unrest and violence that has erupted in the Middle East as a result of certain decisions that were announced by the United States government this week.
Putting politics aside, the reality is that we live in a global society and we must understand that what effects one of us has the potential to effect all of us. We cannot afford to live as if we are in a glass bubble, shut off from the rest of the world.
We are truly global citizens, called to live, love and work alongside one another and to respect the value, worth and dignity of all people.
We get a glimpse of this call to live in unity and respecdt in Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 12:12 – 14), “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.”
It is shortly after we read about this image of how we are all a part of the body of Christ that we then find Paul’s discourse on love (1 Corinthians 13:4 – 8):
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Love is what will ultimately lead us to the peace that this world so desperately needs. But it can be hard to love when people are being anything but loveable, and yet God calls us to love anyhow. After all, when God gave His Son for us, it was precisely because we were unlovable and in need of a Savior. And God loved us anyhow.
It reminds me of something that has been credited to Mother Teresa, now Saint Teresa, and was believed to have been written on the wall of her room in her children’s home in Calcutta. Some sources say it was based on a composition originally written by a man named Dr. Kent Keith.
But this is what it says:
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
Oh, if only we could all learn to live that way, what a wonderful world this would be.
And although we live in a broken and fragmented world right now, we do have the hope and assurance that a better day is coming. During this season of Advent, we are reminded of the hope that we have in Jesus, our Savior, who has promised to come again.
In fact, if we were to back up several verses before our text for the morning, we would read, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
And because we have that assurance from Jesus that He will return for us one day, we do not have to live in fear and trepidation. even in the face of adversity and uncertainty in the world. Instead, we can live with hearts filled with not only hope but also peace, joy and love -- and not just during the Advent season but each and every day.
And on this second Sunday in Advent, let us continue to focus our hearts and minds on that PERFECT PEACE that can only be found in Jesus; and as we do so, let us pray for this world that we live in that others may come to know the PERFECT PEACE of Christ as well.
And with that prayer in mind. Let us stand now and sing our Hymn of Discipleship [O for a World #683].