26 June 2011
St. John's, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Who is most important to you? Is your relationship with your spouse the highest priority? Is your time with your children most important? Or is the approval and respect of your parents your highest goal? That is at it should be, as long as your faithfulness to God is greater.
But Jesus speaks today about your relationship with Him. You see, there is great irony that the Prince of Peace can be quite divisive. There is a great lack of peace, due to the fact that many are against Him.
Our Lord speaks quite clearly about this. He lays it on the line. People will turn against you because of Jesus Christ -- and not just a few, and not just sort of. Many will be against you, thinking you are naive, childish, or mindless for following Jesus. And Christ is reminding you, if your loyalties lie with others, you are not worthy of Him.
So where do you stand? Do you remain steadfast in His Word? Are you planted firmly in His mighty fortress? Or do you shy away from admitting your faith and confessing Christ? Is peace more important to you than faithfulness?
Ah! There is a frequent problem. You enjoy peace. So much so, that you don't want to rock the boat, and you are ready and willing to remain quiet if it means everything will continue to be calm and friendly. Peace is fine when it is authentic, but when it comes from deception and from avoiding or denying the Lord, it is sinful.
So you fall into sin, whether your own, or supporting the sin of others by your words and deeds--or lack thereof, as you try to keep that false peace. Are you, or someone you know, falling into sexual promiscuity? Do you just give in and say, "My teen is going to do it anyway, so I should "get her protection?" Do you shy away from truly parenting your children, and give them adult freedoms at a far-too-early age? Do you just keep quiet and mind your own business when the satanic lie of "a woman's right to chose" comes up? Really? Another human being's life is in danger, a murder being planned, and you think, "It's not my place. I'll just keep the peace.
In the original television series Battlestar Galactica, the pilot episode showed a grand and glorious festival starting, celebrating peace after centuries of war with their enemies, the Cylons. People were tired and worn out from the conflict, and too quickly and gullibly bought the lies of their enemies who promised peace. While a few, such as Commander Adama, were skeptical, and did not trust the disingenuous proposal, the majority were led like lambs to the slaughter because they desired peace at any price, even if it was a false peace.
You are often willing to settle for false peace, too. And not only settle, but promote! Well, stop! Do not worship a false peace. Stop fearing the division that comes when you follow Christ. And so there you are, condemned by the law, in that you have held these priorities above the Lord.
Yet, there is amazing news! "You have died to the law through the body of Christ." You are baptized into Christ. And He has died, paying for all sin. Since you are in Him, you have died to sin as well. The price is paid. And you are freed from sin.
Yes, Jesus has given Himself and paid the price of all your sin, so you are no longer under the burden of punishment for that law. And having borne that burden, He has brought you true and lasting peace. Peace that does not come from people avoiding conflict or disagreement over God's Word. Peace that is not artificial. But peace that proceeds from the Lord God Himself, delivered in the Spirit, through Christ Jesus and His holy gifts.
Yet He who brings division, which divides those who have faith in Christ, and those who reject Him, brings true peace through that faith. The "Wonderful Counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" comes to you, restoring you and making you right with God. He does not bring peace for those who reject Him, or sweep Him under the carpet. There is no peace for those who deny Him to make life easier among your friends, family, or co-workers. But true and lasting peace for His baptized who confess their Lord and Christ.
You have been washed into peace with God through Holy Baptism! Reborn, restored, rescued, and renewed, He has claimed you and embraced you as His own. Jesus' suffering and death on the cross was a violent event; however that tragedy brought the everlasting peace that He gives! You are at peace with Him!
So rejoice, dear friends in Christ! You are at peace with God. A beautiful gift of undeserved peace is given you through Jesus' Word and Sacraments, and He keeps on giving it. As He gathers you to receive those gifts, His peace fills you, and your words and actions reflect that peace to those around you. Not because it is demanded of you, but because He has brought His peace to your life.
Depart in peace. Amen.