Peace is with You, a sermon by Bill Yolton, retired minister

 I’m going to talk to you, as an old man whose future is in others, and as friends, indirectly about these children and their children as they grow into the perilous world that lies ahead.  But, mostly about

1. The Peaceable Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed,

2. The response of the believers, and

3. The future that will entail sacrifices we must expect in order to follow Jesus there as peacemakers, which is the believers’ calling. 

 

And I put it into the context of the life and teaching of Jesus about the kingdom of God or, in Matthew’s terms, the kingdom of heaven.

 

Jesus is not talking about some religious “pie in the sky”...some after life that we will get if we practice religion, and say the right words to get to heaven.

 

Jesus wasn’t talking religion.  He was against religion, the scribes and pharisees, the priests in the temple.

 

He was about this world and how it was and is supposed to be.  He invoked the patriarchs, Moses, the giver of the law, and the psalms and prophets, as his authors...his authority...for God’s plan for some big things that need to be fulfilled in this life.  In everyday life.

 

He begins his ministry in his home synagogue (Nazareth) by invoking Isaiah, the most and best read of the prophets, as the dead sea scrolls have evidenced, (the scrolls were just worn out from reading). Jesus came announcing the Kingdom of God is at hand and this is it:

 Isaiah 61, and Luke 4:18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me..he’s made me the Messiah to declare good news to the poor, deliverance to the captive, recovery of sight to the blind, and the year that everybody will have acceptance with the Lord.

Of course they threw him out.  You can’t be serious! (Isn’t he Joseph’s son?) We would say it today.  And do.

 

That’s SHALOM, he was talking about,

WHICH APPEARS OVER AND OVER AGAIN IN THE PROPHETS. For not having it and not doing it the leaders of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and of Judah were carried away into exile... for the Big Sin of not having justice for the people, and for their greed.   [There’s a picture of it, The Peaceable Kingdom, by Edward Hicks.  He painted over a hundred of them, (as if we didn’t get the point, the first time.)]      Jesus had the same trouble with his disciples who were slow to get the point.  And Jesus is having the same trouble with us.                        

 

Let’s translate that SHALOM into today’s needs:  God’s intention for this world is

 

1., salvation for the poor, the end to poverty and the forgiveness of debts,

2., the end of the criminal in-JUSTICE system–crime and punishment, the prison industry and to install “restorative justice” as is practiced in Norway where wrongdoers are retrained to return to society as participating members of the community–  there aren’t any ex-felons there who are penalized for life because of it.

 

3., healing for all with disabilities and sicknesses in a truly not-for-profit healing system. We have only a glimmer of how it would work, but it won’t be by Big Pharma that profits from often worthless drugs.   In the case of mental illness, it’s more likely to be a tender and caring therapy as is being practiced in Finland.  We know that early childhood trauma is a strong predictor of mental illness later in life.  And that War is a sure one.  Little children will be protected from violence, physical and, worse, the emotional violations. 

 

4., a time when we will all be right with God. We will be reconciled with God and with one another, to live in peace. To be peacemakers in a broken world. The arrangements that are designed to divide us will be done away and we will not observe caste, class, and race divisions Nations will not practice war anymore..living togetherin peace with justice, through love and in great joy.

 

this is doing PEACEMAKING...and letting God hold us in his/her hands

 

 

Through his life with others, dominance will end;  Jesus says he is not their lord and they his slaves/or “servants” as the King James version politely puts it, he is our friend.  John 15:15   you can look it up. 

 

HE/she will be among us as we try join to save the Cosmos. I came not to condemn the Cosmos, the world, the universe,  but that the whole world might be saved, John 3:17.  He’s got the whole world in his hands. 

 

So all through his life and ministry he is showing what this world should be like. it is being saved all the day long.. Saved, not as pie in the sky some day... it is Salving our life, healing it, putting ointment on it. He healed the sick, he ate with the outcasts and he treated women as equals.  He demonstrated what being a neighbor is, through a story about...  a despised Samaritan, or an ostracized Samaritan woman at the well.

 

I remind you that he was about daily life, not religion, Luke records him, the only time in all the gospels,  using the daily, ordinary greeting as his last words to us that echo his first ones. 

 

So now, lets look at that scripture, to affirm it. 

 

And as they spake these things, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them and said to them: “Peace be with you.”  Luke 24:36   That’s his last word to us. 

Following on to Luke 24: 44-49

 

 He is meeting us in daily life, whenever we encounter another,  We are to confer shalom.

The He spells out the future:

And he said unto them, These are the words, which I spake unto youwhile I was yet with you, that all must be fulfilled which are written of me in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms.  Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, and said unto them, Thus is it written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead the third day.  And that repentance, and remission of sins should be preached in his Name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  Now ye are witnesses of these things.

 

And behold, I do send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”             [text from the Geneva Bible, the first fulltranslation in the                                                           English language, completed in 1599]

 

The Word of the Lord,

Thanks Be to God.

 

They will have power to have endured the sufferings that ensue

 

II

 

They went on into their future, meeting together, reliving the last supper, believing that Jesus was at the table with them.  “and Lo, I am with you always”

 

 

They continued to practice the kingdom of God, the peaceable kingdom, in their lives and to work for it in the world. 

 

They had a word for it: Leiturgia

 

I have a charade for you to restore that word to how they understood it. 

---------------------ATHENA—NIKE

That was Pheidippides, running all the way back from the Persian defeat.  Athens has won the victory over Persia on the plains of Marathon.

The victory that was won at Marathon, was Leitourgia.  Liturgy.

Laos, laity plus “urgos”, in physics, an erg is a unit of energy.  And it is urgent.  It is work.   Work done for the whole people.

 

LITURGY IS THE WORK OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD ...

IT’S ON BEHALF OF HEALING the COMMONWEALTH

The whole city, the nations,  the whole world---. 

 

So, when we engage with each other here in our worship services, in the “divine liturgy” as the Eastern Orthodox call it—  it is practice to begin healing the world, putting it back in God’s hands. [Tikkun Olam.]

 

A visitor to a Friends meeting that observed silence until someone was moved to speak, whispered to the Quaker beside him, “When does the service begin?” and he replied, “When the meeting ends.” 

 

 

III

 

The early church devoted itself to this understanding that the taste of the kingdom of God, was to be extended into the world.

 

The congregations of the believers exemplified a high standard.  No one who made idols, goldsmiths, etc.  could be members, and no one who served violence could be accepted, and so, for over two hundred years, soldiers could not be Christians. 

 

Christians suffered greatly, thousands were martyred for their belief.  But their numbers grew immensely and even penetrated the Roman Legions.

 

Over time, they were bought out by the culture, and under Constantine they became the religion of the empire. 

He marched his army through the river, four by four, and they all came up baptized.  They betrayed the vision of the kingdom of God.  They joined the “empire.”

 

Jesus had warned them while they were seated around the bowl of supper, each dipping his piece of flat bread into it, that someone who was dipping in the dish would betray them.

 

And we have done it ever since.  Even Before Constantine, We have sold out to the emperors, the kings, the corporations, and the general culture. [and to religion]

 

 

We have churches, and churches, and churches.  Religion, serving what the people want.  The emperor gave it to them and now we have Bread and circuses on TV.  the slaughter of the innocents, on every newscast. 

 

Jesus warned them of the things to come.  Right there in Luke just before going up to Jerusalem.  

 

It’s called the little apocalypse:

“Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations; confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.  People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world.”

 

In one sense will there be a future for us like that; of course there will be one... but that future will not be as we have known it as if an extension of what has been.  Our children and their grandchildren will live in it.  A perilous time.

 

 

I say these things out of concern for the children.  Assuming that the scientists are right. I believe they are. The future ahead oif us if perilous.  And I say that from this Presbyterian denomination which is an exception, to the others... the other Presbyterian denominations, who like many other churches to one degree or another don’t believe in science when it matters. The world was not created in 4000 BC and evolution is true.  And Global Warming since the Pleistocene is happening more rapidly because of human actions. We have entered the Androcene era.

 

Our “kids” and theirs will have to live in a world where they will be facing rising seas throughout the world.  And rising temperatures.  The effect on the capital assets in the world will be such that the Great Depression is but a blip. Total financial collapse. The people on TV ads who warn you about the loss of the value of the dollar just don’t know that half of it.  Imagine Wall Street under water.  Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens flooded. Miami, Tampa, Sarasota, and Bradenton gone, too. Boston, Washington, New Orleans.  95% of the population of Australia lives in 5 coastal cities that will be flooded out.

 

Already, the largest naval base in the world, Hampton Roads, is flooding.  The home-porting of10 aircraft carriers means nothing if their ports are flooded out. 

 

The increase in wildfires will be matched by a shortage of water. Food doesn’t grow when it gets too hot.   In the next thirty years parts of the world will be uninhabitable because there is no potable water, or even any water.  The aquifers are now drastically depleted, and the danger of saltwater infusion threatens Florida’s water supply. 

Brazil, which should have plenty of water, is already endangered

because of the cutting down of the rain forest.  There will be massive movements of population looking for habitable land.  I could go on.

 

 

And what are we doing to prepare for this?  Spending it on consumer goods and on the “military industrial complex”

Thetrillion dollars that we have scheduled to spend on modernizing nuclear weapons will accomplish nothing in this coming world. Just getting rid of nuclear waste has turned out to be an insoluble problem. Yukka Mountain, the proposed depository in Nevada, leaks and is next to a fault line. [My college roommates who became famous geologists, each made extensive government reports about this.] What happens when the temporarily stored nuclear waste is washed away? [holding ponds on the Savanna River and the Columbia River will be inundated, and like Fukayama, it will be nuclear wasteland!]  

Another trillion is projected for other military systems.  Our trust in chariots will have availed us nothing.  The F-22 was a failure, and the experts are saying that about the F-35, the world’s most expensive weapons system.  (The Defense Monitor, April-June, October-December 2015)

 

Our children, and theirs will be living in the rest of this century, where these disasters among others are very likely to coming. 

 

They will be faced with keeping the faith and working for shalom against all these odds.  It will have to flow through their lives like a river. It will require great sacrifices to “make and keep life human.”  We will have to prepare our children by forming a supportive community, to continue what we are already doing at Peace. 

 

The denial of this reality will be always among us as there are people who have staked their careers on science denial and ignorance. some of them chair committees in Congress

 

There are whole sets of churches that think the world was created in 4000 BC and that evolution is of the devil. 

 

I’ve been thinking about this global crisis for years, since I read Darwin as a child of 12, was president of the high school geology club, and a member of the geology club at Harvard– the only philosophy major among them. That was almost 70 years ago. 

 

Forty years ago, when I was working for the church in Australia, I wrote a poem about our denial of the sacrifices we will have to make in the years ahead. We are not prepared for it. 

We were flying over the nullarbor in Australia...then it was over 400 miles without a paved road...water, or a tree. A sign and symbol of what is to come.

 

ME, sacrifice! think Twice

O God!

For to trammel our consciences with such consequnces,

would be to falter in that modern quest

for the wholly contemporary Grail,

the cup of blessing of the blessed

for those who have at last achieved

success.

 

No!  Think twice.  The price

should be rather less,

just enough to buy a plot of ground to place a monument to our sound and practical religiosity

 

Say, “thirty-pieces of silver”

 

We, through our children and our children’s children will have to have decided whether to sell out with Judas, or be peacemakers with our friend Jesus. 

Again: the risen Jesus greets us on the road, continually:  Peace is with us .... it’s up to us to get with it and be peacemakers...remembering, “and lo, I will be with you always, until the end of the cosmos.  

 

In the name of the Father and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit...all power be to the congregations of the faithful who are friends with the peacemaker, Jesus.