Monday, December 11, 2017

Sermon: Where Do You Find Peace?

         Here we are in Advent—the season of emergence, arrival, revelation.
         A time like the shout of a messenger arriving at an execution at the last moment carrying papers signed by a judge and shouting “innocent, innocent!”
         But this season is also like driving your car to a new place for the first time.
         The drive back always feels quicker—because you are no longer looking so carefully, you don’t pay as close attention.
         In fact, by the 100th drive there, it feels like the car drives itself.
         So too Advent—we’ve driven this road a long time—Christians have observed and practiced Advent in some form for at least 1,650 years--and by now we often see our destination as Christmas, so we don’t notice the budding blessings of Advent
--we don’t rest in the strengthening power of Peace,
--We don’t lean into the bracing and crisp wind of Hope,
--we aren’t buoyed up by the enduring buoyancy of Joy,
--we don’t revel in the moving and empowering radiance of Love
We skip over the precious gifts of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.
We don’t let Advent interrogate our lives to help us find its treasures.
But this morning at least, let’s ask, “Where can you find peace?”

Where can you find peace?
         Isaiah reminds us that one of the places to find peace is in The astonishing
The unexpected
The startling.
Find peace in 39 chapters of condemnation / cut clean through by the prophet’s clarion call:
“Comfort O Comfort.”
In scripture answering scripture—this response to the Book of Lamentation’s description of the city Jerusalem, “How lonely sits the city, for there was no one to comfort her… no one to comfort Jerusalem.”
To this Isaiah answers, “Comfort, O comfort”
Peace cast over the walls of Babylon, catching the ears of God’s people kidnapped for 40 years, echoing, “Comfort, O Comfort my people.”
For a generation God’s people punished—cast out and exiled…
they were judged for not loving their neighbors but instead
-living off of them,
-selling the poor for a pair of sandals,
-following false prophets and false gods…
Prophets who shouted PEACE PEACE where there was no peace, and leaders who put trust in earthly things, when their help was to come from above.
For a generation—and now a commuted sentence,
an acknowledgement that this estrangement from their God has gone on too long, punishment replaced by peace condemnation with comfort.
“Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.”

Where can you find peace?
         There is wandering wasteland and an impossible desert journey between Babylon and home—it shall be bridged with an expansive road, safe and easy to follow.
         Valleys are places of ambush and hills can be an obstacle too far
—all that leveled out, smoothed so that you may make the journey, that we can meet
—God and the people.
         God and ALL the people—God’s glory revealed!

Where can you find peace?
         There can be a strangeness to peace—when we recognize our faults it is worth stepping back in order to take stock.
When we recognize the faults of our society, it is worth stepping back, assess where we are and where we ought to be
—It is better to get lost in the desert, than to be lost in the safety of the city, and not even notice.
John out there with the sinners who know they are lost—in need of repentance, that is much safer than those hypocrites who confess that they are all right
—that there is nothing to see here, John.
They won’t meet him when he comes—when the one for whom we wait arrives, when the Prince of Peace arrives, they’ll not be in the desert with him.

Where can you find peace?
         “Cry out to my people.”
         “What should I say? We’re dyin’ out here, man.  Didn’t you see it, a whole generation wiped out—what words could I say to them to give them peace?
         I mean, just look at them
—look at them, God! What can you do with a people like this? They’re like grass, if the Word of God showed up, they’d blow away.”
         “Yes, grass withers, flowers fade—but it isn’t about them, it isn’t about you—it is about the Word of God, within there is a peace that surpasses all understanding—my word will stand forever.”

Where can you find peace?
          Jerusalem—City of Peace, pulled apart by every nation and religion and faction
Jerusalem, where the Christian keepers of Christ’s tomb fight with each other so often that the only person trusted with the key to the front door is a Muslim.
Jerusalem where any ill spoken word can cause carnage,
a thoughtless act echoes on and multiplies.
         Jerusalem you lonely city
—in some strange reality beyond my petty imagination—you lift up your voice and fill the world with good news
—in some Godly reality which I can not see—there is no fear.
         God, a mighty warrior comes—warriors and war always seems to come to you, don’t they dear Jerusalem.
         The great soldier steps in to slay enemies—or so we hope, each faction confident they are in the right and that God are ours, and ours alone
—God you step in, fearsome to behold—and feed Your flock…
God gathers the lambs, carries them, leads us on as a mother sheep.

Where can you find peace?
         This week, embrace the unexpected, God might be doing something liberating with it.
         Ask yourself what obstacles are being removed from your path?
         Where are you in the wrong, and in need to make amends, or at least need to step back?
         Look to scripture to that solid foundation in which much peace is found.
         Pray for peace in Jerusalem, that God’s will
—scooping his lambs up and carrying them in his bosom
—might come closer to reality.