Messiah Lutheran Church :: The Peace We All Need

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Dear friends of Christ and friends in Christ,

            A group of artists were challenged to do a painting that would best depict peace.  The different directions the artists took that theme was absolutely fascinating. One artist painted a simple picture of a peace sign.  You know the symbol – a circle with a line cutting up and down through the diameter; added to that two diagonal lines from center of the circle to the edge of the circle hitting the outside circle about five o’clock and seven o’clock.  It was designed after the semaphore system or flag system that allows ships to communicate.  With the line going up and down in the middle a flagman would be signaling the letter ‘D.’  The two flagman holding flags diagonally to five and seven o’clock is the letter ‘N.’  ‘N’ and ‘D” stood for nuclear disarmament -   peace!   

Another painted a picture of a baby feeding on a bottle. Life for a baby is all about getting what is in the bottle into through the nipple into the mouth down to the stomach. All this is done in time to take a nap with an occasional change of the swaddlings. How peaceful!  

Another painted a beautiful picture of a mountain landscape.  There was high mountain lake.  The water was rippleless, with a perfect mirror-like reflection a snow covered peak in the background on the opposite side.

Then there was the last artist.  He painted a roaring waterfall.  A mighty oak tree’s limb was sticking out over the turbulent waters below.  In the crotch of the tree, just out of reach of the misty spray, were a sparrow and her brood of babies ready to be fed with the worm that the mother bird had hunted down to fill her hungry offspring. Which artist best portrayed peace?  Which one would you choose? 

Today let’s look at this Scripture from the first book of the Bible and by looking at the life of Abraham we might find the answer which many of us would find correct.  With Abraham’s example we are taught “The Peace We Really Need.”  Let’s look at 1) The hindrance to peace; 2) Where the peace is found.    

Just to clarify, Abraham’s given name was Abram.  He lived with that for ninety nine years. It means “exalted father.” It stayed “Abram” until God changed his name to Abraham, “the father of many.”  I am calling him Abraham.  I am programmed to call him Abraham.       

            Abraham had a very busy and interesting life, but his life was unsettled too.  God had him on the move. He was called to leave his birthplace, the city ofUr, along with his wife Sarah, his nephewLotand father Terah. They traveled 1000 miles northwest toHaran.  What a journey that must have been!   Remember this is 2100 years BC.  Delta had a few years before it would be up and running; Henry Ford wasn’t on anyone’s radar.

            After a grueling journey and some time spent in Haran, Terah died.  The Lord’s purpose for Abraham continued to unfold.  Abraham learned that his journey was only half complete. It was time for part two.  At age seventy five, he was called to go a land God would show him. God promised that he would be the “father of a great nation and in his offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed.”  Through Abraham’s family, the Jewish nation, a Savior of the nations would come to bless all.  

            But even when he arrived in the land God showed him, his life was still going at a torrid pace. There was no four bedroom, three bathWilliamsburghome with bonus room over the garage and finished basement.  He was a shepherd. He camped from place to place.  None of his tents was a nursery for that son God promised.   

            In the meantime there was a lot of other turmoil. A famine swept through the land.  There was an emergency trip to Egyptto flee from it. If God had not intervened in Egypt, Abraham would have allowed Sarah to be taken into Pharaoh’s harem, something he was not proud of doing. They returned to the Promised Land.  He and his nephew Lotsplit up.  Lotmade some goofy and careless decisions. Uncle Abraham had to save Lot’s neck. By this time Abraham was ninety years old.  Nola Ochs was 95 when she became the world’s oldest college graduate.  Herb Tanner was 93 when he did his first parachute jump.  Then there is Abraham.  At age 90 he was going to be the father of a great nation and all of that still lay ahead.  

“After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward.” With his life in upheaval, with the promise of a child still what seemed an impossible dream, the Lord reminds Abraham of what he has done for Abraham.  Yes, you traveled a lot of miles the hard way, with your feet – yes, you traveled through dangerous territory - yes, you went to war and really stuck your neck out, but you didn’t do it alone.  “I am your shield, your very great reward.” The Lord guarded him, prospered him, forgave him and promised there was more to come.

            There is a lesson in there, isn’t there?  People often give the advice to keep looking forward and not look back. Sometimes that might be true, but there is a time when looking back helps us look forward. 

Remember the Children of Israel repeated again and again that God had taken them into the wilderness from slavery in Egyptonly to let them die. Obviously their lives for forty years in the wilderness was tough and trying, but remember what God did.  He sent ten plagues on Egyptand then opened the sea for their spectacular escape.  Hey Israeldid God take you to the desert only to have you wiped out?  Do you really believe that? The psalmist says, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” Past blessings are a statement about his help in the future.

            The first part of this sermon was to explore some of the hindrances of having peace.  On hindrance to having peace is to ignore what has happened in the past and to appreciate where God has taken you.  

            Remember Mr. and Ms. Believer the words of the psalmist too, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” How many meals have you missed?  Get beyond that. Remember the covenant that God made with you at your baptism.  He gave you the robes of Christ righteousness; he connected you with Jesus; He washed away your sin; he gave you the Holy Spirit; he made you a member of the body of Christ.  Don’t forget the blessings of Good Friday when Jesus was put to death for your sins, but raised on Easter Sunday for your justification, to assure you that you are innocent. That’s the way to peace! Don’t forget what God has done.  Be a child of God’s history.

            Another hindrance to peace is when we think we can carry out his promises. But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”  Abraham didn’t waver regarding the heir he would have. God would give them, but they thought he would come another way.  Sarah and he just decided to help God out.  It made sense humanly speaking.  Abraham was ninety years old and Sarah was eighty.  That’s kind of old for picking up toys and changing diapers.  Grandparents and great grandparents do that, but they risk not getting up again. 

They did an adoption. His name was Eliezer of Damascus. He would be their heir.  They tried to help God out and probably hugged each other for a job well done.  After all it was the least they could do for God.

People are always trying to help God out when they don’t think that God is capable of doing what he says. I do believe each of us do it now and then. People who say they believe in the Lord often say God couldn’t have possibly created the world in six normal days.  So they kind of give God a wink as if they really “know” what God really mean by those days.  They become long periods of time instead of night and day, morning and evening.  Suddenly there is the slippery slope.  Days are no longer days; Adam and Eve are just representative of the human race; there must be an explanation to miracles. They really couldn’t have happened.  There goes the resurrection from the dead.  Pretty soon God is emptied of his power and his ability; the bible is emptied of truth.  Soon there is no peace.  

            Then there is the most troubling.  That’s when we think we need to do something to help God save us – when we turn God’s grace into something conditional upon something we must do. Since when did God ever need help for anything, much less to save humankind?  How would we know if we have ever done enough? 

Remember when you were in school?  You really messed up a test.  From then on you wondered if you could ever make up for that clinker of a grade.  Every day our lives are filled with clinkers.  We fail God’s test; we don’t get close to a perfect grade.  That goes on day after day after day.  How can we honestly think we are good enough to help out and offer God some good stuff to save?  There is no peace in believing like that.    

There is a better way to peace with God, in fact, the only way.  It is fool proof. It’s God’s way.  “Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Abraham got another talking to from God.  He even received a picture to help him understand.  God took him outside and told him to look up.  What do you see, Abraham? 

Stars, Lord!

How many, Abraham? 

You kidding me, Lord?  More than I can count. I don’t have enough fingers and toes, Lord! 

You are right, Abraham! More than you can count.  

Who are those offspring?  In another ten years the good Lord would finally give them a son, not the adopted kind, but their own flesh and blood son, Isaac.  From him and his descendants would come the Hebrew nation.  But there was that real special son who was on the radar but a distance away.  He was the Son born inBethlehemand crucified atCalvary.  He is the Son who arose on the third day.  He was the son of Abraham but also the Son of God.  He is the Son who brings us peace. 

He is the one who offered to the Heavenly Father for people like Abraham and you and me the perfection God demands.  There were no clinkers with Jesus.  He earned for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves.  He did perfectly what we could never do or add to.  He earned for us peace with the one who matters.  It’s yours. Believe it. He is the one who provides the peace we really need.

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