Jeremiah 28:5-9 Psalm 89:1-5, 15-18 Romans 6:12-23 Matthew 10:40-42
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
What strange creatures we are ! We all profess to want peace but it’s the last thing we do (Romans 7:18-20) ! Since time began we have been at loggerheads with each other, either as individuals, or as families, tribes, nations, races, peoples, most often for three reasons, greed, pride and hope. In all cases we want something and often feel that we can obtain it by taking an aggressive stance, hence the conflicts in the world today.
In our first reading Jeremiah is in an argument with Hananiah, another prophet, who has made a career of telling people, especially the king, what they want to hear – today we would call him a spin doctor or worse a charlatan. Hananiah has prophesied peace with Babylon. Jeremiah knows better because he is a true prophet, so he predicts war with Babylon – he was right. He tells Hananiah that his prophecy is not from God, it goes against what God has been saying for generations – so forget the talk of peace. Unfortunately that message applies to us today. At what level do we actually have peace ? Where is there peace ? Even in our most intimate relationships there is tension. We are like that !
Elsewhere Jesus says that He came to bring division (Luke 12:51 ff). If you want to have a good time with family or friends or even strangers it is often said that you don’t discuss religion or politics. As just about everything touches one or both of them it really means that all we are left with to talk about is family, and that can be a minefield too, or business about which we grumble, or sports, which might be okay, although thin-beer, unless your team is in a playoff run and then team loyalty can get in the way of friendliness and cause a ruckus. So should we remain dumb ? No way !
Why stay away from religion and politics ? Well one’s politics largely deal with our social condition and social conditions are so varied that there is no reason to hope for lasting agreement on anything, the potential for upsetting someone is high. A few diehards will maintain the same political allegiance but many people will vote for different political parties throughout their lives, in the different arenas of federal, provincial and municipal politics, often covering the full gamut of policy. So there’s not much chance for lasting agreement there either !
But why stay away from religion ? Surely as religion deals with things eternal as well as temporal we should be keenly interested in enlightening ourselves about it. Again there is potential for upset because there are many religions and many variations on them, such divisions have led to war and I’m pretty confident that no two Anglicans are alike either, with shades of belief that have and still lead to division among us, which is not the division that Jesus was talking about. We are to be one with Him in the Church, united in shared faith (Romans 12:5).
I grant that we should be divided from other religions, yes, but not amongst ourselves. Surely we can tolerate, allow and welcome the difference between high and low Church, a fundamentalist and a liberal Church, a catholic and a protestant Church, without giving way to beliefs that are not based on Scripture, and Tradition and Reason, as in ‘Truth’ ?
Elsewhere again Jesus says “Peace be with you” (Luke 24:36). Is Jesus in a bit of a contradiction here ? Before he said He would bring division. Well, no ! The peace He is talking about is inner peace that which comes from the certainty of Faith. There is a peace of mind which we all crave. It usually comes from having done the ‘right thing’. How do we get there and do the ‘right thing’ ? Simple, follow the commandments – love God, love your neighbour. I guarantee you cannot go wrong, even if you are to become the object of division.
Whether we acknowledge it freely or not we all live for Salvation, that is us and all people who sit in other religious assemblies, and even those who do not. We all worry about our future, temporal and spiritual, and why not, most of us like who we are, most of us know our failings too and those are the things to be overcome for true peace.
Jesus says it’s pretty easy. Welcome others, do good for others, do good to others, and you will find God there. It means letting go of control, don’t tell people what they should do, trust that God will guide their response to your kind deed. It means letting go of power, be patient with those you help, trust that God will bring them around in good time, don’t force the issue. It means letting go of coercion, don’t require the response you want, love is not conditional, God will arrange the right response from those you help. It means letting go of wanting things to happen lickety-split, God has all the time in the world, one day is like a thousand years in His presence (2 Peter 3:8) Don’t be in such a rush for people to rush in the door on a Sunday morning, they will come. We are a results oriented society but we don’t see all the picture at once. A lot goes on that we don’t know about. It means letting go of the idea that your good works will lead to a person’s conversion, conversion is in the hands of the Holy Spirit. Leave it with Him. It is not for us to know the time of anything (Matthew 13:33) only to live fully within the time we have.
Jesus says that when we do good for others we do them to Him and our reward will be great.
I’m sure you have had this kind of experience. I have found time and again that when I have been generous to a person, someone, not necessarily that person, does a kindness to me. If I have given or done something, I receive. I hope it doesn’t finish there and that somewhere along the line my belief that God will take care of me builds up a treasure in heaven. As Jesus says today if we welcome or give we are allowing God to come into our lives, that’s called Grace, and what greater reward can there be ? With the Grace of God in our lives we can truly have peace. Our mission in life then is to open the doors in the lives of others, so that the Grace of God can enter and that this troubled world can be free from division and enjoy peace at last. Let’s go do it ! Amen.