Perfecting Peace: Peace on Earth: United we Stand
Rev. Sandy Johnson
November 13, 2016
We began a four-part series on peace a few weeks ago. I wanted to share with you that this series was planned a year ago when I went away for five days to a Hualapai Mountain cabin to plan the years’ worth of sermons. I’d like to tell you that I was thinking ahead about the political season and that these sermons were designed to respond to the presidential election. I must tell you something shocking, I am not that brilliant, but God is. God knew a year ago what we needed to address this morning, what we needed to hear from Him about the subject of unity and peace. God has ordained our message this morning, as She does every week.
We have just come through the most unusual and contentious presidential elections of all time. I believe that everyone was surprised by the outcome – Trump and Clinton supporters alike. Probably the only ones not surprised that their candidate didn’t win were the independent voters. On Tuesday night, history was made. Some of us are devastated and others of us are elated. Whether our hopes or fears will be brought into fruition remains to be seen. I suspect the Trump presidency will be a mixed bag of results – some good, some not so good, as it has been for most all of our presidents.
The next four years will require our patience, our prayers and our persistence to hold fast to our beliefs about what is best for our nation. To be able to speak with those who hold differing beliefs and listen with grace, attempting to understand a view different from your own. We must avoid demonizing those we don’t understand and always hold fast to the teachings of Jesus. Notice that I didn’t say for us to hold fast to our Christian values. Because even on what might be a simple task of defining Christian values we disagree. As a local church, perhaps, as a United Methodist Church for sure, and as a part of our “Christian Nation,” we continue to be unable to all agree what it means to be Christian.
Fighting for “Christian Values” today means understanding what they are, what we believe United Methodists and what we are willing to do to effect real change in our culture. We have elected Mr. Trump who is the first person in our country’s history to be elected who has no military, diplomatic nor political experience. This does not mean that he can’t be effective in the job, but it does indicate that he will need our support and our prayers as he leads our country in a new and unprecedented way. During these next two months while he is discerning those who will lead with him, we must fervently pray for a balanced slate of leaders, wise souls who will help guide President Trump in the years to come.
What is our response to our new President? Whether you are ecstatic or grieved, Trump is our next president and it is up to us to get behind him in whatever way we can and work together, with God’s help, to bring healing and peace to our divided nation.
Clearly there is something very wrong in our country. The masses have spoken – they are fed up enough with typical political candidates, that the majority has chosen a radically different approach to leadership in our country. It is my prayer that we can come together and that President Trump will lead us all, uniting us as we go. We, sisters and brothers, are peacemakers, remember? That is who Christ has called us to be, so in the meantime, where there is fear and uncertainty we must remember that God is bigger than our political system, bigger than our fears and bigger than our joys. God is ready and waiting to use each of us to further God’s kingdom here on earth.
We talked last week about being peacemakers, our role in our communities and in our world. This morning we come together to claim “Peace on Earth,” a seemingly impossible goal. Let’s consider a definition of peace on earth. “World peace or peace on Earth is an ideal state of freedom, peace and happiness among and within all nations and peoples. This ideal of world non-violence, provides a basis for peoples and nations to willingly cooperate, either voluntarily or by virtue of a system of governances that prevents warfare. While different cultures, religions, philosophies, and organizations may have differing concepts about how such an ideal state might come about, they have in common this ideal of a cessation of all hostility amongst all humanity.” That is the consensus about peace on earth, the absence of war, hostility and violence. How is it achieved? How do we bring about peace on earth?
Wikipedia says, World Peace could be established any number of ways. “Through religious or secular organizations that address human rights; world peace could be established through technology, education, engineering, medicine, or diplomacy used as an end to all forms of fighting. For example, since 1945, the United Nations and the 5 permanent members of its Security Council (the US, Russia, China, France and the UK) have worked to resolve conflicts without war or declarations of war. However, nations have entered numerous military conflicts since that time.”
So if our goal is peace on earth and it is the absence of conflict among peoples and nations, where does this peace come from? Where is it first established? Considering the religious aspect, let’s go right to the bible, shall we? What does our bible tell us about “Peace on Earth,” where did it come from?
We first read peace on earth in Luke 2:8-14:
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
We heard God’s proclamation at Christs’ birth that peace on earth was coming to those God favors. Those of us who are followers of Christ must claim this peace; the angels proclaimed it, not only to the shepherds 2000 years ago, but we can receive this for ourselves today, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” Jesus was born into “abject poverty to homeless refugees on the outskirts of a brutal empire and in the midst, God sends his angels to proclaim “peace on earth!” Giving hope to those witnesses of His birth and all of us today, that God is the author of peace.
“That child grew up to become, in Gandhi’s words, “the greatest nonviolent resister in the history of the world.” Jesus taught peace, lived peace and blessed peacemakers. “My peace is my gift to you,” he said. When we refused to learn “the things that make for peace,” he broke down and wept. He took action to end systemic injustice, and he did it in a nonviolent way and, for his civil disobedience, he was brutally executed by the Roman Empire and died forgiving his killers. When Jesus rose from the dead, he came back not seeking vengeance or retaliation, but once again, offering his gift of peace. “Peace be with you,” he said over and over again. Now, practice nonviolence and go forth as a peacemaker into the world of war. That was his message. Two thousand years later, the world continues to reject “the things that make for peace.” It remains stuck in the old cycle of war, militarism, empire, poverty and injustice.
“This time, however, the empire’s weapons have the power to destroy the entire planet. The money spent funding our wars and weapons bankrupts us and leaves millions in hunger. On top of that, our greed and systemic violence destroys the environment. Catastrophic climate change is upon us, and looks to bring unprecedented new levels of violence and destruction in its wake. Once again, we categorically reject that Christmas gift of “peace on earth” and pursue the tired-old paradigm of “war on earth.”
Which brings us to Revelation 21, our scripture this morning. Some have suggested that true peace on earth is an unattainable goal, a mere impossible dream. Peace on earth will happen only at the point when the new heaven and new earth are ushered into being. Jerusalem, the holy city, scripture says, will come down from heaven as proclaimed in verse 2. God speaks then, assuring us that he will dwell among us, he will wipe away our tears, there will be no more sadness; death will cease, as will mourning, crying and pain. God himself assures us that he will satisfy all of our needs, he “will give us water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.”
Whether peace is attained through herculean efforts of each of us here this morning, or finally when Christ returns, we can all agree that peace on earth must be our goal, it must be our mantra, it must be our overriding focus; particularly as we live in a country divided by racism, sexism, gender bias, ageism, social status and wealth, or lack thereof. I am committed personally to doing all that I can to advance God’s vision of peace on earth. It will be difficult I am certain; it will require that I do things I’ve never done before and it will mean that I will no longer wait for someone else to pick up the sword! We must stand up together for Christ and his vision of peace on earth. It is my prayer that you will join me in this crusade.
How many of you recall the Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day?” It was originally a poem written in 1863 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The poem tells of the writers’ despair, during the American Civil War. Listen to the last two verses:
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.“
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_peace Accessed November 12, 2016
 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-dear/christmas-peace-on-earth_b_2360429.html Accessed November 12, 2016
 Revelation 21:6
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Heard_the_Bells_on_Christmas_Day Accessed November 12, 2016.