Being Present with Peace

The Gift of Being Present  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
0 ratings
· 1 view
Mark 1:1-8 CEB
1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son, 2 happened just as it was written about in the prophecy of Isaiah: Look, I am sending my messenger before you. He will prepare your way, 3 a voice shouting in the wilderness: “Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight.”
4 John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. 5 Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins. 6 John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He announced, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
This week, we continue our sermon series, The Gift of Being Present. Last week we began by examining how we are called to be present with hope. We examined our call to awaken our hearts to the grace of God and be that grace to others so that there may be hope in the world again. When we commit to actively waiting for Christ’s return and doing something about the injustice and oppression of the world, then we are truly present in the world with the hope of Christ. This week we continue our journey of examining what it means to be truly present.
Our Gospel lesson begins with a definitive statement: “The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s son…” Or, as other translations put it, “This is the beginning of the gospel.” In first-century Rome, there were many gospels for people to proclaim. The Greek word we translate as “gospel” was used at the time to indicate the news of victory. Caesar was seen as divine and the one from whom the good news flowed. The messengers who would come out to the town square on behalf of Rome would go so far as to say, “Hear the Gospel, the good news, from our Lord Caesar.” After such proclamation, it was expected that the hearers of this gospel would come and kiss the statue of Caesar.
In our own time, there are many gospels and sources of “good news” that we can adhere to. The prosperity gospel offers us material blessings as signs of God’s faithfulness to us. The gospel of consumerism promises us wholeness through buying more and getting the next best thing on the market. The feel-good gospel offers an escape from suffering with drugs, alcohol, sex…or even mission trips or other “feel-good trips,” things that make us feel good.
Much like the gospel of Caesar, we find that it falls short of the peace we seek in our lives. We find it may offer temporary relief, but nothing offers everlasting peace. What happens when that blessing we were looking for never shows up? What happens when the latest gadget or toy doesn’t quite fill us up like we were hoping for? What happens when our great escape brings us crashing back down? None of this is the good news we are seeking.
The reality is our culture loves everything new…it often forgets our debt to history. Our leaders portray themselves as “the master of turn around,” the savior of the moment, the one who is elected for a time such as this, that in them and through them hope will be pushed into the world, our lives, or government again. They often speak in such a way that nothing good happens until they get there. Their campaigns, bloodily by hurtful words, half-truths, and attack ads filled with promises of peace in the midst of violence, tell the same old story. We don’t look to the past, only the future…yet, that is not the case in our gospel lesson this morning.
Mark’s gospel looks back to the words of Isaiah for confirmation that God’s promises are about to be ushered into the present. Just as economics looks back to previous trends as a means of predicting possibilities for the future, and physiotherapy invites people to reexamine their stories to see how the stories have contributed to their core values and constrain what is possible for one’s future, so Mark’s gospel echoes the same conviction: this gospel is rooted in the promises of God made in the past…those promises are trustworthy, and they are fulfilled here and now in Jesus Christ. What is the promise of God? That Christ will bring peace! God’s justice is on the way!
On this second Sunday of Advent, we open, recognize, and receive the gift of peace that Christ brings to us. This peace is not a state of blissful relaxation, nor is it the absence of conflict. Rather, it is a state of wholeness, a recognition of belovedness, a sense of worth that does not disrupt the worth of others but lifts their worth up in Christ. The kind of peace that Jesus brings to us is far from the absence of discomfort; it's a willingness to sit in discomfort as we work toward the restorative and redemptive purposes of God. That is, the hope that our discomfort might lead to the well-being and flourishing of all creation. To offer peace means others might live into all that God calls them to be! It means relationships of mutual love. Yet, so often, we fail to know and understand the peace that Christ comes to offer and the peace that we are called to proclaim.
Maybe that’s why baptism is so prevalent in our gospel text. Because we, too, like those found in the Biblical narrative, are in need of repentance. Religion today has become associated not with the seeking of God’s justice for all but with self-justification. The scriptures speak hope to the troubled soul longing for peace and judgment to the self-assured. Christ’s reign comes to speak against our tendency to read the Bible in self-justifying ways that confirm prejudice views and excuse our resentments and ignorance. We tend to read our self-justifications into the scriptures…thus, we disavow the way of peace, the way of Christ, the way of love.
Karl Barth once said only when the “Bible grasps at us” does it become the Word of God. Barth says, “If this takes place, if the Bible speaks to us thus of the promise if the prophets and apostles tell us what they have to tell us, if their word imposes itself on us and if the Church in its confrontation with the Bible thus becomes again and again what it is, all this is God’s decision and not ours, all this is grace and not our work. The Bible is God’s Word to the extent that God causes it to be His Word, to the extent that He speaks through it.”
Don’t you see? When we go to the scriptures to win arguments, then it's not about seeking God’s peace. When we go to the scriptures for our own justifications as a means by which we might belittle someone, then our faith becomes associated with pain, hurtful words, and “bad news” rather than the Good News of Emmanuel. “God is with us! God is present! God offers grace! God offers true peace!”
Christianity has become associated with “bad news.” Denominations have a history of treating women as second-class citizens…some still refuse to accept the gifts and graces that women have to offer Christ’s Holy Church. The Church has been riddled with racism and ill-treatment towards the LBQTIA+ community; it has worked to exempt itself from including persons with disabilities in its life. Even today, within a five-mile radius of our church, here are the top reasons people refuse to attend church: it is too judgemental, too focused on money, strict and inflexible beliefs, don't trust organized religion, didn’t develop friendships, wasn’t given the opportunity to serve. Yet, we, like the book of Mark, are given the opportunity to proclaim the message of Christ! Hear the Good News: Hope is found, peace is coming, you are forgiven, loved, and sacred.
Yet, it is hard to be a people of peace when we are so wrapped up in our own guilt. When we do something wrong, when we make a mistake, when we fail, we tend to hold it inside. We’ll forgive everybody else before we forgive ourselves. Sometimes, we even feel guilty when we take time for ourselves. There are a thousand other things that we could be doing for other people. If we stop, even for just a second, and do something for ourselves, we hold onto the guilt for doing it. And yet, John speaks to us, calling us to a baptism of repentance.
You see, in our baptism, we earnestly repent. When we remember our baptism, we repent. I love the way the CEB translates this text. “John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins.” You see, we are called to come before God, time after time, and earnestly repent. Offer our failures and shortcomings to God so that we might be forgiven and work to change our hearts and lives. The good news is that the proclamation we hear week after week…it’s in our liturgy. “Hear the good news: Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, which proves God’s love toward us. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.” In the name of Jesus Christ, you are freed from guilt. In the name of Jesus Christ, peace is possible.
So often, we lead from our pain. Hurt people are more likely to hurt others. Often, when someone lashes at out you, it has less to do with you, and more to do with what is going on in their lives. If we are going to be agents of God’s peace, then we have some preparation to do…we have to reconcile our guilt, hurts, and pains and offer them, truly offer them to Christ. We must forgive ourselves and offer forgiveness to others. True reconciliation means we no longer desire to harm our enemies; we are no longer afraid of change, but rather, we are willing to change if it means others might experience the love God has for them.
When we are present with peace, when we receive and offer forgiveness to others, we are truly able to make a difference in the world as we legitimize the belovedness found in each person. Church hear that good news…in Christ, at the proclamation of John, we are invited to repentance, we are being shaped not by our trauma but by God’s loving presence as we are invited to Christ’s table…we are now being given a chance to act as John the Baptist did…we are given a chance to point others to Christ through our love. The way of peace begins with repentance and is brought forth through love.
As one early church father said, “John called for the baptism of repentance to prepare the way for the Lord. He himself led in that way by means of the sign and seal of repentance for all whom God was calling through grace to inherit the promise surely made to Abraham.… He called us to purge our minds of whatever impurity error had imparted, whatever contamination ignorance had engendered, which repentance would sweep and scour away, and cast out. So prepare the home of your heart by making it clean for the Holy Spirit.”
When we learn and are able to articulate the movements of our inner life, when we can give names to our varied experiences, we need no longer be a victim of ourselves. Rather, we are able to slowly, by God’s grace, remove the obstacles that prevent the spirit from entering more fully into our lives. We are able to create space for the spirit, and our capacity to love expands!
This season of advent might we experience God’s love through the work of the Holy Spirit, in our being presence with one another, that we too might come to know and proclaim the Good news of peace! Might we prepare ourselves to work for peace, to wait for peace, might we make straight paths for peace as we, like Christ, lead not from our pain but through love?
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more