Sermon,  Sermons

Members of Peace

sermon, part 1

sermon, part 2

Capitalism is never more insistent than at Christmastime. Black Friday email blasts and commercials start well in advance of Thanksgiving; Christmas sales are popping up every time I open a social media app; Christmas themes saturate commercials.

But there is something that I gave into when I went grocery shopping with my daughters this past week. We love doing some sort of countdown (an advent calendar of any sort – though we’ve grown weary of the so-called chocolate ones that are really pieces of wax in disguise). You may have seen these – various themed 15-Days-Of-Socks. As we’re Harry Potter nerds, we chose one with a Harry Potter theme. And since we really must begin at Thanksgiving and there are nearly 30 days until Christmas, we had to get the Elf one, too!

There is a fair degree of irony in all of this – the season most lucrative to commerce, nearly entirely focused on money and things, propagates even as we sing Christmas songs (Last Christmas, I gave you my heart… All I want for Christmas… ) is centered around the birth of the One through whom everything was created! It is also the time I most struggle to find peace.

So Advent seems to have started sometime in the fourth century CE. Like Lent, it began as a preparation for being baptized and making one’s Baptismal vows. It is meant to be a season of prayer and fasting. confession. simplicity. It is meant to be 40 days of removing the superfluous in our lives so that we can be intentional about our belief: “We believe in Jesus Christ.”

Last week we read:

“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
– Colossians 1:19-20 (NIV)

The fullness of God the Creator – of everything! Was pleased to have all of God’s own being (fullness) dwell in this itty bitty of a baby whose birth we claim to Celebrate on December 25th.

            The 20th century Brazilian archbishop Dom Helder Camara said:

Without justice and love, peace will always be a great illusion.

– Dom Helder Camara

The project of God’s justice – making all things right, reconciling us to God and each other, AND all creation (whether things on earth or things in heaven) – this project of God’s justice is fueled by, empowered, made personal, purely by Love: by making peace through Christ’s blood, shed on the cross.

            Without justice and love, peace is an illusion.

Today, we heard from Isaiah:

Isaiah 2:1-5

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 In days to come
   the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
   and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
3   Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
   to the house of the God of Jacob;
that God may teach us God’s ways
   and that we may walk in God’s paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
   and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 God shall judge between the nations,
   and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
   and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
   neither shall they learn war any more.

5 O house of Jacob,
   come, let us walk
   in the light of the Lord!

The mountain of the lord – place of Presence. The people will sit for instruction – will listen, pay attention, do as God made them to do and be: they will consult God for advice (and the instruction will be understood, heard by all people); an industry of war will no longer be necessary: indiscriminately, across the board, the only commerce will be the facilitation of peace.

5 O house of Jacob, Durand UMC,
   Come, let us walk together
   in the light of the Lord!

            Then we hear from Paul:

“Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. 14Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Romans 13:11-14, NRSV

Put on the armor of light – walk in the light of the Lord. Live with honor. What does that look like? to live honorably? Well, for one, it means living honestly – let your actions live out what you believe. What is it that you believe? Anyone from last week? We believe in Jesus Christ – the messiah, anointed Present. So if you say that you believe in Jesus Christ, to live honorably is to act on that, to live it. That is:

  • Being productive during the day – in whatever way that looks for you;
  • Don’t quarrel – in the sense of agitating, stirring up conflict versus peace-making;
  • Don’t wallow in jealousy – with the armor of light, clothed in Jesus’ very presence, you are absolutely exactly, beautifully who you are made to be – and are becoming.
  • To live honorably is to be that. And become more of it.

Wake up! Awake!

Photo-a-day challenge #rethinkchurch. So, I’ve shown you this before, but I like to do this thing through one iteration of the UMC, ReThinkChurch. It’s mobile, it’s virtual, it’s creative, innovative. Each Lent and Advent they do a photo-a-day challenge. Day 1 – today – the word is Awake. I thought this image represented well, as I meditate on the word Awake in light of this 1st day of Advent, the sun just beginning to peek over the horizon – the farm and its fields.

And so to rethink, to meditate on what it means to be awake (woke!), to center on this word. For me, it means to draw near, center on Jesus who dwells in me – and in you – to take time allowing the spirit of Jesus (in whom God is pleased to dwell) to speak. And to confess my frenzy and anxiety at the onset of Advent. And to remember.

I encourage you to join me in meditating with the word for each day. This slide will be on the website. If you would like to get a text or email from me, my cell and email are on the bulletin’s front – and I’ll add you to a group text/email. 

This is inspired by my husband: I would like to invite you to renew your membership vows. Whether you have made these vows here, or not, if you claim to believe in Jesus Christ, you are part of the church of Jesus Christ. Each week of Advent we will consider 1 of the 4 questions I asked our 2 newest members last spring.

Renewing membership vows: Consider the words you have already affirmed –

Pastor: Friends, Through the sacrament of Baptism we are initiated into Christ’s holy church. We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit. All this is God’s gift, offered to us without price.

Covenanting With Us 

Pastor: When we covenant with one another to follow Jesus together in the context of the Durand United Methodist Church, we remember our baptism, the witness of Christ in us, given us by God’s grace alone.

Will you join with us to follow the model of Jesus: to bring love and justice [Dom Helder Camara quote] to all of God’s creation; to love both the powerless and the powerful; and to seek to bring wholeness to all of humanity? [Discipleship.]

And your answer?

We will.

Invitation to intentional simplicity

If this Advent is to be about more than going through the motions, mindlessly carried on the frenzy of the buying-giving raceway, then we must get ready for the Prince of Peace in new and radical ways. What can we do to signal our readiness for the coming of Christ into this very place? We can start with committing to being intentional with our resources and our lives, to live honorably (not quarreling or jealous), walk in the light together, to be a part of the project of God’s justice – making all things right, reconciling us to God and each other, AND all creation, whereby making, creating, true peace. 

The fullness of God the Creator – of everything! dwells in this itty bitty of a baby whose birth we prepare and claim to Celebrate on December 25th. This same Jesus creates real, authentic peace in the world – and does so by dwelling in us, empowering us (with Love). So when we are intentional about living into Advent – set aside to confess where we get caught up in everything but making hearts ready to celebrate the birth of this Jesus we claim to believe in, When we give our time and talents to, When we give our financial gifts to the ministry of this church, the benefits are widespread (infinite, really) Yet also addresses the reality of maintaining a building in which we gather (and the Durand community gathers!), and supporting the leaders who guide, the materials we use, and everything that nourishes the ministry – the project of God’s justice.

I invite you to use this time as we take communion together as an opportunity to get ready, to awake! – as we ingest the bread and juice, nourish our souls remembering Christ’s body and blood through which true Peace is made – as we are members together of the peace, in peace, hear what Jesus is calling you to during this season of Advent, preparing for Christ’s arrival.

This is the table, not of the righteous…

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