November 5, 2017

Isaiah 9:2-7
Romans 12:9-21
John 14:15-18, 25-27

“As far as it depends on you…”

This sermon was prepared by the Rev. Amanda Currie with input from the Saskatchewan Presbyterian Youth who were reflecting on the theme of peace during their weekend retreat at First Presbyterian Church November 3-5, 2017.

This weekend First Church was pleased to host the Saskatchewan Presbyterian Youth event which was all about PEACE. And we are pleased this morning to have the SPY youth participating in worship leadership on this Remembrance Sunday.

When we began to discuss PEACE this weekend, we came up with the following definitions of PEACE…

What is Peace?

  • A state in which there is no war or fighting
  • A quiet and calm state
  • A state in which a person is not bothered by thoughts or feelings of doubt, guilt, or worry.
  • Tranquility
  • A feeling of being safe, protected, and relaxed
  • A sense of purpose and direction in life
  • Being alone, but not lonely
  • An end to violence and conflict
  • Understanding and respect between people
  • Very difficult to achieve

Unfortunately, peace is not something that we notice happening in our world very much. If we watch the news, we are much more aware of war and conflict and violence, and rarely do we hear about “peace breaking out.”

When we talked about war and violence in the world today, these are some of the places and situations that came to our minds. These are some of the people that are in our prayers today, as we ask God for the gift of peace…

Situations of War or Conflict in our World:

  • Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan
  • Israel and Palestine
  • South Sudan, Nigeria, and other parts of Africa
  • Libya, Ukraine
  • Northern Ireland
  • North Korea
  • Terrorist attacks in Africa, Europe, North America, and other places
  • Drugs, gangs, and violence in our cities
  • The problem of addictions.
  • Serious depression and suicide
  • Cyber-bullying
  • Colonization and the legacy of the Residential Schools
  • Domestic violence in families

We are called to pray about these situations, but we want to do more. We want to be involved in making peace. And that instinct is very much in line with our faith.

The Hebrew People who came before us longed for peace also, and they prayed for a Messiah to come and help them, making peace in their land and their world.

A reading from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 9:2-7)

2The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. 3You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. 4For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. 5For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. 6For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

When we hear the prophet’s words, we see the fulfilment of that longing for peace in the person of Jesus the Christ. Jesus taught that God’s kingdom had come near, and invited people to live in love and peace with one another, to follow his way, being reconciled to God and one another.

But Jesus only lived on earth for a short time. Soon he would be betrayed and killed by the very people he came to show and teach a different way. And those who still wanted to follow his way would have to do it without Jesus physically present to guide and help them.

Before he died, Jesus shared these words of encouragement with his followers:

A reading from the Gospel of John (John 14:15-18, 25-27)

15”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

18”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.

25”I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

Even though Jesus would no longer be physically present, God’s Spirit was given as a gift to help Jesus’ first followers (and to help us) to be his faithful disciples. And Jesus also sent the gift of peace… peace despite ongoing war, conflict, and strife… peace in our hearts that comes from God and surpasses all understanding.

And Jesus doesn’t only give us the gift of peace in our hearts. Jesus also calls us to be makers of peace. And with God’s Spirit to help us, we have the power to do so.

The Apostle Paul gives some good instructions to the early Christians about how to live, and an important part of his advice was the make peace with other people.

A reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans (Romans 12:9-21)

9Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

“As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

We are very aware that we cannot solve all the world’s problems or wave a magic wand and make all wars cease. But Paul encourages us that we can still make a difference by our choices and actions.

Listen to some of the ideas we had this weekend about how we can work towards peace in our families and friendships, between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada, and in the wider world.

How we can make peace in our families and communities:

  • Let the little things go.
  • Be generous to others, sharing food and friendship.
  • Do random acts of kindness.
  • Consider other people’s points of view.
  • Think positively.
  • Look to others for support.
  • Always speak the truth.
  • Seek balance in your life.

How we can make peace between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada:

  • Show respect for everyone, no matter what their religion, culture, or background.
  • Learn more about our history on Turtle Island, colonization, and the legacy of the Residential Schools.
  • Listen to the stories of the elders and survivors of the Residential Schools.
  • Share what we have learned with others.
  • Be open to learning from Indigenous people, cultures, and spirituality. For example, learn to be better stewards of the environment, God’s Creation.
  • Work with Indigenous people, letting them show us how to right the past wrongs of our society.
  • Respond to the 94 Calls to Action, especially the ones directed at the churches who ran the schools, including The Presbyterian Church in Canada.
  • Learn about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and encourage the Government of Canada to implement it.
  • Make sure that governments at every level (municipal, provincial, and federal) know that truth and reconciliation are important to all Canadians.

How we can make peace in our world:

  • Treat others as we want to be treated ourselves.
  • Be open to learning, and sharing what we have learned.
  • Be a positive role model.
  • Include everyone.
  • Learn about what is happening in the world and get involved.
  • Participate in the political discussion.
  • Pray for people in difficult situations.
  • Send assistance to people in need.
  • Welcome refugees.