Sermon 2 Advent Yr C

 

2 Advent Yr C, 10/12/2006

Lk 1:68-79

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &

Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s

South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

 

“The Way Of Peace”

 

On this second Sunday in Advent we focus on one of the richest, most pressing themes of the season, and for that matter, any season, peace. It is, among many, a number one priority. And yet, with the growing rate of violence in our society and world today, it seems to be as illusive as ever, as the following story demonstrates.

Once there was a man who found himself on a train, seated between two women. In this case, it was an unpleasant experience, since the two women argued relentlessly about whether the window should be shut or open. The woman who sat furthest from the window argued that she would die of heat stroke unless it was opened. The other said she would almost certainly catch pneumonia if it didn’t stay closed. Then the ticket inspector arrived, the two women asked him to solve their dispute. However, he was unable to do so. Eventually the man seated between the two women spoke up. “First open the window. That will kill the one. Then close it. That will kill the other. Then we will have peace.”

Millions of people likely view peace similarly to the man in this story. For them peace is the absence of conflict. And, like the man, their solution to the absence of conflict is violent, forceful treatment or ill will towards others to end the conflict. Is this not the premise of most of the nations who possess nuclear weapons? Threatening to nuke others and acting out of fear is what keeps the world at peace. However, this falls far short of the biblical vision of peace. In the Bible, peace is not merely the absence of conflict. It is the presence of unconditional, all-inclusive love without fear and grace as the transforming principle of our relationships. It is a gift from God generously given, and, in response, it is our active seeking out of justice and mercy. In the teachings of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, peace involves non-violence and love of one’s enemies—this is also the case in the beautiful vision of peace in the book of Isaiah. Along with this non-violence, is a reversal of the world order as it now exists—for example, the first shall be last and the last first, the predator wolf shall lie down with the lamb, and so on.

A wise man once said, “There is no way to peace, peace is the way.” This is what our gospel from Luke chapter one, which replaces the Psalm today, is saying too—peace is the way. In this beautiful Jewish song of Zechariah, also commonly known as the Benedictus, named after the first word of our passage in the Latin text, towards the end of the passage, we read that when the Messiah comes, he will: “give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,” and he will “guide our feet into the way of peace.” Of course, the life of Jesus himself embodied such peace. It became an entire way of life for him. How does one live a life of peace each day? Is it possible in our time? The answer is yes.

One such person who did was a grey-haired woman, whom only a few knew her real name. She walked all over America for almost thirty years on a peace mission. Wearing navy pants and a tunic with large pockets to carry her few necessities, she had the words PEACE PILGRIM printed in large letters on the back and front of her person. Peace Pilgrim was actually the name she adopted as her own.

She started her long pilgrimage in 1953, walking over 25,000 miles; preaching her message of peace among nations and between people. She also emphasised inner peace in churches, schools and to any individual she happened to meet along her way. Peace Pilgrim had little money, and seldom accepted rides. She relied on those who were willing to listen to her message when she arrived at their community to provide her with food and shelter—never was she turned away.

At the heart and core of Peace Pilgrim’s message were the following words of wisdom and inspiration: “If you are harbouring the slightest bitterness towards anyone or any unkind thoughts of any sort whatever, get rid of them quickly. They are not hurting anyone but yourself. One little person giving all of her time for peace makes news. Many people giving some of their time can make history.”

This, of course, is exactly what Christ accomplished by his way of peace through his life and teachings, as well as through his suffering and death on the cross, which offers peace of mind and heart to everyone through forgiveness and reconciliation with God. As followers of Jesus, we too are peace pilgrims, as he guides our feet into the way of peace. We too are called to share and live the message of forgiveness and reconciliation for all people. Such peace through reconciliation and forgiveness is possible as the following story illustrates.

Former Beatle, George Harrison died in December 2001. During his final days his wife and child, and his sister, Louise were at his bedside. It was Louise’s presence that was especially poignant. You see, she and George had been feuding with each other for almost forty years. Their feud began when Louise opened a bed and breakfast named “A Hard Day’s Night.”

The rift was healed only when George realised he would probably die from his cancer. Louise reports that their reconciliation was difficult but satisfying. “We sort of held hands like we used to do” she said. We used to talk for hours about life and God and the universe. We were able to look into each other’s eyes again with love. It was a very, very positive and loving meeting.”

This episode tells us exactly what reconciliation is—two people who have been at odds with one another, coming together in a renewed and restored relationship, one where they are able to “look into each other’s eyes again with love.” This is what it means to be reconciled with God, and with our fellow human beings.

The tragedy of course, is that George and Louise took so long to reconcile, that they missed out on so much. Similarly, it is a tragedy when we wait so long to be reconciled to those we love and/or to God.1

Is there still someone who you need to be reconciled with? Is it too late, has the world waited too long for warring nations, centuries old enemies to be reconciled with each other and live in peace? Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus our Messiah into the world. In order to be prepared to celebrate Christmas and the birth of Christ, one thing we all are invited to do is repent of our sins—of all those thoughts, words and actions which are harmful to others and ourselves, and which distance us from God. Repentance is a re-directing, a turning around, a returning to that which makes for life and peace, wholeness and well-being. Of course, we need the guidance of Christ, the Prince of Peace to turn our feet around so that we can walk in the way of peace. He continues to show us the way of peace as a completely new orientation of our lives. That’s why Martin Luther said that every day of our lives, we sinners need to repent, in order for us to return, re-orient our life in the way of peace.

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “we should find in each (person’s) life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”

Ramsey MacDonald, one-time prime minister of England, was discussing with another government official the possibility of lasting peace. The latter, an expert on foreign affairs, was unimpressed by the prime minister’s idealistic viewpoint. He remarked cynically, “The desire for peace does not necessarily ensure it.” This MacDonald admitted, saying, “Quite true. But neither does the desire for food satisfy your hunger, but at least it gets you started toward a restaurant.”2

So, as we repent, re-orient, continue in our Advent journey and prepare for the Christ-child’s birth; may we return to the way of Christ our Prince of Peace, may we be encouraged by the following words of an anonymous wise person: “You will never be sorry: For thinking before acting; for hearing before judging; for forgiving your enemies; for helping a fallen brother or sister; for being honest in business; for standing by your principles; for stopping your ears to gossip; for bridling a slanderous tongue; for harbouring only pure thoughts; for sympathizing with the afflicted; for being courteous to all.” Amen.

 

1 Ananova News Service, December 9, 2001.

2 James S. Hewett, Editor, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House

Publishers, Inc., 1988), p. 403.

 

 

Advertisements

About dimlamp
I am, among other things, a sojourner, a sinner-saint, a baptized, life-long learner and follower of Jesus, and Lutheran pastor. Dim Lamp: dimlamp.wordpress.com gwh photos: gwhphotos.wordpress.com

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: