Sermon Advent II Yr B
December 5, 2008 Leave a comment
II Advent Yr B, 7/12/2008
Ps 85:1-2, 8-13
Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &
Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s
South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta
“Righteousness and peace will kiss each other”
The theme for this second Sunday of Advent is peace. The biblical vision of peace is way more than the absence of war. Peace has everything to do with living with hearts, minds, and lives wide open—viewing life and living it in a holistic manner. That’s why in the Bible righteousness and peace are frequently connected with each other, as in our psalm today, where they are actually personified in verse ten, where we are given this beautiful picture, the psalmist says: “Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.”
According to scholars, this psalm may have been written around the time when the Jewish people were returning to Judah and Jerusalem, and perhaps during the season just after the gathering in of the harvest, when they were celebrating the harvest festival and during the Feast of Tabernacles. At any rate, the psalm makes the connection of peace and righteousness taking shape in a just society, which is also blessed by God making the land fertile. These two go hand in hand here—a just society where peace and right relationships flourish, and a fertile land with bumper crops.
For both Jews and Christians today, these connections between right relationships of peace and justice and caring for the land that it may bless God’s people continue to be important spiritual, as well as economic and political values, as we learn from the following contemporary, inspirational story:
Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, whose tree-planting movement defied political leaders, was praised by Samuel Kobia, the World Council of Churches’ general secretary—and a fellow Kenyan—for being named the Nobel Peace Prize winner for 2004.
“Being the first African woman in history to receive this prestigious prize, you have brought honour to the African continent and its people,” said Kobia, a Methodist minister who in January (2004) became the first African to lead the worldwide ecumenical church alliance.
Maathai, 64, (at the time was) Kenya’s deputy environment minister, was named the winner of the prize for her leadership of the Green Belt Movement, which has sought to empower women, improve the environment and fight corruption in Africa for almost 30 years. She challenged policies of Kenya’s former government, led by President Daniel Arap Moi before he stepped down after elections in 2002.
“We believe that Maathai is a strong voice speaking for the best forces in Africa to promote peace and good living conditions on that continent,” the Nobel committee said in its citation. The peace prize (was) awarded December 10, (2004).
Maathai was Nairobi University’s first woman professor before she left full-time academic life to found the Green Belt Movement, a women’s environmental group fighting the clearing of forests for charcoal and property development. “Your campaign against deforestation across Africa is a unique contribution not only to save African forests, but also African lives,” Kobia said.
Maathai was a keynote speaker in 1979 at a major World Council of Churches conference in Boston on “Faith, Science and the Future.” The onetime Anglican, said now to be Catholic, recently contributed a chapter to a new book, Healing God’s Creation (Morehouse).1
This inspiring story connects the flourishing of land with peace and righteousness—the latter of which entails right relationships between God and humans, humans with each other, and humans with the land. These are what make for a just society where everyone has—insofar as is possible in a sinful world—enough and their basic needs, rights and freedoms are respected and protected.
When one begins to dig into the Bible one discovers that there are several other passages that also connect peace with righteousness.
For example, in Isaiah 32:17, we read: “The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness quietness and trust forever.” I like that—during this season of Advent, of course as we look into the future coming of Jesus, we can place our trust in him with quiet, peaceful hearts. Trust, of course, is required for all healthy relationships.
In Isaiah 60:17, in the vision of a New Jerusalem, the prophet, like the psalmist in our text today, personifies peace and righteousness, saying: “I shall appoint Peace as your overseer and Righteousness as your taskmaster.”
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul in Romans 14:17 says: “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” And so, according to the Bible righteousness and peace go hand-in-hand—both are the building blocks of healthy, lasting relationships, churches and societies.
The oldest known comedy in all literature is that written by Aristophanes and called “The Acharnians.” The plot is very simple. One translator has outlined it as follows: An honest citizen, finding it impossible to get the State to conclude a peace with Sparta, makes a private peace on his own account, and thenceforward is represented as living in all the joys and comforts of peace whilst the rest of the City continues to suffer the straits and miseries of war. Many amusing incidents result. It would be hard to describe more clearly that wonderful difference which God has put upon believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are in the world but not of it (John 17:11, 14). We are privileged to live in all the joys and comforts of Christ (who is our Prince of Peace).2
So, on this second Sunday of Advent, we wait, watch, work, and pray for the coming of Jesus our Prince of Peace to reign more fully in our hearts, lives, Church and world. Amen, come, Lord Jesus!
1 Cited from: The Christian Century, October 19, 2004 Vol. 121, No. 21, <www.christiancentury.org/dept_news04.html>.
2 Cited from: Donald Grey Barnhouse, Bible Truth Illustrated (New Canaan, Connecticut: Keats Publishing, Inc., 1979), p. 103.