top of page

The Things that Make for Peace

The Things that Make for Peace

[object Object]

As Jesus came near and saw Jerusalem,

he wept over it, saying,

‘If you, even you, had only recognized

on this day the things that make for peace! ~ Luke 19:41

Alright, before I pray, I just want to say that this one is going to be hard. I know it is Mother’s Day and that a lot of us come to church to find a bit of peace and hope and respite from the barrage of bad news we are living under.

But the Spirit moves as it will and the message I have for you today centers around the war in Gaza and the unrest, outrage, and grief it is provoking here. These are not easy times my friends or easy things to discuss, so let us pray and ask God to open our hearts and minds that we might come to know the things that make for peace.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight,

Holy One. Speak through me if possible and in spite of me if needed. Amen.

I saw two children die this past week.

I didn’t mean to and I didn’t want to. I don’t watch the news on television and I am very careful when it comes to reading the news on-line because I know there is only so much despair and violence and horror that I can metabolize before I shut down. I skim the headlines, but I rarely click on them any more because I know that certain phrases and images, once they enter my mind, will never leave it.

But clips of children actively dying in Gaza are starting to pop up in my social media feeds, broadcast by tender hearted, well intentioned people.

I hate that they are posting images like this because I hate seeing it, but I understand it is because they are desperate to get the world’s attention.

I understand that they are desperate to bring the indiscriminate violence that is raining down on innocent civilians to an end, and I respect that.

I’ve also been following what is happening on our college campuses and I have to say that I am as disgusted with the words and actions of some of the administrators and law enforcement officers out there as I am with some of the words and actions of students and demonstrators.

Not all - by no means all - but definitely some. And yet I know, once again, that there are well intentioned, good hearted people out there -even some whose dehumanizing rhetoric and tactics I vehemently disagree with - doing what they are doing and saying what they are saying because above all else they too, desperately want to bring an end to the violence.

But what I feel moved to speak about today is the fact that I am seeing people on all sides fall into the trap of believing that just a little more violence will solve the problem. I see people falling into the trap of believing that they can achieve peace through intimidation and threats, terror and force.

I see administrators and the authorities falling into the trap of thinking peace keeping is the same thing as peace making. And I see people on all sides clinging to the idea that if you can just silence or eradicate or drive your enemy far enough away once and for all, than the violence will end and you and yours will be safe.

But it never works that way. Violence only ever begets more violence. We know this full well, and yet we cling to the idea that violence can save us and we cling hard. We always have. And if we continue to ignore the primary teachings of Jesus, I’m afraid that we always will.

Today in the church we celebrate Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Not Mother’s Day, though I may be able to work that in toward the end, but Ascension.

And I have to tell you that as miraculous and otherworldly as this story is, the most remarkable part, for me at least, is not the part where Jesus floats up, up, and away.

It is not the part where two men in white appear out of nowhere and tell the disciples to stop gawking and shut their gobs so they can go cool their heels in Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit.

No. The most remarkable part of this story for me is the part where Jesus’ disciples, after following him for 3 years, after witnessing him conduct himself with nothing but gentleness and grace during his trial, execution, and resurrection, and after having had the benefit of an extra 40 days of teaching wherein he spoke to them at length about the kingdom of God, could accompany him all the way out to the Mount of Olives and ask:

“Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”

I mean, they could have asked him anything.

Hey Jesus, before you go, could you show us how to heal people of their infirmities?

No, no, no, wait, Jesus, before you take off, tell us again why we don’t need to worry about tomorrow. Seriously, explain it to us like we’re five.

Wait, wait, wait - not that that isn’t important - but Jesus, before you go, could you… uh…maybe show us how to change water into wine?  What… asking for a friend.

They could have asked him anything, but something about being out on the Mount of Olives has got them all mixed up again like they are wondering if all Jesus’ talk about grace and peace and loving your enemy and blessing those who persecute you was just for show.

All of a sudden they want to know if Jesus is finally going to take up his power - like for real this time - and reign over Israel so that Israel can take up her power and reign over all the world.

“Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”

In some ways it feels like a moment of profound disconnect, and yet I can see why their minds would go there because the truth is, they’ve all been on this mountain before. Does anyone remember when?

(Hint: it involved a donkey and a lot of Hosannahs)

On Palm Sunday, that’s right. Just a few weeks before, they had stood with Jesus on this very mountain while he wept and cried out: “‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19:41). And then they had processed in with Jesus, as he did his best to show the world exactly what those things are.

Friends, when Jesus processed into Jerusalem on that fateful day, he was doing two things. He was fulfilling the prophecy that said the messiah would appear on the Mount of Olives on the day of the Lord and ride down into Jerusalem to deliver it (Zech. 14:4).

But Jesus was also, at the very same time, profoundly subverting that prophecy, because when he rode in to deliver Jerusalem, he did so peacefully. Jesus did not come to deliver his people from Rome by force, but to deliver all people from the idea that deliverance can only ever be accomplished by force.

Nobody saw this coming and it would seem, even after the fact, that his disciples are still having trouble wrapping their minds around it.

As we can see from our reading today, there is still a part of them that just wants Jesus to take up his power and reign; crush all the bad guys so that the good guys can live long and prosper.

But Jesus didn’t come to tear anyone down because Jesus knows that those who rise to the top are all to quick to forget what it was like to suffer at the bottom. Jesus didn’t come to lead a revolt because he knows it is all to easy for the oppressed of yesterday to become the oppressors of tomorrow.

Instead, he came to show us how to break the cycle of violence, fear, and retribution once and for all. Jesus, in an effort to show us the way, walked straight into the center of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and laid his neck bare.

Rather than use his power to threaten those in authority, he used it to call those in power out into the open and he let them do their worst in the name of keeping the peace.

But as he did so, he also exposed them for what they truly were: tyrants and bullies; men so insecure in their pursuit of security that they would murder a gentle innocent in as cruel and violent a fashion as possible, just to be safe.

High upon the cross, his body broken, his arms and legs nailed down, he exposed their peace - the pax Romana, peace kept through violence - for the bankrupt bloody sham it has always been and will always be. A peace that is never satisfied. A peace that can never be secured. A peace that will always require more blood, because the cycle of vengeance has no end.

And then he did the hardest thing of all. Jesus absorbed all the hurt they inflicted upon him and he refused to hit back. He broke the cycle of violence by letting it end with him. He forgave those who harmed him because they didn’t know any better.

And then, in spite of all we did to him, he came back to us all not with vengeance or retribution but in a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation in order to show us that we can do better.

Jesus showed us a different way to respond so we would all know better.

He showed us with his very human life that we can all be better.

We can repent of our violent ways.

We can forgive our enemies.

We can start over and choose to live in peace.

That is the gospel he sends his disciples forth to proclaim not just to Jerusalem or for Jerusalem, but from Jerusalem that this good news might bring peace to the whole world.

Repentance and forgiveness. Forgiving others the way Jesus forgave us. That is the way.

In the words of N.T. Wright:

     Repentance and forgiveness of sins are not…simply a matter for the individual…but go much wider… They are the agenda which can change the world. Today’s world is full of disputes, large and small… Nations, ethnic groups, political factions…(all) struggle for supremacy. Each can tell stories of the atrocities committed by their opponents. Each one claims that they therefore have the right to the moral high ground and must be allowed redress, revenge, satisfaction.

But as anyone who has studied history (especially the complicated history of the Middle East) knows …it is simply impossible to give an account of any conflict in which one side is responsible for all the evil and the other side is a completely innocent victim. The only way forward is the one we all find the hardest at every level: repentance and forgiveness… (repentance and forgiveness is the) only way forward towards the creation of new hope and possibility (“Luke for Everyone" p302).

Repentance and forgiveness. Grace and reconciliation. Restoration rather than retribution. That is the power Jesus wielded and asks us to wield as well.

Not the power to destroy our enemies, but the power to see them as human: as flawed, scared, hurting people who ultimately want the same thing we want, an end to the violence so that the children - their children, our children, all children - can live and prosper and dwell in peace.

I know I said this wasn’t a Mother’s day sermon, but if you know anything about the history of this day you know it began as a cry for peace, as a movement to lay down our weapons and make war no more.

I don’t know of any mother or father or parent who doesn’t long for that kind of peace.

In this time of heartbreaking conflict, both here and abroad, I think today is the perfect day to repent and renew our efforts to bring an end to violence in all its forms, not just for the sake of mothers and their children, but for the sake of us all.

May it be so and may it be soon. Amen.

bottom of page