Sunday, May 23, 2021

Sermon for 5/23/21: The Feast of Pentecost

Unworldly Peace
John 14:23-31


Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 


Historians tell us that the conclusion to the First World War brought a prevailing feeling of relief on both sides: relief that the slaughter and carnage had ended and that, hopefully, with the coming of peace, life could return to normal. President Harding, during his campaign, made a plea for a “return to normalcy.” But post-war life never really did return to normal. The landscape of life had been forever changed. The twenty years that separated the two wars were years of great instability. There was an economic boom followed by the Great Depression. Soaring optimism was soon replaced with a deep pessimism about the world’s future. The promise of peace had been lost, and the world would soon be engulfed by another world-wide conflict that required the atomic bomb to bring it to an end.

This promise of peace that Jesus gave His disciples, the peace that would accompany the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, was spoken on the night before His crucifixion. Jesus spoke of peace even as He was about to endure emotional and physical abuse against Him—abuse that the world had never before seen and has not since. It seems an odd place to speak of peace; then again, it is an odd peace that He offers. But there was an important lesson for His disciples to learn from this. The peace the Holy Spirit would bring would be a sense of profound relief, a subtle and yet real peace that the disciples of all times would enjoy; a peace that would inspire in them a quiet confidence and a sure hope. But this peace would be difficult to maintain in this world, for it would be under constant assault by those who do not want God’s peace to prevail. This peace would make great demands of His disciples.

That this would be the case was indicated by Jesus telling His disciples that the peace He would leave them and give them was not like the peace this world gives. There is a kind of peace this world offers and gives. It is very different from the peace of Christ, but it is sought by so many. When you are poor, for instance, and that seems to be a great affliction, you may think that riches mean peace. Or, if death draws near, you may think, “Oh, if only I could live, and vanquish death, I would have peace.” Such peace, however, is not the peace Christ gives, nor is it the peace the Spirit brings. He allows the affliction to remain, but employs a different tactic to bring you peace. He changes your heart. When you are mired in suffering and affliction, the Spirit turns your mind from it and fills you with His peace. And so, in the midst of dying, there is life; in the midst of poverty, there is contentment with what the Lord has given; in the midst of trouble, there is peace and joy. This peace is not something you can achieve with your understanding, nor fathom with your wisdom. It is the gift which Christ alone bestows through His Spirit.

           You know how hard all of this is. You know how hard it is to be joyful in both good times and bad. And you know that some possess these abilities in a greater measure than others, for we are not perfect; indeed, none of us will become so perfect in this life that we will never again experience a struggle. In poverty, you will still face the temptation to think that riches are the answer, and that they will bring you peace and satisfaction. When you face your own death, or that of a loved one, you will still want to think that a continuance of life will bring perfect peace and complete joy. But it is the work of the Holy Spirit to continue what Christ has begun. Do not be discouraged if you still fear death, and do not think, that if you are still frightened at the thought of death, the Spirit is not in you. The work of the Holy Spirit is not one that is finished; it is fulfilled day to day. And this process continues in you as long as you live; the peace of Christ will find itself in you even amidst doubt and sorrow and fear. If there were none of these things, the Holy Spirit could not comfort you with the peace of Christ!

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you.” This peace of Christ is a peace given and received in the still waters of Holy Baptism. This peace lives and is real even when everything around you is full of overwhelming turmoil. Even when things are so upset that you cannot see how there is place for peace, the peace of Christ comes as the gift of His grace through His Holy Spirit. Your heart is stilled and your soul filled with comfort and with a quiet confidence in that One who gave Himself for you and who has gained for you the gracious will of Your heavenly Father. It is this great grace that we celebrate on this Day of Pentecost. The Spirit who has come from the Father and the Son teaches you to know the great goodness and grace of Jesus Christ, a grace that conquers sin, death, and all affliction, and gives you the peace which only He can give. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


This peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

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