Sunday, January 22, 2012

Changed through Peace-making

For the Sunday of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we shared with our local anglican church, St Luke's in a united service.  Richard preached on the theme for the day from the Week of Prayer for Christian unity leaflet.

It’s what you do.

Maybe I shouldn’t speak for other people.

It’s what I do.

And I guess it’s what a lot of us do.

When things have gone wrong, when things are going wrong, it’s good to come back to somewhere safe, somewhere warm, somewhere you can be with friends, with family.  Somewhere secure.  Somewhere safe.

Maybe there’s stuff going on now that makes you feel that way.

It’s how that small group of people who had given their all to follow Jesus felt in the hours after his execution.

If you stop and think this is a rock-bottom moment for them all.  Hopes shattered.  Not just one life ended, but their lives destroyed.  What they do is what we all do.  They found somewhere safe.  Somewhere warm.  Somewhere secure.  Family were far away.  But they had each other.  They could lock the doors and keep the fears outside.

It was into that place, into that moment that Jesus came and stood among them and said “Peace be with you.”

I want to hold on to that picture for a moment.  I want to hold on to that presence of the risen Christ.  I want to hold on to those words.

We can tell stories, we can think through ideas, we can discuss and we can argue, but at the end of the day, this is what it’s all about.

At the moment when all is at its worst.  When nothing makes sense.  When everything has fallen apart.  At that moment when there is nothing else but a place to retreat to for your own security.  It is at that moment, that Christ comes into our presence, into the very place where we seek some kind of security.  And he says those words to us.  Peace be with you.

This is that peace that is beyond anything we can begin to understand, it transcends the intellect.  It is something we cannot begin to explain.

You can almost see the disciples blinking.  They cannot believe their eyes.  There is that moment of taking stock.  Checking.  Is it really true.  After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  Then comes the rejoicing.

Sense that place you are in … hear those words of Jesus, Peace be with you.  Take a reality check.  And then as they did rejoice.  Take courage, take heart.  Christ is with us.

The disciples in that upper room needed to hear those words again.  And so Jesus sasid to them again, Peace be with you.

This is that inner peace, that calm, that we year for, that we need, that Christ offers.

But there is something about the peace that Christ gives.  It becomes a true peace in our hearts as we receive it and then as we pro-actively do something with this peace.

It is not simply a comfort blanket for us to keep to ourselves, to give us a warm glow in that safe place where we feel secure.

Peace be with you, Jesus said.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.

Almost as soon as that sense of peace has come upon the disciples they are told by Jesus they cannot stay in the place of safety.  They cannot stay where they are secure.  They cannot stay in the warmth.

Just as Jesus was sent into the messiness of an incredibly troubled and disturbed world, so his followers are to be sent into that world as well.  They have to unbolt those locked doors and go out into the very hostile world they have sought refuge from.

This is where the very Christian faith that is such a warmth and a peace takes on a different dimension.  Never let it be said that religion is simply a comforter, a way of easing over problems.

The Peace that Jesus offers is a peace that becomes real only as it becomes something actively to share.

So, in the troubles of the world, wherever we are and whatever we are doing, as we sense the presence of Christ with us and hear those wonderful words addressed individually to us … Peace be with you, we then need to be alert to where it is that Jesus is sending us.

Is it that we are to go into the very situation from which we have sought refuge … now to bring Christ’s peace?  Is it that we are to go into an entirely different setting to bring that peace into Christ’s world?

Just as I invited you to think of the troubles from which you seek refuge, I now invite you to think of where it might be Jesus is sending you to take his peace.

What will it involve to take that peace of Christ out into that situation?  Is there a possibility that actually it will involve being changed? 

Our theme this morning comes from the prayers for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  Those prayers have been put together by churches in Poland.  The overall theme for the week is ‘We will all be changed’.  Are we prepared to be changed?  Are we open to that to happen?

Those followers of Jesus went out into the very troubled world from which they had sought refuge with the peace of Christ.  Just as God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, so God has given us in Christ a ministry of reconciliation.

Where can we bring peace?

Think of that in your own personal situation, in the situation of your home.

Think of that in the context of the church family too.  Where can we bring peace?

A particular task we can do … in the immediate church setting.  We are at the point in our church calendar where we are asking people to be prepared to be part of our leadership team, serving as a Deacon.  Think seriously abouyt it.  No doubt there are things here in St Luke’s needing to be done.

We are thinking about what it means to belong to church at Highbury next Sunday with an invitiation to stay on to lunch and think things through in a conversation over the lunch table.

Practical things to do – this Thursday an invitation to share in a service with Jewish friends at the Municipal Offices at 6-00 for Holocaust memorial day.

A team going out through Latin Link to serve in South America.

With our Polish links we think of Gosia who spent a year with us from Poland not so long ago.  She writes a greeting to us for today.

Dear Richard,

Thank you for e-mail.
I am sorry that I haven’t write for such a long time.
I am fine. Just packing for mountain trip and some skiing!
Half a year ago I started a new job. I’m working for Engineering Company and part of our responsibilities is to coordinate different constructions. 
Me and my team coordinate building a power station in Bielsko-Biala (which is in southern Poland in Beskidy mountain). 
I’m office assistant and I’m responsible for all the documentation. I wouldn’t have this job if it weren’t for my experience during gap year in Cheltenham. 
I learn so much from an amazing people involved in Highbury Congregation. I’m very grateful. I improved my social skills and I improved my English. 
I really need that now. I like my job :) The only problem is that Bielsko-Biala is about 50 miles from the place I live. So week days I spend in Bielsko, weekends in my flat in Bedzin. 
This is the only disadvantage. Maybe there is one more.. I start work at 6am every day and as You may remember – I love sleeping. 
Huge step in being grown up for me.
On the beginning of February I’m going to Warsaw for a ball organized by my company ILF. I’m terrified. 
There will be about 300 people that I don’t really know. In the same time I’m thinking that if I manage to survive a year in foreign country this ball is piece of cake :) I’m still in touch with some members of Highbury. I’m very pleased. I also received Highbury News each month. Thank You.
I’m also quite happy to say, that I started meeting someone. I hope it’s quite serious.
Now I really have to rush in with packing. I would like to ski a little bit today and I prefer doing that during the day light. 
(I’m also meeting my friend Ewa today – you should remember her).

Greetings for all Highbury Members and Friends.


There are all sorts of opportunities to take the peace of Christ into the wider world.

In them all we are in the business of bringing peace into the world around us.

And it’s something we cannot do.

The whole point of coming aside is that we are being overwhelmed by what’s going on in the world around us.  There’s one thing more in this wonderful moment in the story of jesus we need to hold on to.

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.

But I cannot do that.  I cannot face what’s in store.  I cannot go out.

Then we need to remember what Jesus did next.

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

We cannot do I t in our own strength.  But we are not on our own.  WE are not dependent on our own strength.  We have a strength from beyond ousevlves in the unseen, yet very real power of God, the power and strengthening of othe |Holy Spirit.

Let’s sense the breath of God coming deep within us to strengthen us for wherever it is we have to go, for whatever it is we have to do.

And as we do it – we are to take with us in the strength of God a spirit of forgveness.

Sending – peace-making – breaking barriers down – week of prayer – Polish churches – Latin Link – holocaust memorial on Thursday evening at 6-00.  Pro-active peace making.


Psalm 133  How good unity is!
Ephesians 2:14-20   Peace to the far off and to the near
John 20:19-23 “Peace be with you!”

Peace is not the absence of guns
but the presence of restraint.
Peace is not the absence of bombs
but the presence of compassion.
Peace is not the absence of vengeance
but the presence of mercy.
Peace is not the absence of retribution
but the presence of reconciliation.
Peace is not the absence of division
but the presence of grace.
Peace is not the absence of greed
but the presence of justice.
Peace is not the absence of difference
but the presence of unity.

Loving and merciful God,
speak peace to our hearts and minds
that we may make peace in the world:
breaching divisions to bring reconciliation,
bringing justice to bear where prejudice prevails,
bearing your grace by the power of the Holy Spirit
in and through our lives.

1 comment:

J Elliott said...

This reminds me of using the Anglican liturgy many years ago. That liturgy contrasts a little with the non-conformists in that although it seeks to present its ideas with some reference to the comforting of the people, it is less ambitious on that account: It somehow keeps the expectations of fellowship there with a lighter (more realistic) touch, and is really a little more mystical. The Anglican liturgy might be a healthier approach than that which is a very wonderful ideal of a 'family for all', since church life can fall very short of that ideal (unless you are in the centre layers of the church onion) and can thereby become a source of disappointment rather than comfort.

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