Sunday, July 07, 2013

Isaiah 66:10-14; The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost; July 7, 2013;


Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa;

“Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her; that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance.” For thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bones shall flourish like the grass; and the hand of the Lord shall be known to his servants, and he shall show his indignation against his enemies.” (Isaiah 66:10–14, ESV)

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

It began as barley a whisper… a faint sound at the very edge of perception… no one in the house even stirred… except mother. From the very first, before any sound at all had filled the ears of anyone else… she awoke crawled out of bed and began the trek to her infant’s room. So by the time he was in full cry, with a voice much more than someone his size should be able to shout, mother was already crib side. Quickly she raised the infant to her arms, “Hey Billy, what’s the matter?” She said quietly, as she gathered him to herself. At first he was inconsolable, and his screams echoed through the whole house. They filled the ears of his brothers and sisters, who muffled the sound with arms, blankets or pillows in an attempt to return to their dreams. But, soon quiet was again restored as the rocking chair and the sweet sound of mother voice brought infant comfort. He was safe and warm, there in his mother’s arms, satisfied and at peace.

Oh, to be at peace… like a little child in its mother’s arms, satisfied at rest, warm and content…. at peace. But as much as peace is desired it, peace is seldom found. Maybe that’s why this image of peace is so powerful for us, because we seldom know this kind of peace when we are no longer able to lie in our mother’s arms… when we have grown too large to be cuddled there. There are other moments of peace in our lives, standing on a quiet beach listening to the waves rush the shore; Being alone in the field with wind slipping through the corn that is so tall it almost blocks out the sun; Sitting beside the bed of a sleeping child listening contentedly to the shallow echoes of breath. But, moments of peace are few, because the world, this world that we live in, is a world of conflict.

A world of conflict… every day in the newspaper you can read about war somewhere around the globe. War is the same everywhere. There are two groups of people in conflict. They have determined that their conflict is so great that the only means of resolution is the violent death of the other party. They have determined that the only resolution is to disrupt the peace… to arm themselves with the tools of death. Many people would say that the exact opposite of peace is war. When the images of war explode onto the news, the comfort of our mother’s arms is very inviting.

But, conflict isn’t just found between nations at war. We find it even in the smallest communities. In fact any gathering of people is often marked by disagreement that often disrupts the peace. Do we build a swimming pool or not. Should there be a prison, or group home in our neighborhood. Should taxes be raised or cut… but it isn’t just government. There is conflict where we work… a co-worker we don’t like… a manager that won’t allow time off, or demands overtime… Conflict also lives in our homes… family decisions are marred by arguments and unhappy resolutions. What household has children that don’t fight, and parents who are always forgiving? What man and wife have never fought about family finances? Conflict is laced in every aspect of our lives… our families, friendships, and even our Church. Disharmony is everywhere it affects every relationship we have. But, not all the conflict is external. Many people have an internal struggle that far outweighs the discord between people. Internal struggle can fracture the human psyche. The wounds it can cause are even more devastating than disagreements between people. We all experience some of that disunity. We all struggle to do what we know is right, and avoid what we know is wrong. Saint Paul described the struggle so well

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:14–19, ESV)

When we think of these conflicts it is no wonder we long for the comfort of our mother’s arms. That place where we can be comforted, safe from conflict, safe from trouble, and at peace.

All of the disunity, between nations, people, families, individuals, and even the internal struggles of people are really a sign, a window to an even greater more devastating division. Conflict, internal and external, is an image of the most serious human problem. All human beings have cut themselves off from God by their own sin. We are fractured people who are determined to be in conflict with the very one who made us, the one who designed us for a relationship with him. We have conflict with others, we can’t get along with other people; we are in conflict with ourselves; because we can’t get along with God. That is the real source of conflict in our lives.

This is where this image, given to us in our text, comes in. God says he will comfort us, brings us peace, like a mother does with her child. “I will extend peace like a river… as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” He extends his arms around us, pulls us to his breast where we are warm, safe and secure. There we find peace. There we find comfort. He ended the conflict with us, because we didn’t want to end it with him.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, ESV)

It is amazing and somewhat ironic that the one who God sent to restore peace to the world, the prince of peace, restored our fractured relationship, our conflict, by means of a violent death. He endured internal and external conflict on the cross as he was rejected by the Father in our place. The separation that our sinful nature desired; the conflict we wished; for was focused on Jesus Christ. He endured it all instead of us. And because of that he brought about peace between us and our Heavenly Father. But this peace is more than just a peaceful, tranquil feeling. It’s more than a feeling of contentment that even un-believers can feel. Jesus brings a peace the is a peace that exists even when we are in conflict. It’s a peace that exists even when we don’t feel peaceful.

The peace that Christ brings is like the peace between two warring parties. He declares the hostilities cease. But, when peace is declared sometimes the sides don’t want to end the fighting. Because we still have the effects of sin in our lives we don’t always want God’s peace. We struggle against it. But, the war is over, Jesus Christ has won it and he has declared the peace. It is a peace that passes all our understanding. When we feel it, when we experience that peaceful feeling like we are wrapped in the Father arms we rejoice; but it is just as true when we don’t feel it. We are still even then, because of Christ, at peace with God.

God doesn’t promise that Christians won’t have conflict in their lives. Christians just like all people will have internal and external struggles. But God, through Jesus Christ, has done something about the most serious conflict. Because of Jesus suffering and death on the cross we are no longer in conflict with God. Because suffered the separation of that conflict we can enjoy the comfort the peace. That peace, whether we feel it or not, effects our whole lives. Our relationships to our families… our relationships to our friends… our relationships at work... Our relationships to our community. That peace earned for us through the death of Christ, has given us peace with God and has opened the way for us to be at peace with others.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15, ESV)

Billy slept quietly in his mothers arms. He was at peace, comforted by his mother. The noise of discord was all but forgotten. She had come and brought him comfort. He was safe and warm, he was at peace.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Amen.

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