God’s Peace! Here? Are You Kidding????
Text: John 14:27-29
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
May 9, 2010
Jesus speaks of peace, God’s peace, the kind of peace the world cannot give.
In looking at the Common Lectionary the passage we had to read today was on God’s peace and my initial reaction was to laugh. It’s the Festival of the Christian Home; Mother’s Day and, the concept of peace on a day about family sounds, if nothing else, amusing. I mean, most people, if asked about God’s peace and home would say:
God’s peace? Here? Are you kidding????
In 1983 one of the great all time movies about family life and family fun was made. It was National Lampoon’s Vacation. It was the adventure of Clark and Ellen Griswald driving from Chicago to Florida to visit Wally World. The movie was about their trip. In one short conversation between Clark and Ellen we learn a lot:
Clark: I'm just trying to treat my family to a little fun.
Ellen Griswold: Oh spare me, Clark, I know your brand of family fun. Tomorrow you'll probably kill the desk clerk, hold up a McDonalds, and drive us 1000 miles out of the way to see the world's largest pile of mud!
Clark: Despite all the little problems it's fun isn't it?
Ellen Griswold: No. But with every new day there's fresh hope.
Family life, is, in a word, interesting. And to the mix Jesus speaks quite earnestly and seriously about God’s peace. The more I have been thinking about this, the more I’ve come to realize that to understand and receive God’s peace, so much depends on us. For God’s peace to live, for God’s peace to thrive in the world, in church, and even in our homes, it requires each of us to come to a sense of peace within our own lives.
In light of this, from my own personal experience there are things that keep people from peace within themselves. There are things we can do to help ourselves.
The first is learning to say “I’m sorry,” when we are wrong.
I have found that there is nothing as character building as apologizing. Having the humility and courage to admit that you are personally wrong and have made a mistake, is liberating. Often a good apology clears the air between people. Families who learn to apologize to one another, live healthier and happier lives.
One thing that is crucial, however, is learning to truly apologize as opposed to pretending to apologize.
There is several words in the English language that ought never be in an apology. The word is ‘but.’
When we say, “I am sorry for offending you, but....” When we say this, we are putting the issue of offense on the person we offended. We are trying to justify our actions.
“I’m sorry for hurting you, but...” You deserved it.
“I’m sorry for stealing from you, but...” I wanted the money more you needed it.
You get the point.
Or when we use the word ‘if.’
“I’m sorry IF I offended you, “ and we’re really saying you need to have thicker skin.
“I’m sorry IF I hurt you,” and we’re really saying you need to be tougher.
“I’m sorry IF you needed that,” and we really saying I needed it more.
True apologies end with “I’m sorry.” We can add, “Because I offended you, or because I hurt you, or because it was uncalled for, but we can’t use the word ‘but’ or ‘if.’
And I’m sorry IF this bothers you BUT, it’s true.
The second thing is learning to forgive. One of the greatest causes of people to not be at peace with themselves is because they carry grudges, carry anger, and never really learn to forgive. Not forgiving others, carrying around permanent burdens, causes people to be totally overwhelmed by their grudges.
One of the great models of forgiveness is, believe it or not, God.
In Chapter 15 in the book of the prophet Jeremiah, there is an interesting and unusual scene. And a troubling scene. Things have not gone well for Jeremiah and he is angry and frustrated. In a moment of anger, in a moment of frustration, Jeremiah tells God:
Truly, for me you are a deceptive stream with uncertain waters!
The words are poetic and elegant and they have one consistent meaning. In the heat of anger and frustration at God, Jeremiah indicates that God has been lying to him; that God has been dishonest to him; that God is a liar.
Harsh words, most especially to speak to God.
And the moment just hangs there. God’s prophet calls Him a liar. The heat of anger has come and the most vile words Jeremiah could think of saying have come out of his mouth. The mood hangs.
And God responds, and you can almost hear it as a whisper: “If you come back, I will take you back.” Jeremiah has called God a liar and God, in those simple words, “If you come back, I will take you back,” forgives His prophet.
What I love about this passage is this. It’s so real. This is the kind of exchange that takes place in life all the time. It happens a lot in homes. Anger and frustration builds up and heated words are spoken. Often the words are less poetic than Jeremiah uses, but they are equally harsh. Resentment and anger build up. Yet, God models how to respond. Forgive. Forgiveness brings peace not only to those around us, but also to ourselves.
The last thing is this. Do not judge.
Let me tell you a really stupid story. What makes the story so incredibly foolish was the judgmental behavior of one person in the story, namely me.
Years ago Janet and I were out to eat in a restaurant in the town we where we lived in Pennsylvania. We went to a small restaurant we used to frequent a great deal and they had a small salad bar. I was following a man at the salad bar and, instead of taking some lettuce, tomatoes, and the usual stuff for a salad, he filled his entire bowl with onions and then pour French dressing on his 100% onion salad.
I do not, for a variety of reasons, eat raw onions and I watched this guy in horror. When I went to sit at the table I pretty much ignored Janet and watched this guy eat his bowl of raw onions and I sat there and fumed. Janet tried to engage me in conversation and I was short with her and I was short with the server who came by. I sat, watched the guy, and fumed because, to put it simply, I did not approve of his choice of salad.
In the great picture and scope of the universe, this meant nothing, but I was all worked up. I judged this guy’s salad. That’s it. And I fumed. I realized, after a while, how incredibly stupid I was. The guy’s salad might not have been to my approval, but so what?
We do this kind of thing all the time in life. We judge. Someone does something or makes choices that we do not approve of. So what?
Jesus spoke of judgment a great deal. It accomplishes nothing good; it just estranges people from one another and sows disharmony in the world. And it accomplishes nothing.
Peace? There’s an old hymn, Let There Be Peace on Earth, and it begins with the words, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”
Jesus offers us the gift of God’s peace; and God’s peace is not available until we make peace within ourselves. Learning to apologize, forgiving, and not judging others is a great place to start. And the best place to begin is the place we all begin and end each day. At home.