Blessed are the Peacemakers

Here’s the full audio of Pastor Michael’s sermon from November 12, 2017, reflecting on the seventh Beatitude in the Sermon on the Mount:

And here’s a written excerpt, exploring the “peacemaking” Jesus calls us to:

As Christians we know the peace that God desires—peace with God, peace within creation, peace among us, peace within us. This is the vision of shalom laid out for us in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.

Jesus looked back to the prophet Isaiah to help define what this “peace” looks like. And for Jesus, as for Isaiah, this “peace” is connected to God’s reign as king, what Jesus called “the kingdom of God.”

Think back to our call to worship this morning, from Isaiah 52:

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

The messenger on the mountains announces peace, he announces salvation, he declares, “Your God reigns!” Peace, salvation, God’s kingdom come—these are all three the same thing. The are the gospel.

And we hear this all throughout Isaiah’s prophecies.

“In the days to come,” Isaiah 2 says, all nations will stream to the Lord to learn God’s way of peace: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

When the Messiah comes, the child born to us, the son given to us, Isaiah 9 says, “His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.”

When the Spirit-anointed Messiah, Jesse’s descendant, establishes God’s kingdom on earth, Isaiah 11 says, he shall bring “justice for the poor, equity for the meek of the earth,” and “they will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

And when Jesus the Messiah did come, he used the words of Isaiah 61 to announce his peacemaking, kingdom-building mission:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

—God’s year of Jubilee, that is: economic equity for all, justice for all, freedom for all, peace for all.

Jesus has come to establish God’s kingdom on earth, bringing salvation from the enemies of sin and death and all the evil powers at work in the world, and so bringing peace, shalom, a complete ceasing of hostilities among us and within us, a comprehensive harmony and wholeness with God, each other, and all creation.

Thus Isaiah promises. And thus Jesus delivers. Jesus has planted the seed of God’s kingdom of peace in the world, and it has been growing ever since.

As Christians we continue in this path laid out for us by Jesus. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus says, “for they will be called children of God.” That’s us. You, me, all who consider themselves “born again,” “children of God.”

We are called to be peacemakers like Jesus, kingdom peacebuilders in the way of Jesus.

It’s a daunting task, and it can seem nigh impossible. What can we do in the face of genocide, in the face of civil war and nuclear brinkmanship, in the face of terrorism both abroad and too close to home?

The truth is, though, that Jesus gives us many peacemaking tools. He has indeed taught us “the things that make for peace,” if only we have ears to hear. He has taught us “the way of peace,” if only we have the faith to trust him and the courage to obey him.

One tool in Jesus’ peacemaking kit, for example, is simple compassion for the needy—so we give generously to aid organizations both at home and abroad. Welcoming the stranger is another of Jesus’ peacemaking tools—so we get involved with sponsoring and supporting refugees, and we look for “strangers” right here among us to welcome. Another of Jesus’ peacemaking tools is to speak truth to people in power—so we contact those with political power and wealth, and we advocate for justice and equality for the most vulnerable among us when they are treated unjustly.

All this and more is a form of nonviolent resistance against evil, Jesus’ chief tool for making peace—with creativity and compassion, without violence, standing up to the powers that be and seeking change for the good of others, the good of all.

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