Unravelling Peace

This can be listened to here

Gate Pa – Advent 2 2015

Psalm:                                   The Song of Zechariah        NZPB Page 85
First Reading:                       Baruch 5:1-9                                                        
Second Reading: Philippians 1:3-11                                               
Gospel:                  Luke 3:1-6                                                            

What I want to say:
Explore the idea that peace comes when we are unravelled from the threads and chords that hold us as individuals and as communities in certain ways of seeing, acting being. Peace comes when the radical change comes with repentance
What I want to happen:
People to spend the week reflecting on what might be needed for there to be a new peace in their lives this Christmas

The Sermon

     1.       Introduction:

last week – hope
invited pray with that theme, specifically around
·         How has your hope in God changed over your life?
·         In what ways might you be invited to reform your life this advent as we prepare for Christ’s coming? what new ways might you live out hope?
·         How are you being changed by love?

     2.       Peace

this week theme is peace
seems so far off
                another climate change conference is under way
                while what some regard as first climate change war continues in Syria                    spilling over in Iraq
                Britain has agreed to join bombing raids
                fighting and killing continues parts of Africa
                another mass shooting or two (or three?) in America
How can we even begin to talk about hope or peace in face of all that?

     3.       Luke and John the Baptiser

some suggested little light weight
                 bit history
                quote Isaiah
others wondered why Luke includes so much detail and immediately contrasts it with John

     4.       Paul

recently read book about St Paul
-          basic idea of which is that he was radical that church and state really weren’t that comfortable with.
one things writer emphasises is Paul’s use of Imperial titles for Christ
Son of God
Saviour of the world
all of which were originally applied to emperor before applied to Jesus
and all gospel writers
è lived in word dominated by Rome
Augustus was first emperor
became emperor by defeating other generals claiming Rome for themselves
ending long civil war
restoring peace –
was literally seen as saviour of world
one who brought peace world ripped apart by war
and every emperor after that welcomed with same enthusiasm
divide between human and divine in Greco-Roman world not great
                gods became human
                notable humans became gods
                gods had human children
not like us see this huge divide
so someone like Augustus who seemed to do impossible and bring peace and stability in war torn world was seen as a god among men.
è Emperor Cult became important way emperor maintain mystique and power.
none emperors quite lived up to all these hopes placed on them
each new emperor greeted with hope and enthusiasm
                same hope that this time this emperor will be one where all flourish
                                all do well from romans
                                there would be true peace
                                hopes be fulfilled
of course it never happened
                only people ever do well in empire
                                really well
                                ones in centre
                                                true of every empire including British Empire
further from edge went – less well those people did
                peace maintained with brutal violence
                millions died maintaining for Rome’s peace

     5.       Back to Luke

takes us back to Luke
All power centred on Emperor – Tiberius (successor to Augustus)
everyone else on that list,
including high priests
were on that list at Tiberius discretion
while they were on that list
they were among those who benefited from Roman Peace
in their interests to keep the illusion going.
People Paul mixed with and wrote to
people gospels written for
                not in centre
                on the edge
they were ones paid price of Roman peace.
to use names reserved for emperor was a way of showing
                shallowness of emperor cult
                                roman peace
Using titles of Emperor for Jesus
                way of declaring that true hope
                                real peace
                                authentic joy
not to be found in the empire
but in Jesus alone.
So, rather than simply giving us some historical details
another way reading this passage is that Luke is offering us a contrast
contrast of the way of the empire centred on Tiberius
with way God centred on humble carpenter from Nazareth.
Way of empire at best can bring a temporary end to violence
it can never bring peace
Hebrew word for peace is shalom
                shalom is more than absence of war
                                a manifestation of divine grace
is the overcoming of strife, quarrel, and social tension,
the prevention of enmity and war.
Luke (and Paul and other gospel writers) are saying that      
empire might bring very temporary absence of war
only God brings peace/shalom.
too often we who follow the way of christ have forgotten this
Christ has been colonised by empire
chrisitnity has become a tool in empires arsenal to demand loyalty
whether that Roman, Byzantine, British, German, or American empire
        Christianty has become way encouraging people put their faith in Empire
        see rulers of that empire as only ones truly bring peace and hope to this world

     6.       some thoughts:

Advent reminds us that our first loyalty is not to the nation state
                but to way God
believe in Christ is to put all our hope and trust in Christ
                not about intellectual assent
                trusting in God to be our only real source of hope and peace
not military might allies
not in keeping borders tight
not in living in fear about our way of life
but in God’s way of compassion, mercy, generosity.
two – this way is not easy
we are ensnared, trapped by false way seeing world that puts the way of empire first
only way to find real peace in our lives
                in community
                in world is when let go those ways seeing world
                allow God to free us from all ways trapped by false hope and false sin.
that needs kind of earth works described by Isaiah and quoted by John Baptiser in Luke are significant even today
sometimes it is hard for us to comprehend magnitude of what has happened to earth when driving down SH1 for example
                both what has been involved to create that road
                how different it is to how it used to be
                                how different it is from roads of to each side.
around this time 30 years ago Bonnie nearly divorced me on cycle tour from Auckland to Wellington because I suggested we leave the main road and went along one of these side roads
                how lumpy can a road in the Hawkes Bay be?
                turns out very.
                we spent several hours going up and over very single little hillock between Napier and Waipukurau
really useful image
                first is that way empire  - false hope and peace is much easier than hillocky road of God
                secondly – kind change needed to leave behind the old assumptions in false peace was like those rood works
                                hard work
                                take a long time – not done overnight.

     7.       Advent

weeks of Advent invite us to take that time and more
this is about expectant waiting
willing to stop and take time needed – to at least make a start.

  •  what sins at you being invited to be untangled from?
  • As a church, or as a country, what sins are we being untangled from?
  • Where is peace this advent?


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