When the Mountains Become Flat

I recently took a trip with my family out to Colorado and we spent some time up in the mountains.  It was a wonderful trip and we had the opportunity to see a different part of God’s beautiful creation.  Of course it made my wife nervous when I took in the beauty of God’s creation while driving up the side of the mountains, but even the view out of the corner of my eye was amazing.

As we got to the first place that we were staying, we were sitting in the dining hall. As I ate my food I wanted to make sure that I was close to the window so that I could just sit and stare at the beauty that was all around us.  As I sat in that dining hall I also looked around at the others who were sitting and eating and I noticed that they did not seem to have the same reaction that I was having.  In my own mind I’m thinking to myself “Are you even paying attention to the scene that is right outside this window?”  All I could wonder was had the mountains become flat to these people?  Did they even care what was outside?  Did they even want to be here?

As I continued to think and dwell on what I observed I thought to myself that what I was observing is not dissimilar to the grace of God in Jesus Christ.  Let me explain.  As a Lutheran Pastor and someone who has grown up in the Lutheran Church I have heard and preached on a weekly basis about what Jesus has done for you and for me.  “The article on Justification by faith is the most important of all Christian teachings, without which no poor conscience can have lasting comfort or recognize properly the riches of Christ’s grace.”[1] We know about grace.  We teach grace.  We proclaim that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ ALONE. Grace is the proverbial mountains. When grace clicks for people they can’t get enough of it.  When grace is understood by people all they want to do is sit by the window and look at it taking every bit of it in.  For many when they get a taste of the grace of Jesus Christ they tend to look around in bewilderment at every one else around them and think to themselves what is wrong with these people?  People might begin to wonder if the others that are around them have any idea of what grace is all about because they clearly don’t seem to be as excited about it.

As I sat looking around I almost became indignant with the people who I was eating with because I could not understand their lack of excitement.  There were no doubt people would sat in that room would could have not cared less that they were sitting in the mountains and in fact would have rather been somewhere completely different, but I would imagine that most of the people who were sitting their looked at the mountains the same way that I did at one time.  I would also imagine that they had a better understanding of the mountains than I did knowing the peaks and valleys.  They didn’t just visit the mountain they lived in the mountains.  They did not just observe it for a moment but took it in for a life time.  As workers greeted me they welcomed me and my family and invited us to partake in what they were living in the beauty of the mountains. They were no longer “surprised” by the beautiful landscape but rather it was something that they expected every morning when they woke up.  They didn’t appreciate the mountains less than me and in fact they may have had a deeper appreciation for them.

There are many who understand the radicle good news of Jesus Christ crucified and risen for all people and go about their daily business in that grace always knowing it is there.  Do we at times run the risk of losing sight of the “mountain?” Of course our own sinfulness which manifest itself in so many ways whether it is through pride, guilt, an easy life or and extremely difficult life tries to distract us from the mountains around us.   Yet when that happens our savior gently lifts our head up out of our own lives and draws our attention to the greatest mountain ever to exist, the mountain where grace flows down because of Christ going up for you and for me.

Hebrews 12:2 (ESV) looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

[1] Solid Declaration, Article III:6

What is Peace?

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

How many of you could use a little bit of peace and quiet it your lives?  I would guess than many people, not all, but many would love a little bit more peace and quiet in their lives.  A follow up question to my first is what does peace and quiet even look like?  Often times when we talk about peace in our lives we are talking about things being less busy, our lives being less stressful, not having to work lots and lots of hours.  When we broaden our view out and look at the world often times we will look and understand peace as a time when there is no war.  Peace is a word and concept that get used a lot and this morning I want to take another look at this idea of peace.  What is peace? What does it mean to have peace? Is peace simply having so time away? Is peace simply finding some quite time?  Is peace simply not being at war?  These understandings of peace may dance around the deeper meaning of peace, but if peace is simply sitting on your back porch as the warm sun falls down on your face and you enjoy a nice ice tea I hate to tell you but that peace will quickly disappear.  The clouds will come and the sun will be covered.  Your ice tea will run out and quickly your kids will be crying because they fell down and scraped their knee. What is peace? What is true peace?

The first part of John 16:33a (ESV) says 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.” Jesus says to his disciples and to us that he has said these things to you that in me [Christ] you may have peace.  What is going on in John chapter 16? This is anything but a peaceful time in the gospel narrative.  This conversation between Jesus and his disciples is taking place in the upper room as Jesus is approaching his crucifixion.  In the Easter season we are now jumping back in the gospel narrative and looking at what Jesus said prior to his death and resurrection because it is only after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ do his words make sense.  It is only after his death and resurrection will we find peace in what is being said in many of Christ’s words.

The full verse John 16:33 (ESV) says 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” It is only after the death and resurrection of Christ that these words will make sense.  It is only after the death and resurrection that what Jesus has just said to them that the words will bring them peace.  Well known sections of the upper room discourse ring hollow prior to Easter morning.  John 14:6 (ESV) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  What does that mean without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?  John 15:12–13 (ESV) 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. Without the resurrection these words are not comforting they are terrifying.  John 15:18–20 (ESV) 18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. Without the resurrection the only thing in store for the disciples is the same fate as the one that they followed.  Without the resurrection the words of Christ did not bring peace the words of Christ simply brought up fear, hopelessness, and despair. Jesus says to them “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” and that is exactly what he did in his death and resurrection.

The words that were read this morning along with all the words of scripture that you encounter here and in your one personal time in God’s word have Christ’s spoken words attached to them.  I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. For you and for me those words mean nothing apart from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but because of what Jesus has done we can have true peace not a worldly peace but a peace that passes all understanding.  We can have that peace in a world that is anything but peaceful.  We can have that peace even in the midst of the trials and tribulations that we and all people face in this life.

The world that we are in as stated by Jesus himself is full of things that are the exact opposite of peace.  In the immediate context of these words of Jesus they are connected to the fact that people would be coming to capture Jesus and deliver him over to be killed and in that process the disciples would run away even though they all claim that they would never do such a thing. Fear griped their hearts and they fled.  For you today what are the areas and events of your life that are causing you turmoil?  What are the things in your past that haunt you making the true peace of Christ seem to be vailed in cryptic words?  For some of our brothers and sisters in Christ in the world they find themselves in a similar context as our gospel reading today.  Their lives are in danger and Christ has given them his word that they might have peace knowing that their fate may be the same as their savior’s fate.  We ourselves though are not without trials and tribulations in this world that bring us anything but peace. There are many in our own congregation who are dealing with health issues of all sorts and peacefulness is not what they feel but rather fear, anxiety, and so much more.  Christ’s words are for you this day that you would have peace, take heart; I have overcome the world for you! Look to the death that your savior died but also his resurrection which puts meat on the bones of that statement that Jesus has overcome the world for you!  For others the lack of peace stems from the brokenness of this world the sin in our own lives. It can stem from the sin that plagues the lives of people we love and care deeply for. Sin and true peace don’t go hand in hand which means not one of us can find real peace in this world apart from the one who knew no sin, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We shouldn’t need to much convincing that the words about how the world is full of tribulation is accurate.  Every time we turn on the news we see more problems and more pain.  Every time we look in the mirror we see that something is not right.  Every time we hurt with pain struggle with sickness we can see the brokenness of this world. Where are we to go to find peace?  We know the answer yet at times we look in all the wrong places.  We look to this world to give us peace.  If we have a little bit more a little bigger, house, a little newer car then we will be at peace. If we just had a little better health then we would be at peace.  If we could just restore some of the relationships in our lives then we would be at peace.  If I could just be a better person and live a little more of a faithful Christian life then I would be at peace or maybe it’s the other direction and if I back away from the words of Christ a little bit I will then find peace.

That is not were peace comes from.  The only place peace comes from is by being IN CHRIST!  Peace with God which is the only true peace comes 100% from the outside of any one of us.  It comes when you are forgiven in your baptism. Romans 6:3 (ESV) Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We have been baptized INTO Jesus.  Peace comes when you hear the word of God and the promise that you are in Christ.  In our reading today v.33 again Jesus said what he said that they might have peace because of Him. Peace comes when you receive the Lord’s Supper receiving the body and blood of your Lord and Savior knowing that you are forgiven completely on account of Christ.