Archive for the ‘Romans 5:1-11; Lent 2B’ Category

Let Me See Your Peace!

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Lent 2 B, March 4, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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Romans 5:1-5

Do you have peace?  If you do, may I see it?  Show me your peace!  This is really the silent, yet always present demand of our unbelieving community that  surrounds us everywhere we go.  They will quickly tell you that they aren’t really interested in hearing about your Savior Jesus Christ, but if believing in  Him works for you, then they’re happy for you.  While they don’t care to hear about what you believe, they are watching to see if what you believe makes a  difference in how you live!  They want to see how you’ll stand up under the pressures of life as compared to them and their circle of friends.  In other  words, does what you believe make a difference in who you are?  And in order to evaluate your belief system they want to see your peace.

Now, whether we want to admit it or not, we Christians are prone to demand this same thing from God whenever troubles and tragedies strike our faith-  filled and grace centered lives.  It’s really a little rude and inconsiderate when we consider all that God has done to provide us with His peace throughout  our lives!  Did you notice that I said His peace and not yours?  That’s the way that it should be.  The objective is first and then the subjective.  That is  always God’s way.  In other words, you can’t know real peace without first having God’s peace!

The world teaches that peace is first personal and then corporate.  Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!  The problem with this kind of  peace is that it is very self-centered and dependent on however you feel at any given moment.  This is a strange idea, because it assumes that you live for  yourself.  Not that this is anything new, William Shakespeare said long ago, “To thine own self be true!”  The problem with this kind of thinking is that it  leads to a personal peace at the cost of other peoples’ peace.

In the 1940’s Three Stooges skit called “I’ll Never Heil Again” the boys start their war council meeting with the chant, “Peace, peace, we want peace.”  And to this Moe rises and says, “Yes we want a piece of this, and a piece of that.”  And that, I am afraid is always the cost of our individual peace… it comes at the expense of others.  Like money, we can never have enough peace.  So, our natural tendency is to surround ourselves with as much of whatever we think will bring that peace, at the exclusion of other people’s peace.

But there’s another kind of peace, God’s peace.  Listen to the Son of God offer and describe this peace:  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” [John 14:27]  So what is this peace that Jesus says that He has given to us?  Well we know it isn’t the kind of peace that the world wants, and we also know that it’s the kind of peace that brings comfort and security in times of trouble and fear.

In verse 1 of our epistle reading, Paul shares these words: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  So the kind of peace that Jesus gives, which Paul is telling us we already have, begins first and always with faith that justifies or makes us right with God.  Now knowing this, there are a couple of questions we must ask to completely understand this peace that comes from God.  The first question is, “Faith in Who?”  The Who is Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God who is the Savior of the world.  The second question is “Faith in what?”  The what, is the completed work of Jesus Christ; His birth, His life, His suffering, and His death, His resurrection and ascension.  In these things, which are recorded for us in Holy Scripture we are shown God’s work for us; a work that has taken away our sins, atoned for our evil and made us right with God!  Or as Paul says it, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Through Jesus we have been reconciled; made right with God.  Through this work, God addresses the one great obstacle that separates us from His love, and that is our sin.  He alone does what we could not do, and He does it through the atoning death of His Son.  In Jesus, God put forward His love for us by putting Jesus in our place; by having Him suffer and die for us, because of our sins.  In God’s self-sacrifice He points our troubled and sinful hearts to His solution for our sins, and His Word tells us to be reconciled; made right with Him!  In Jesus God assures us that we are reconciled; we are at peace with Him!

This proclamation of peace with God through Jesus Christ is the gospel!  If you will receive this truth by faith, then you will see God’s justice performed on the cross for you, and you will know peace!  This is the blessed assurance that saves the worst of sinners and then recreates them and gives them not just peace, but the ability to live out that peace, and even experience it.

What is assurance?  Well here’s the concise theological definition: It is the firm persuasion of faith that you are in a state of grace.  In other words, by faith you know that no matter what may happen around you, it is well with your soul, because God is with you and for you.  It’s the God-given ability to move from the cross of Jesus to the waters of your baptism and say with all certainty that “Jesus died for me!”  It’s hearing the promises of God to the world, and knowing that all of those promises were given to you when you were washed clean with the water and the Word in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  In other words, as St. Paul says in the fifth verse of our epistle lesson, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  Why has God’s love been poured into your heart?  So that you would know and experience His peace!  But aren’t we now talking about feelings?  Isn’t our salvation independent of feelings?  Yes, that is the objective work of God’s gift, a gift to the world.  But in your baptism it became very personal, very subjective.  You see, your salvation is something that is done and complete, but it’s also something you experience as you live it out!  Every day, come what may, Jesus is with you!  He is with you in trials, trouble, and tribulation.  Every day God asks you to experience His presence and then learn to rest in His comfort, care, and love for you.

Several years ago one of the astronauts who walked on the moon was interviewed and asked, “What did you think about as you stood on the moon and looked back at the earth?” The astronaut replied, “I remembered how the spacecraft (that I had to go back home in) was built by the lowest bidder.”

We as Christians can rejoice that the work of our salvation didn’t  go to the “lowest bidder” but was provided by an eternal and infallible God. There will never be any problems with His gift of salvation. Your salvation is as sure as the Creator of that salvation, Almighty God!  And because it is sure, we can learn to trust in Him and not our current experience or feelings.  We know by faith, that not only do we have peace with God, but we’re gonna keep on having that peace.  This peace, which now becomes very personal, becomes an experience that God gives to us.  An experience that reminds us that no matter what may or may not be happening in our lives, ultimately it is well and will be well with our souls!

What does this experience of peace mean to you and me?  Well, if you remember earlier, I mentioned the challenge from our unbelieving neighbors who want to see our peace, which now we know is really God’s peace in action.  This peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, not only keeps our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, but it also directs our hearts and minds outward to the people who live in our community; people who are dying without knowing the peace of God, which comes through the cross of Jesus Christ.  As they see us weather the same storms of life we all go through, and still able to rejoice and praise God in the middle of those storms, they will begin to notice that we are not giving up hope.  They will discover what you already know; your suffering produces endurance and endurance produces a Christian character of faith in the presence and work of God on earth and hope in the promise of an eternity in heaven.  All that’s left, is for you to give an answer to anyone who asks for the reason you have this great hope.  The reason is of course God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, who takes our faith and hope, and then assures us that no matter what we may be going through, no matter what we may be feeling, in the end it will be well with our souls; we will never be put to shame!  And because it will be well with our souls it is well with them right now!  This is our blessed assurance!

I’d like to close with a final thought that is based on the background of our sermon hymn.  It was written by Horatio Spafford.  In 1870 Spafford, a Christian attorney from Chicago, suffered a great financial loss.  Shortly afterwards, his only son died of scarlet fever.  A year later, the great Chicago fire destroyed his family home and all of the family’s investments.  In 1873, after seeing his family at the verge of a breakdown, Spafford used what little money he had left to pay for a family vacation and a missionary tour to Europe in order to help his family refocus on God’s peace.

As he was preparing to board the ship with his family, some last minute business came up, so he was forced to stay behind while his family headed to Europe.  He promised them that He would be on the next ship and would join them there.  So Mrs. Spafford and their four daughters sailed east to Europe, while Mr. Spafford returned to Chicago.  Just nine days later, Spafford received a telegram from his wife that informed him that the ship his family was on sank and everyone in his family, accept his wife had died.

Upon hearing the terrible news, Horatio Spafford boarded the next ship out of New York to join his bereaved wife. As he was traveling near the area where his children died, the captain called Mr. Spafford to the wheel house and said, “A careful reckoning has been made, and I believe we are now passing the place where the ship your family was on sank.” Mr. Spafford then returned to his cabin and penned the lyrics of our hymn, “It is well with my soul”.

It would be very difficult for any of us to predict how we would react under similar circumstances, but we do know that the same faith in the grace of the same Savior who sustained Mr. and Mrs. Spafford would also be with us.  No matter what circumstances overtake us, and no matter what fleeting emotions and feelings may come and go within our lives,  we can know for certain that God’s love, which He has poured out within our hearts will enable us to say along with Horatio Spafford… it is well with our souls!  In Jesus name… Amen!

Let’s sing that first verse one more time together:
It is well … with my soul! It is well, it is well, with my soul.
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well … with my soul!

It is well, it is well, with my soul.