Sermon: August 28th, 2016 – “Finding Peace – Part 5”

 

“Finding Peace – Part 5″

Text: 2 Corinthians 5: 17-18

17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.

Today is our fifth and final Sunday in our sermon series about peace. We have visited about a number of different perspectives and interpretations around the idea of peace. Today, I’m hoping to bring together some of the diverse concepts we have been thinking about with regard to peace and perhaps construct a single idea or understanding that encompasses all we have talked about over the past four weeks.

Last week in particular we began to explore what it meant to live into the concept of becoming the peace we seek. We watched a movie clip that I think demonstrated in dramatic fashion what it means to become peace; and I defined that further for you as putting yourself in the path of someone else’s pain. But I also think it is important for us to realize that peace means making peace with what is, without necessarily changing the external circumstances which created the non-peace. We must seek peace internally first, and then bring our internal peace to the external world.

The text which I read a few minutes ago speaks of a ministry of reconciliation. I believe that may be our highest calling-to bring peace and reconciliation to our world. This is where the synthesis of ideas begins to come together; because our own personal internal peace eventually can translate into a world peace which encompasses the entire planet. But it has to happen in the right order; in other words, I don’t think we can accomplish world peace without first establishing personal peace within the hearts and minds of individuals. It is difficult to engage in a ministry of reconciliation if your internal world is still in chaos. So I believe we must seek peace on a personal level first and then allow that peace to spread to the entire world through what Paul called the ministry of reconciliation, or what we could identify as simply the ministry of peace.

I happen to think this is really easier than most of us realize; but we have to be willing to actually do it. We can accomplish world peace in a relatively brief span of time; but only if we experience peace internally on a personal level first, and then share that peace with others. It is the sharing that is the key ingredient as we work for world peace, but it is also the key ingredient in what Paul calls the ministry of reconciliation. We must share the peace.

More years ago than I care to actually mention, I wanted to earn some spending money so I suggested to my dad that I could wash the car. I thought one dollar sounded about right for the job, so that is what I suggested. If I remember right, I was maybe 11 or 12 years old at this time. My dad, being the physics professor and mathematician that he was, saw a teaching opportunity and wanted to take advantage of it. My dad suggested that I plan on washing the car on a regular basis, say for example, every week of the coming summer and into the fall, for perhaps a total of 20 washings. Then he made the following offer; my dad suggested that I get paid one cent for the first washing, and then he would double the amount paid for each subsequent washing. Of course, I was only 11 or 12 and knew nothing of geometric progressions or logarithmic equations. I stopped to think about the offer and tried to calculate in my head what he was actually talking about. My mind went something like one cent, two cents, four cents, 8 cents, 16 cents…forget this, I’ll take a dollar per wash. My dad agreed, but then told me I might want to actually figure that out someday.

I think I was a senior in high school when the subject came up again; someone said something about if you double a penny every day for just a month you have millions of dollars. I didn’t believe it, so I figured it out one night at the kitchen table with a bowl of popcorn. Wow, it is pretty amazing. Take a look at what happens-many of you have probably heard this before, but it is worth reviewing again.

As you can see in this first slide, the first nine days not much happens – and this is about as far as my 12-year old brain could see into the future. The next nine days things begin to get interesting, because on the 18th day the doubling has already turned into over $1300. But hold on to your hats…

In just four days, the number jumps from a little over $2600, to almost $21,000. The next four days are even more incredible. We jump from about $42,000 on day 23, to $335,000 by day 26. The next two days take us over the one million dollar mark, with 1.3 million on day 26, and then to 5.3 million by day 28, and we get all the way to almost 21.5 million dollars by day 30.

I mention this simply because what works with pennies also works with people. If one person adopts the ministry of reconciliation, and passes it on to another, and then those two get two more, and so on, pretty soon millions of people are living a life of peace. We could accomplish world peace in short order, if we are willing to adopt the ministry of reconciliation for ourselves and then share our peace with others.

But most of us don’t do that, do we? It really is a choice and it is often a hard choice.

Last week I spent some time down in the Boise area and noticed the speed limit on the Interstate highway going towards Twin Falls was 80 MPH. That just seemed odd to me; to see those signs with the 80MPH posted on the sign post. For me, 80MPH was always taboo, it was what you said when you wanted to exaggerate something. You would be describing a reckless driver and exclaim; “he must have been doing about 80 when he came around the corner.” 80 was kind of the default exaggerated position of the extreme – and it felt odd to see it as the accepted law of the land.  I told Heidi that there should be signs underneath the speed limit signs that say something like; “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

I think that is something good for us to remember almost all the time; just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Have you ever heard anyone describe a situation where they were justifiably angry, perhaps bad service in a restaurant or a hotel, and then say rather proudly that they gave that manager a piece of their mind? Have you heard these comments? I really unloaded on that guy, or I told them in no uncertain terms what I thought about that…

We all have the opportunity to get angry. Often we can justify the anger because of the situation. But just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. It is still a choice. I guess I have come almost full circle since our first sermon in this series where I asked the question; “do you want to win or do you want peace?” To live a life of peace, to accept the responsibility of the ministry of reconciliation, may mean for us that we choose peace over a justifiable anger, it may mean we choose peace over being right and it may mean that we choose peace over winning.

Some of you may have noticed our Peace Pole on your way in this morning. The International Peace Pole is part of an international organization dedicated to the idea of peace and dedicated to actively praying for peace. The headquarters of this organization is located in upstate New York, and they have placed so many peace poles, they claim to have lost count. Estimates are in excess of 200,000 peace poles have been erected by individuals, corporations and organizations all dedicated to the ideal of peace. There are peace poles in almost every country all over the planet.

I thought as a conclusion to our series on peace, it would be appropriate for us to commit to praying for peace and living into the ideal of peace; at least to the greatest extent that we can, as difficult as it is. After our closing hymn we will gather outside at our International Peace Pole for a brief dedication ceremony.

Sermon: August 21, 2016 – “Finding Peace” – part 4

 

“Finding Peace” – part 4

Text: Romans 15: 5 – May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus.

As you are probably aware, we have been involved for the last few weeks on a sermon series around the idea of peace. I have introduced to you some thoughts and ideas about this topic, asking an important question, for example, “do you want to win, or do you want peace?” We have talked about the text where Jesus claims to offer us peace, but then reminds us that he gives us peace, not as the world gives – and we have explored some ideas around that concept as well. In general, I think it is safe to say that we have discovered that often the world gives an illusion of peace and Jesus offers the real deal. Last week I spoke some about our own egos and how the ego can create a constant feeling of insecurity or lack that creates a gap in our thinking between what is and what we think we want. This constant feeling of lack creates anxiety and frustration which is the lack of peace.

Today, I want to get a little more proactive. It’s one thing to talk about finding peace and to theorize about some of the ways we might find peace, but it is another thing altogether to actually go do it. Today I want to offer some ideas on concrete, tangible things we can do to find peace.

A few months ago, as you might remember, I had total knee replacement surgery. Before the surgery I met with the surgeon and his assistant and they showed me an actual model of the kind of new knee I was going to receive. They explained how it worked, let me play with it for a few minutes and then they even gave me a brochure that extolled all the wonderful virtues of this new knee. I may still have that brochure somewhere, but I’m not sure.

Shortly after surgery and I mean very shortly, I began physical therapy. There were a couple of exercises designed to maintain and increase the flexibility of my new knee. Some of these exercises were not my favorite thing; as a matter of fact it hurt like crazy. I remember thinking during one of my physical therapy appointments that “this wasn’t in the brochure”!

When we begin to think about peace, sometimes the specifics are not necessarily in the brochure. Even when they are, the meaning can be ambiguous and we need to unpack the meaning at times to gain a clear picture of what that really looks like for us today in the 21st century. For example, the brochure tells us in the text I read a few minutes ago, to live in harmony with one another. That sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Live in harmony why should that be

It’s not difficult until we are challenged at a personal level. That is we are given a choice to choose harmony over our own personal preference. Let me say that again; it is not difficult until we have to choose harmony over our own personal

Let me see if I can explain this idea in greater detail. For some reason I am not a very adventuresome eater; truth be told, there are some foods that actually scare me. I don’t like special sauces, or strong spices, I don’t like ketchup or mustard or relish or onions or pretty much anything like that on my hamburger for example. I like the meat and the cheese and the bun – and that’s it. When I order a burger in a restaurant or a fast food place, I have to be very specific about how I want my burger. Even though I have been very specific, quite often, the burger shows up with something unexpected on it. This frustration has been with me my entire

It would be very easy to get really upset at the wait staff, for example, when my burger arrives at the table with the chef’s surprise sauce all over it. Even though I want it corrected, I still have a choice to choose harmony over my preference at that time. My preference may be to let all the years of frustration out on one poor server and come completely unglued; but generally, I don’t do that. Rather, I choose to remain calm and explain as nicely as I can that I really need a new

Now I recognize that this isn’t really a big deal. It is just a hamburger after all. If I had to get through the evening without eating anything, I would still survive and perhaps even be better off for the experience. But I bring this up in this way because it represents something that I do think is important. What is important is the idea that if we can learn to choose harmony in the trivial matters, it becomes easier to choose harmony when the stakes are higher. In other words, if we can learn to choose harmony when someone steals our parking place or when the person in front of us at the express check-out lane obviously can’t count to 10 or the person at the DMV couldn’t possibly take any longer-if we can learn to choose harmony in those situations, then when it really matters, it becomes

A few years ago there was a movie released called “We Were Soldiers” and it was about the Vietnam War, you may remember seeing it advertised. At one point in the movie something happens which I think is a powerful example of what I am talking about. At the risk of needing to offer a spoiler alert, I want to tell you about what I see happening in this scene before we actually watch it. That way, you can watch for it as well and recognize it when it takes

The first thing I want you to watch for is the choice that is made. Our main character in this scene chooses harmony, even though her first reaction was to be upset. The second thing I want you to watch for is how her actions bring peace. I believe it is Gandhi that is credited with saying you must become the change you want to see in the world; and I believe the same thing is true about peace. You must become the peace you seek in the world. The third thing I want you to watch for is the peace which is offered, doesn’t fix the situation, it only helps to make peace with what is. That relates directly to what we were exploring last week; the concept of making peace with what

Let’s watch the clip from the movie “We Were

I think this is a powerful example of what it looks like to become the peace you seek in the world. I think this is a powerful example of the proactive nature of the prayer of St. Francis, where the prayer speaks of sowing love and understanding and asking God to make us an instrument of God’s peace. These women were instruments of God’s peace. I think it is also critical for us to understand that the brave actions of the two women in our movie clip were not trying to fix anything; they could not bring the fallen husbands back to life. Rather, their ministry was around trying to make peace with what

I wanted to close today with just one more look at the Prayer of St. Francis. I think you may experience this prayer a little differently and look at it through new eyes and find new meaning in the words. Will you join me now in the Prayer of St. Francis?

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

 

 

Sermon: August 14, 2016 “Finding Peace – Part 3”

“Finding Peace – Part 3”

Text: Romans 12: 9-18

 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

 

There is a lot of good stuff in this text, but the one part of this text that I want to pay particular attention to is the part that says for us to not claim to be wiser than we are.

While Heidi and I were raising our three boys we were always grateful that they seemed to almost always get along-and that continues to this day; all three of them are very close. I do remember one brief squabble that didn’t amount to anything, but I wanted to tell the story.

It was a Saturday morning and often in the relaxed schedule of a week-end morning, I would take the time to make pancakes for breakfast. I wasn’t very good at flipping pancakes with precision, so I normally fried them one at a time in our largest frying pan. This usually meant that the pancakes were consumed one at a time as well.

While I was preparing the first pancake a little bit of a squabble broke out between Matthew, our oldest and Jacob our middle son. Zachary, the youngest, was there, but in a high chair and fairly unaware of what was going on. The squabble seemed to be about who was going to get the first pancake and there was a difference in memory as to who received the first pancake last time.

Seeing an opportunity for a lesson, I stepped in and told the boys that if Jesus were here he would simply say; “let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.” To which Matthew immediately replied; “OK, Jacob, you be Jesus!”

I think of this story every once in awhile when I start feeling like I handled a situation smartly or showed wisdom in some way. The text which I read a few minutes ago reminded me of it again; “do not claim to be wiser than you are.”

We all know people who claim to be wiser than they are. I think we all know people who like to think of themselves as good Christians, but seem to ignore much of this advice in Romans as well. One of the things that I think makes this so difficult for us is that many of us do not understand and we underestimate the power of our own ego. The ego which dwells in each of us is a powerful and crafty force. It shows up in ways that we would never consider being ego, until it is pointed out to us in some way.

One of the best teachers on our egoic minds, I think, is Eckhart Tolle. He has written two books that help us deal with the subject, the first one is called “The Power of Now” and his follow-up book is “A New Earth”. I would recommend both books as being foundational reading if you want to begin to understand your own ego.

So why am I talking so much about ego in a sermon that is supposed to be about peace?

You may not realize this yet, but your lack of peace can almost always be traced back to your ego. If you can learn to overcome your ego, then the prospects for personal peace become much greater. But what I’m talking about here is not a grand “I am the greatest” kind of ego. The ego which creates anxiety or worry or the lack of peace is much craftier than what many of us realize. This also fits with the theme of our last two weeks, because the ego tells us one thing, which his of the world and Jesus offers an example of peace that is given not as the world gives.

I can’t possibly summarize all the information that is contained in these two books about our egos in a 15 or 20 minute sermon. I have been studying these two books for nearly a decade and have not yet absorbed all they have to offer. But I can get you started.

Our egos will tend to create a feeling of lack within us; often it is our ego that points out there is a gap between what we want and what actually is. It is this constant gap, this constant state of never enough, or not quite right, or things could be better that create within us an almost constant stream of anguish, anxiety, upset and pain. Almost everything we do in life, most of our activities, are ultimately designed to help alleviate these anxieties, to alleviate the fears created by the ego which constantly create feelings of insecurity.

The only way to experience peace in the sense of what Jesus was talking about is to awaken to the truth of who you are. You are not what you do, you are not the degrees you hold, you are not your possessions, and you are not how much money you have in the bank or what talents you may have; you are not any of those things. You are a child of God. As a child of God, your worth never changes based on your outside circumstances. Your ego always wants you to focus on the outside circumstances and when you do, anxiety is the result.

Let me put this another way. The world offers us the illusion of peace when we cover up our ego based insecurities with a new possession or a new relationship or a new job or a new “you” because we lost the weight or finally got in shape at the gym. But all of these things are temporary and it won’t be long before anything new becomes old and the sense of non-peace returns.

I have several favorite subjects that I love to photograph. One such subject is the many old barns you see as you travel across the country. Heidi and I found this one on our way to Elk River a few weeks ago. It may be one of the reasons I like to photograph old barns is that it reminds me of how temporary everything is. Can you imagine this barn as a new structure? Can you see the pride of ownership in the farmer’s face? Can you hear the farmer’s ego telling the farmer that now that he has a new barn, all his troubles are over? Can you hear the ego saying that it is the best barn in the county?

The new barn almost certainly provided some temporary peace for the farmer who built it. We can’t know all the reasons he felt he had to have this new barn, but we can know that this structure no matter how grand, eventually falls. All things of this world eventually fail; so why do we spend our entire lives in pursuit of such things? Because our egos tell us that we need it to change what is. If we would simply make peace with what is, then our peace would be lasting and not fleeting. Once you realize that all worldly pursuits are ultimately unstable, there is a peace that arises within you. This is the peace which Jesus gives, this is the peace which the world cannot give.

The barn will come down. But that doesn’t change who you are. The recognition that your sense of self can be linked to something higher than what your ego tells you is the beginning of enlightenment and the beginning of peace.

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

Sermon: August 7, 2016 – Finding Peace, Pt 2

Finding Peace
Part 2

Text: John 14: 27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

Last week we visited a couple of concepts that may have challenged your thinking a little bit; one concept was the idea based on our scripture that Jesus does not give as the world gives. A second idea was also introduced based on the question; “do you want to win or do you want peace?” I went on to explain that I think the primary difference between how Jesus gives and how the world gives is not so much about the giving, but rather about the gift. In other words, the world gives just a perception of peace, which is often based in winning, and Jesus offers true personal peace; perhaps something the world even lacks the ability to give.

Today, I want to introduce a third idea into this equation for you to think about.

During the mid-1960’s I was growing up in Iowa. My family was not poor by any means but we weren’t exactly rich either. I was certainly aware of the many ways my parents kept close tabs on expenses and they found creative ways to keep all of us five kids healthy, well fed, clothed and educated. We had to always be a little careful with how we spent money.

It was in 1965 that the transition from black and white TV to color TV really began to take hold in the United States. In 1965 NBC announced that a full one-half of their programming was going to be broadcast in “living color” as they described it. I’m sure many of you remember the NBC Peacock and the transition of that peacock from black and white into color as it was announced that the following program is brought to you in living color. Records indicate that it wasn’t until 1972 that color TV sets finally surpassed black and white TV’s in sales, but in the big picture, it didn’t take very long for this transition to become fully complete.

I mention this bit of history because I remember vividly that we were not one of the first families in LeMars to get a color TV; I’m sure we probably were not the last, but certainly we were not the first. I also remember sometime in the later 1960’s we had a bit of a ritual on Sunday nights. We would usually walk the 3 or 4 blocks to a friend’s house on Sunday nights so that we all could watch Bonanza; one of the programs brought to us in living color.

I have two reasons for bringing this little bit of history forward for us to consider. The first reason is that for many years no one thought anything about black and white TV as being inferior in any way until it was brought to our attention how much better color would be. Everyone just accepted black and white and everyone figured that was just the way it is. That is until color became available; then we could clearly see what a difference there was. To a lesser degree this has continued in the TV evolution as we have transitioned from relatively poor broadcast cameras to much better cameras; we have transitioned from VHS and BetaMax video tape to DVD’s and have also transitioned from the old cathode ray tube to LCD and LED screens, not to mention the move from regular definition to high definition TV. We simply are not fully aware sometimes of what status quo actually is compared to what it could be.

My second reason for bringing all this up is to help you remember some of the TV programs that represented status quo in the mid 1960’s to the early 1970’s. This is the TV I grew up with; on Saturday mornings it was Popeye and Olive Oyl, RoadRunner and Tom & Jerry and during the week it was usually a western; Bonanza, The Rifleman, Gunsmoke, The Big Valley and of course The Lone Ranger.

I mentioned earlier that I wanted to introduce a third idea into our peace mixture. This third idea is in many ways related to our TV experience and history I have been describing. It is related in the sense of our acceptance of status quo without question and it is also related because so much of the programming that we watched was a clear example of this concept.

For many years Walter Wink, a contemporary theologian who currently teaches Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City, has been writing about an ancient cultural influence that he identifies as the “myth of redemptive violence.” I can’t possibly tell you everything there is to know about this cultural phenomenon; Wink has written a trilogy of books about the topic sometimes referred to as his “Powers” trilogy. He has also written many articles and speeches about the myth of redemptive violence over the years.

In one article which I read, Wink is can be quoted as saying: “This myth of Redemptive violence is the real myth of the modern world. It, and not Judaism or Christianity or Islam, is the dominant religion in our society today.” So in other words, more people follow the religion of the myth of redemptive violence than follow the other dominant faith traditions of our modern world.

Wink goes on to define what he considers to be the myth of redemptive violence and why it is so widespread. “The belief that violence “saves” is so successful because it doesn’t seem to be mythic in the least. Violence simply appears to be the nature of things. It’s what works. It seems inevitable, the last, and, often, the first resort in conflicts. If a god is what you turn to when all else fails, violence certainly functions as a god.”

He goes on to point out that this myth is constantly played out in our media; whether it is Saturday morning cartoons or the TV westerns I grew up with, the conflict is usually ended by violence, status quo is returned or maintained through violence and the good guy normally prevails over the evil one by means of force. The myth of redemptive violence; from Popeye to Ben Cartwright and his sons on the Ponderosa, violence is a way to win.

I bring this up in this way, because like black and white TV, until someone points it out, we really don’t think anything about it. I also bring this idea forward because the myth of redemptive violence is another way to win and is related directly to our question from last week; do you want to win or do you want peace? I also think it is safe to suggest that the myth of redemptive violence is another way that the world gives the perception of peace, (not true peace) and we need to be reminded that Jesus does not give as the world gives. So if you want to experience true peace in both your worldly experience and in your spiritual life, it is necessary for you to be able to recognize the myth of redemptive violence when it rears its ugly head. Once you begin to watch for it, I’m sorry to say that you will see it everywhere.

What I find particularly disturbing is that the myth of redemptive violence goes way beyond the Roadrunner causing Wiley Coyote to fall off a cliff or Marshall Dillon gunning down the bad guy in the streets of Dodge City. The myth of redemptive violence is alive and well in Christianity. But until someone points it out or helps you connect the dots, maybe you have not thought about it in this way.

Is it possible that the world gave us Christianity and the perception of peace, but it is not anything close to what Jesus actually had in mind? How much of the language that you hear with regard to Jesus and a traditional understanding of the role of Jesus sounds like winning or sounds like redemptive violence to you? Have you heard that Jesus conquers death and sin? That sounds like winning. Have you heard that Jesus paid the price and has purchased us with a blood sacrifice? Have you ever wondered why we needed someone to die to receive redemption? Sounds like redemptive violence to me.

Let me remind you that Jesus gives the peace that the world does not give. Could it be this is part of the reason why millions of people claim to be Christians, but still lack peace?

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

Food for thought.

Amen.

Sermon: July 31, 2016 – “Finding Peace”

“Finding Peace”

Text: John 14: 27

 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

 

While Heidi and I were on vacation last month one of the places we stopped was Oslo, Norway. One of the many things that Oslo is noted for is it happens to be the location of the Nobel Peace Prize Museum, which we toured. It was quite an experience and very moving. Even the building itself was an inspiration, with the words “broadmindedness”, “Hope” and “commitment” etched in stone across the front façade of the building. Once inside, the rest of the museum didn’t disappoint as well. Like I said, it was quite an experience.

IMG_0605

When you visit a special place one thing you can almost always count on is that they will have a gift shop and of course, the museum wasn’t any exception to that rule. But the gift shop in the Nobel Peace Prize museum was quite unique – at least I thought it was unique, because it was filled with inspirational items and things that were inclined to make you think. So many gift shops have tables and tables piled high with plastic junk that once home gets stuffed in a drawer somewhere never to see the light of day again. But this place had a different feel. The gift shop was actually part of the experience.

As we were looking around in the gift shop, I had an idea. There were a lot of interesting things for sale, but what to do with them was still a bit of a problem. I had an idea that you could gather a few of the items and create a shadow box display that perhaps included some of your own photos or memories. So that was my plan. It took a little time, but I have finally gotten around to creating my shadow box and here it is. You can look at it in more detail if you’re interested after the service, but I want you to notice the buttons that are lined up along the bottom of the display. The gift shop had a lot of buttons and most of them were famous quotes from past prize winners or other prominent people. I had a bit of trouble trying to decide what buttons I wanted. As you can see, I came home with several.

While each of these sayings is equally important and relevant, I want to focus today on just one of these buttons, because I think the concept is so fascinating and may possibly relate directly to the scripture text I read a few minutes ago. The button down here in the lower right corner says something I think is very interesting…

martti_ahtisaari2c_tidigare_president_finland_och_mottagare_av_nobels_fredrspris_28329

Has anyone ever heard the name Martti Ahtisaari before? Here is a photo of the man who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008. He was the president of Finland for six years, from 1994 to 2000. I was not familiar with him or his work for peace before I visited the museum. He is the person quoted on my button that I find so interesting in the lower right hand corner of my shadow box. This button simply asks the question; “Do you want to win or do you want peace?”

Now let that settle in for a minute; do you want to win or do you want peace, I think this is such an interesting question. It has lots of layers. I want to begin to unpack a few of those layers today and perhaps get you to think about peace in a new way. This may take more than one sermon.

Of course as it relates to the Nobel Peace prize and the work of our obscure Finnish president, I think the definition of peace in this context is the absence of conflict. The idea that countries can dialogue and discuss their differences and avoid war is what we think of when we think of peace in this context. And that is accurate in my opinion; I think that is the message of the Nobel Peace Prize to strive to live in a conflict free world.

I also think that when our Finnish president said those words; “do you want to win or do you want peace?” he meant them in that context. That is the context of a world stage and striving for the absence of conflict and perhaps being willing to compromise and give a little for the sake of peace.

But I think there is another layer under that first more obvious one and I think it relates to personal peace. I also happen to believe that personal peace is what Jesus was talking about when he said that he gives us peace, but he gives not as the world gives.

This is not an easy exercise and you’re going to have to think about this for a while, but I want you to contemplate the overlapping messages of Jesus telling us that he gives us peace, but not as the world gives and the idea presented in my button that asks the question; “do you want to win or do you want peace?”. If you can wrap your mind around it, I think the two messages are actually very similar. So let’s take a closer look.

For a long time as I was thinking about the relationship between these two statements, I thought I would find a link between the two hidden in the idea that the world gives in a different way than Jesus would give. What I discovered while trying to unpack this idea is that it isn’t the giving that is so different; it is the perception of peace that is different. Let me say that again-what I think Jesus meant is that he gives an honest and true personal peace, while the world gives only a perception of peace.

I’m going to detour here for a few minutes to tell a personal story. When I was in junior high and high school I was a fairly decent athlete. One of the things which I was blessed with was speed, I was fast. When I was a freshman in high school I was already playing varsity football, partially because of my speed. One of the ways the coaches chose to use that speed was on the kick-off team. When you are kicking the ball to the other team, it is important for the members of the kicking team to get down the field as quickly as possible to tackle the ball carrier from the other team. When you’re fast, you get down the field quickly.

It was the last game of the season; it was a road game and we were playing in a small town in Iowa called Storm Lake. We were winning easily; there had been lots of touchdowns by our team and consequently, lots of kick-offs. Toward the end of the game, we scored again, making the score 55-0, if I remember correctly and so we had to kick-off again.

As I ran down the field pretty much at top speed, I had an uninterrupted path to the ball carrier. I was coming from the opposite direction of where we was headed; he had some blockers in front of him, but I was coming sort of from the other side. As I was taught, I lowered my head and planted my shoulder directly into his mid-section and tackled the poor guy. As I got up I heard him moaning and he didn’t get up. Pretty soon he was the only player still lying on the ground and some of his other teammates began to motion to the bench to send out a trainer. After a few minutes there was quite a crowd around him, trainers and coaches and maybe even a physician of some type.

I hung around out on the field because I felt responsible. Actually I felt awful. I overheard a part of the conversation and the suspicion was broken or cracked ribs. They brought out a gurney and carefully moved him onto it-I heard comments about being careful when moving him because a severely broken rib could puncture a lung. I never learned his name; I really never even saw his face.

When I finally returned to the sidelines with the rest of my team, my coach came over and swatted me on the backside with his clipboard and said something like “nice hit, Cram.”

I continued to be a decent athlete in high school; I ran track, held a school record for a time, and was an OK wrestler, but I never played football again.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the question on my button flashed through my mind that day; do you want to win or do you want peace? The idea that I had really hurt someone brought a profound sense of non-peace to my life. And the source of that non-peace was actually a desire to win.

You know the famous coach of the early Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, is often quoted as saying that “winning isn’t the most important thing; it is the only thing.”

In the weeks to come, we will be exploring the concept that the world gives the perception of peace through winning, but Jesus gives true peace, and not as the world gives.

Food for thought.

Amen.