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.

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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…

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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.

 

 

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