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.

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