“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.