Pastor Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church – Dyer, Indiana
08. December 2010
Advent Midweek II
+ IN NOMINE JESU +
Last week we learned about the heavenly Zion, the mountain home upon the highest mountain. The King will bring all people to this heavenly home, Jew and Gentile alike. He teaches us his ways and his path. We walk renewed in love for God and each other. All this he does through the clarion call of his Word. This week we learn more about Christ the King and the life he gives to those who dwell upon of his holy mountain. It brings us great comfort to know our Lord and savior called us through his Word to his heavenly Zion, begun now in the holy Christian church and finished when he comes again to bring us to his heavenly abode.
Its common through this holiday season to hear and see the popular maxim “Peace on Earth.” Everyone from John Lennon to Bono to Barack hope for peace to come upon the earth. Disagreement exists about how to accomplish this. Some think peace will come by the sword. Some think peace will come by tolerance and acceptance. Religions proclaim peace. There are prayer societies for peace and songs pleading for peace. There’s nothing more humanitarian than a peace accord. Imagine there is no war, no suffering, no dying. Imagine all act in unison and live together in harmony.
Its a noble goal but completely unrealistic. John Lennon’s imagine was guided by Eastern philosophy of Hinduism. The universe and history is merely a series of action causes and their effects. If we make good decisions, the effect will be good. If we do evil, there are evil effects. Through the cycle of life and death, the universe and history changes. If one simply desires peace and acts like it, then peace will come. At least that’s what John Lennon believed.
Others share his sentiment through the broader lens of monism, the belief that we are all part of the same essence. This is perhaps summarized as: all are one, one is all. Thus, our actions affect the whole of creation. There is a certain freedom allowed though for actions that have neither positive nor negative effects.
In both world-views, the individual is god. You chose, its done. You can change the order of things. You can prevent evil. Disasters? No problem. Through an act of will, we can overcome. You want peace on earth? Act like it and it will happen. Desire leads to results. Confidence gives success. Pay it forward and change the world.
This is not the Christian worldview. There is no magic bullet, no highest goal that will fix earth and all who dwell therein. Our perspective on the world is shaped by God’s account of things. He tells us what is true and real. He tells us how to rightly understand the world. From the first trespass of Adam, sin entered the world. Sin isn’t some silly concept to explain our mistakes. Sin isn’t a problem we solve. Sin is a bad grade from God we work harder at to improve.
Sin is rejection of God’s will. That which is good and right is rejected, favoring that which is evil and wrong. The tree that was forbidden was eaten. The good that God would have us do, we do not. The things we do are nowhere near good. His holy will expressed in his Word is tossed aside when it proves too difficult or inconvenient. We cry out anthems of “Christian freedom” and forget that our freedom is given to live for God according to his will.
Sin destroys God’s order. It corrupts the good order of the family. The husband rules his household with an iron fist. The wife subverts the husband’s God-given authority. Children disobey their parents. Grandparents subvert the parents, driving a wedge into the one-flesh union. The corruption that begins at home extends out into the community, the country, and the world. Authority is questioned. Taxes are left unpaid. Leaders are slandered.
Sin corrupts creation. The ground now yields forth thorns and thistles. Food comes by sweat of the brow. Lions devour cattle. Wolves snack on sheep. Snakes bite. All creation rejects man’s formerly God-given vocation of dominion. Even the most best of creation stewards cannot deny that the ground grumbles at the thought of another planting and harvest. It fights against the tiller and the planter.
Sin ruins man. Man was made in God’s image. What image of God? God is almighty, creator, with wisdom, and knowledge. He judges justly, with righteousness and equity. He is good. He is love. He is merciful. He is glorious. Where is this image in man? Gone. Corrupt.
Peace on earth? Whatever. Its not going to happen. Its a silly idea. What we need isn’t a Band-Aid of this earth of niceties and good deeds. It wouldn’t hurt but it certainly wouldn’t help either. What we need is peace incarnate. We need Jesus. We need the Rod from the stem of Jesse, the branch of his roots. We need a King who will govern with the Spirit of wisdom and understanding. We need a King whose counsel is always good. We need a king with knowledge and true fear of our heavenly Father’s will. We need a leader to show us the way to the kingdom, who delights in the Father’s will.
Our King is not deceived by appearances of peace. He isn’t swayed by songs proclaiming peace where there is none. He judges righteously and with equity. He doesn’t want a false peace, a peace of mutual consent or temporary concord. He wants real peace. Not only does he want it, he makes it happen. His breath slays the wicked. Sin is destroyed by a the little breath of his lips, the Word, “It is finished!” Sin and evil die.
The one clothed in righteousness and faithfulness is righteous and faithful in the flesh. He is what he wears. The rod of his mouth strikes the earth and changes all things. He doesn’t speak with silly holiday maxims. He speaks and does. This rod shatters and restores, kills and raises up.
Jesus is no handyman. He isn’t the one we call when we’ve got a problem with our plumbing. He is the one we call on for everything. He is the only one that matters, the only one with the solution, the only one who is willing to do what is needed. Peace on earth can’t come by a song, by charity, or by the sword. Peace comes by Jesus and is coming today.
Jesus has already slayed the wicked heart of flesh. Sin has no more dominion. He is the king of the Christian, through whom we gain wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord. Without Jesus, we would still hate God and everything he is about. Without Jesus, we would hate his commandments, all his horribly restrictive demands. Even now, Jesus is sanctifying our hearts. He’s changing us from hatred to love, from evil to good, from rejection to fear of the Lord.
This work is happening but isn’t done. We still struggle against our foes. We hate that sin gets the better of us. We hate that we listen to the evil one’s tempting tongue. We are scared to death of our last day. This is why Jesus showed us the way. This is why he lights our path. This is why he creates in us a clean heart. This is why he washes us in His sacrificial flood. This is why he feeds us with his own flesh. We hate peace and we love peace. We reject it but we desire it.
Jesus isn’t satisfied with a half-Christian. He wants us to be like him, with the Spirit of the Lord resting upon you. He isn’t content to stand back and watch us wander, never following him nor getting closer to his holy mountain. He comes to us with righteousness and faithfulness, giving us of his abundance. He makes us righteous by his blood and makes us faithful by his spirit. The breath of his lips changes us and begins to remake us into his image. He gives us his love and goodness. He restores in us a fear of the Lord that keeps the commandments. He gives us mercy to show to others.
This is not because of how we look, for he does not judge with his eyes. It is not because of what we say, because he does not decide by the hearing of his ears. He sees us as poor and gives us the wealth of his righteousness. He sees us as the meek and gives us boldness to proclaim his name. From our perspective, this work is begun in us but is not yet complete.
Jesus knows the end of the story. He knows the outcome. He knows what peace on earth really looks like. It looks like a new heaven and earth, where the wolf dwells again with the lamb, just like in Eden. The leopard lies down with the goat, the calf with the lion. That’s creation restored. That’s not survival of the fittest, that’s survival God’s way. Even the young child will lead them and not be trampled underfoot.
Even the enmity between the offspring of serpent and the woman will not longer be an issue. Nursing children will play with cobras and weaned children with the viper. No animal, no man, not a thing will hurt or destroy on the holy mountain. That’s real peace on earth. That’s a real hope.
Do not naively think peace on this earth is what Christianity is all about. We don’t want peace on this earth, we want the peace of the new heavens and earth, the peace of our Lord’s holy mountain. We want a peace that isn’t just between nations, between brothers, or in families. We want the peace that fixes everything. We want the earth that shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord. We want the King who isn’t just a king like David, but the new David, not just the shoot of Jesse but the root of Jesse, who is for all people, tribes, and nations.
The peace comes to us even now. It comes when we hear His Word. It comes when another little one is born a child of God in the font. It comes when the sweet Gospel is proclaimed in the forgiveness of sins. It comes when his shed blood is poured out and his crucified body is given to restore our body and souls. The peace comes and it passes all our understanding.
Peace on this earth would be welcome but isn’t enough. We want peace through the whole earth, between lion and lamb, between child and cobra, between God and man. “There shall come a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; For the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious.” Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly. Amen.
+ SOLI DEO GLORIA +