For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life
Let us pray:
Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen
King of Peace
Zechariah is a book of prophecy. The people of Judah are trying to figure out how to do right things now that some have returned from exile. They have made progress in re-building the temple, they have made progress in re-building their community. But they are not sure what all of this will mean for them – will the promised Messiah come now? Will the King that God has been promising be anointed now? Zechariah never answers the timing question for them – but he gives them this admonition – if you are people who are faithful, God will be faithful.
And then he gives them promises of what it will look like when the Messiah finally does come.
And one of the promises he makes is that the kingdom will be at peace.
So today, let’s look at what that peace looks like – because we know the Messiah has come and is coming again. We can look at this as already having started – we have the ability to live a peace that passes understanding and to dwell in the peace of Christ’s reign according to what Paul has written to us as Christians. But there is more to this promise that hasn’t happened yet for us, too. So with the remnant who has returned from exile, we might ask how long. The answer will be – the answer always is – be faithful and God will be faithful. So we live into what we already know.
Here is how God’s promise to them of peace is important for us, both in living a kingdom life now and in anticipating Christ’s return and everlasting peace that is to come:
1. We can be at peace with one another. That means that when we have conflict, we yearn for peace and we do all we can to create peace. Again, Paul gives us this admonition: as far as it depends on you, be at peace with everyone. This means sometimes, like Jesus did, sacrificing something we want or need in order to create peace. If you have never been on Facebook or Twitter, you might think that this is an easy thing to do – but those of us who have ever found someone to disagree with on social media (and by the way, if you are on social media and you agree with everyone that might not be a good thing either) over guns or migrant rights or abortion or the president, then you know that sometimes it is far easier to create disorder and outrage and wreak havoc than it is to create peace. I have needed this reminder from time to time: internet arguments rarely change minds, they just change relationships. So if we are going to create peace, sometimes that means staying away from some people or sacrificing our need to be “right” about something in order to move forward
2. We can be at peace in our circumstances. This is a tough one, and in this crazy world of go, go, go, it can feel like there is no way to experience peace in the midst of chaos. I recently had a moment when I was completely overwhelmed – a visitor was coming unexpectedly and I was not prepared. I began to be anxious about it in an unhealthy way – I had a lot going on, a lot happening and a lot I could not control. But in that moment, I prayed for both the circumstance and my anxiety over it. And ultimately, that prayer was answered positively in both areas. There are moments, too, where someone else is overwhelmed or anxious and you have the ability to bring peace to the situation. Sometimes that is simply by being present in the moment. Sometimes there are words you can say to help (hint: calm down probably doesn’t work!) Sometimes all you can do is pray. But one thing you can find over and over is that when you carry the peace of Christ with you and in you, you are able to find peace in your circumstances and bring peace to other people in the midst of their circumstances as well. You can probably think of times when your life has been crazy and chaotic. You probably know that those times will happen again. In those circumstances, you don’t need to wish away what is happening or pretend it isn’t happening. But you can ask Jesus to help you find peace in the middle of it – and he will. When we read Zechariah’s words to the people “He will proclaim peace to the nations” we can understand that to mean that the kingdom of God is a peace loving and peace making place.
3. We can have peace with God. This is how we become Christians – by agreeing to follow the King of Peace where ever he leads. And the first place he leads is to repentance and forgiveness. And this is reconciliation with God, giving us peace with God. As we live in community with one another, as we lean into what God has for us more and more, as we grow in our faith, we find more and more things that we need to surrender to Christ, that we need to make peace with God over – things that have derailed us and kept us bound to sin and darkness. God will never forcefully take what is not offered in your life. So if you have some sin that is haunting you and taking you captive, God will let you keep that until the time is right for you to give it over. Maybe for you that is a sin of gossip, or maybe it is a sin of greed, or maybe it is the sin of racism or sexism. In all these things, God says I have a better way. I have a way that promotes peace. I have a way that gives YOU peace and makes you have peace with me. And if you are faithful to me, I will be faithful to you and work with you and build the relationship between us to a place where you are at peace with me and with everyone around you and in every circumstance. There are days, still, as a pastor, even, where I find new things that I need to reconcile to God. God is ever patient and ever kind and ever revealing the places that I need more God and less Jennifer in. God wants to do that for you, too. God wants you to know and live and rest and find God in the places where you wouldn’t expect to find God. And as you do that – as you are given greater peace with God, you will find that you are in a place where you are both able to find peace with others and your circumstances more easily, but where you also yearn for the day when God’s peace will overwhelm all that is and Christ’s return will usher in an eternal peace for all the nations, a peace that is not just personal and communal, but a peace that lasts, because the King of Peace is reigning over us all.
As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:
What does it mean to say God loves?
God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.
God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.
God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.
God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption
God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing
God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.
God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.
God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.
God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.
God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.
God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.
God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.
For God so loved the world…
God loves you.
God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.
God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.
God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.
So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.
God loves you. Go, love the world with him.