St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Whitsunday, 2014

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 “D-Day, Jesus and Peace...”
I speak in the name of Jesus the Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
On Friday the 6th of June, the world came to a standstill as it marked and remembered seventy years since the launch of a mission which finally culminated in the victory over Nazi Germany during the Second World War. On this date in 1944 Allied soldiers in their thousands disembarked upon the beaches of Normandy in France. D-Day was the beginning of an eighty day campaign to free an area which involved three million troops and cost 250 000 lives...
World War Two was to go on to claim a total of over 48 million people, both military and civilian and both Allied and Axis powers...the loss was immeasurable in terms of grief, property and lost lives... some of those very souls once sat here in the very pews that you find yourself sitting in this morning,
The Allied Powers eventually forced Germany, Italy and Japan to surrender unconditionally and a peace treaty was agreed upon... 

What is peace?
After World War Two the Axis Nations signed various peace treaties which bound them to pay reparations and give land concessions to the Allies and the countries that they had invaded.
Hold on! Haven’t we heard this before?
I seem to recall that the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919 in order to finalise the end of the Great War or World War One. This was supposed to be the end of all wars forever... yet the whole cycle repeated again, just twenty years later.
Perhaps then the powers that be thought that the peace treaties signed at the end of World War Two would finally bring about world peace... forever...
Yet we all know from history, that the world went on to experience the Korean War in the 1950’s, the Vietnam War in the 1960’s, the Gulf War in the 1990’s and so on ad infinitum.

If there is one thing that I have learnt as I have grown older, it is that my naive wish that one day humankind shall desist from all wars, is exactly that, naive.

I have realised that for as long as man shall live on Earth, sadly, conflict, for various reasons, justified or unjustified, shall continue.
Yet, one man was inspired to make a difference. One man understood the inherent nature of man... his natural bent towards violence and aggression. 

The man? 
Jesus understood aggression and violence. The very land that he had been born in had been colonised by foreigners who were controlling and aggressive in their government. Jesus, as we all know, was to eventually die under the hands of these same aggressors.
Yet, Jesus leaves us with these beautiful words...
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
What incredibly powerful words for us living today in a world continuously surrounded by conflict, aggression, pain and suffering.
As I reflected upon these very words I began to realise that in the past I had a very fundamentalist and simple understanding of this text. I began to realise that the words Jesus left for us were not only deep and profound, but also an instruction for the way forward for us as Christians living today.

What do I mean?
1) Firstly, Jesus is NOT saying that the world will be overcome by peace and love once He departs. The world will in fact remain just as it had always been, namely cruel, violent, warlike and many ways, evil. The world will always be like this. However, the difference is now that Jesus is offering His peace to those who wish to accept it. This is what Jesus means when He says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” It is there for us by and through faith. It is our choice in life as Christians whether or not we wish to make His peace part of our lives and journey.
2) We have realised that this world will always experience war, pain and conflict. The difference is now that as Christians we are able to face up to, endure, experience and persist through these dark days WITH the peace of Christ in our lives. This is the subtle difference. We are privileged as Christians to have the peace of God in our hearts, so when we are faced with the dangers of this Earth, we are able to face what we have to. Jesus is not saying for one moment that we must not fight the just war, engage in conflict when necessary or to stand up for ourselves even if it means creating stress. What Jesus is saying, is that this time we are able to do all of this with His peace accompanying us on our journey. This is powerful for it implies that we are no longer alone, ever!
3) Thirdly, Jesus empowers and ingrains His peace into and through us through the Holy Spirit. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whosoever I have said unto you. Jesus is not expecting us to work out this “peace-thing” for ourselves. He is empowering and facilitating our experience of peace through the Holy Ghost.
This gives us hope.

Hope to live.
Hope to live for and in Christ Jesus who died for us so that we may live in peace.

So my brothers and sisters in Christ, the message here this morning is a short but powerful one. History teaches us that wars have been around for as long as man has populated this planet. My prediction is that wars will continue to be part of our history for as long as man lives on Earth. The difference being for us as Christians, is that we are called by Him to live in His peace, as we go about our daily lives...that is, living as Christians, His chosen people, in the real world, which suffers from conflict, wars and pain. We are called as Christians to live in community within our society in a way that not only supports one another as Christians, but also our fellow men in society as we bring His peace to the world. This means fighting the good fight, standing up for justice, protecting the vulnerable and serving the poor. All possible through the Holy Spirit, who empowers us so that we can experience His peace every day of our lives, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. 

This is a gift from Jesus.
Appreciate it.
Use it...
And perhaps, perhaps one day, far, far in the future, if we all continue to live, share and serve the peace of Christ, all wars might come to an end and there won’t be a need to remember the fallen from a new D-Day.
And perhaps then, with all due respect to Wilfred Owen, who gave his life in his own D-Day, we can finally lay to rest the old adage – Dulce et decorum est pro patri mori...
May God bless you this week ahead as you renew your daily experience of His peace as you journey out in the real world sharing the Good News.


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