LOOKING FOR PEACE By Daniel Vang. Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father, and from our Lord and

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1 November All Saints Day Revelation 7: John 3:1-3 Matthew 5:1-12 LOOKING FOR PEACE By Daniel Vang Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. In today s sermon, we will be looking at verses nine and ten of the Gospel reading. It reads as this: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Our text today serves to remind us that not only is Christ our peacemaker, but being in Christ we have become his representatives of peace bearing his kingdom in a world that rejects him. I m sure most of you have seen the film Forrest Gump by now. There s a scene where Forrest is celebrating Christmas with a crippled Lt. Dan who had lost his legs to the Vietnam War. The scene starts with them watching a television program of what seems to be a live Christmas church service with the song Silent Night sung in the background. And when the camera pans back to the two characters, Lt. Dan asks Forrest in an angry drunken stupor, Have you found Jesus yet, Gump? I didn t know I was supposed to be looking for him, sir.

2 That's what all these cripples down at the VA talk about: Jesus this and Jesus that, have I found Jesus yet? They even had a priest come and talk to me. He said God is listening and if I found Jesus, I'd get to walk beside him in the kingdom of Heaven. Did you hear what I said? WALK beside him in the kingdom of Heaven!... God is listening?... It was clear that Lt. Dan was struggling to find any peace with his current condition. He longed for his honorable death in war but Forrest took that away from him by saving his life. He thought he was supposed to have died in war just like his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather before him. He came from a great line of soldiers who had risked their lives for everything that they firmly believed in, but his survival put shame to that. He lost what he wanted so badly and began to question the purpose of life and the kind of life he would live with his legs gone. He was being honest with Forrest and asked him a really tough question that many of us may have asked some time before, What does Jesus have to do with my peace? In our text today Jesus sees a large crowd approaching him and so he settles down on a mountainside. There he begins to teach his disciples and all those who have come to him from afar beginning with the Beatitudes. And if you notice, each and every line points to a characteristic opposite of what the world considers to be blessed. He doesn t point these things out just to say don t be of the world. Jesus is saying these sorts of qualities are admirable. But most importantly, Jesus is stating that he comes to be Lord over those who recognize themselves as these. You see the poor in spirit know their helplessness, so they mourn. They understand their meek condition and so they hunger and thirst for righteousness. Only the poor in spirit recognize these things and find their fill in Jesus. It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick for I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. From there the Beatitudes continue with a transformation that takes place in

3 a person who clings to Jesus. In relationship with Christ, the blessed ones become merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and the persecuted. To the world, they become a reflection of Christ himself. About seven years ago, a couple of friends of mine from church youth group were involved in a car collision. I wasn t in town that night, but on their way back home (from a Haunted House event), they were all of a sudden hit by an SUV going well above the speed limit. Their car was sandwiched briefly between another car on the outside lane, but because of how fast the SUV was moving, their car actually flipped over the car on the outside lane and began to roll for a few dozen more yards. Of the four who were in the car, two died instantly, a witness not too far away saw a person crawling out of the wreckage gasping for help only to die shortly afterwards, and the survivor who happened to be the driver was left paralyzed to this day with an immense amount of brain damage. I woke up Saturday morning at a friend s house after playing a gig the night before. I was all pumped up for the evening s gig. Then my brother called me. His voice was faint and rather out of character. He asked me, Did you hear about Anthony and them? No, I responded. Uh, what s going on? They re dead. Those words hit me like a straight punch to the face. My brother went on to elaborate from there then I told him that I d come home right a way.

4 Other than losing my grandfather, who died when I was four, I had never known what it was like to feel a loss so deep. I can tell you that I had never been so angry and confused. Every inch of me was numb and shaken to the core. I shook my fists at God. These were good people, these were Your people, they were my friends! I had a hard time driving home from Sheboygan that day. I was afraid for my own safety. When I got home I saw my family briefly and we all visited with my friends family. We stopped at Anthony s family first. Anthony was a friend of mine and my brother. He was also an active youth at our church and was thinking about becoming a pastor himself. I remember stepping foot through Anthony s parents door and his mother, who was already crying, came up to us and cried even more at the sight of her son s two friends. I don t remember having anything to say to her or to her husband. But it was obvious to me and every one else in that room that we were looking for answers and justice. But as time went on the court date was set and justice was eventually served. You would think people would find their resolve with justice being served, but no. We didn t know what we wanted anymore. We were still angry, confused, and heavy-hearted. We were struggling to find something to anchor us down. Even worse, we have to live with this for the rest of our lives, day after day, month after month, year after year. We didn t know it then, but we were looking for peace. I share this with you all because whenever conflict, crises, or turmoil appears in our lives, we struggle to find peace in anything, especially within ourselves. And during those times God can feel distant. When the heart is shaken violently, we can t help but let our emotions pour out like a raging sea storm screaming out where are you God? Believe or not, there s nothing wrong with laying out your frustrations before God. It s completely normal. The Psalms are filled with heart-wrenching lamentations whose authors were asking the very same questions we have been asking.

5 Jesus calls out to each and every one of us, come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me that I am gentle and humble in heart, and so you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. But we tend to resist and turn away because this peace in Jesus is not the kind of peace we expect. The people of the world can only express their longing for peace among nations, among peoples, among civil leaders, and within themselves. Though all these things are good, admirable, and should be sought after, Jesus has called each of us to experience and to bring his real and present peace which includes the total-well being and inner rest of one s spirit but most importantly also between God and man. And for this reason, people will strike back. What does Jesus have to do with my peace? Let me return back to my story. I certainly didn t know what I was looking for. I thought I had all the answers, but I didn t have one for this. So it was hard for me when my friends died. Later that week, a new young recently graduated pastor from Good Hope Lutheran approached our church s youth group. I remember we were all in a room with some old couches and sat in a circle then he began a conversation with us. One after another, we shared and he listened. He didn t intrude or try to answer any of our questions but he just listened. He began to meet with us regularly. We all developed a pretty good relationship with the young pastor, and we all began to form a tightly knit group. As time went on, he reminded us of God s promises in Christ Jesus. And though those words were sometimes hard to grasp, he kept walking alongside us just as Jesus walked alongside his disciples. As I see it, Pastor Micah became a peacemaker for me.

6 We can find peace in Jesus, just like all those who came seeking him at the Mount where he gave his sermon. They recognized Jesus as someone with unparalleled authority and power, and came to him with only their need in their hands. Before them was a Savior whose humility and gentleness led him to walk alongside the poor in spirit. So God in the flesh felt our pain and loss. He became man not simply to die for us, but he came to bear our cross, our sadness, our guilt and shame. He wanted it all and it was given to him. He became shameful in the sight of many, he was clothed in our guilt, he took upon himself our sadness, and bore the weight of the cross. There on the cross, Jesus became our peacemaker. He died taking along with him our brokenness to the grave. But he was raised from the dead physically, glorified and restored. All that he bore is gone forever in the new creation. No more sin, no more tears of grief. This promise of restoration that has been fulfilled in Christ has been made for you and for the saints who have passed on. Not only did his death bring us peace with God, much of what we see throughout his life and ministry shows that he continues to be by our side and enables us to find peace with his strength and comfort. In our weakness, he carries us through our trials, cradling each of us like young children who have been hurt and lack the strength to move forward. We all have experienced this before having been children ourselves. While sobbing in our parents arms we begin to feel comforted. Their words become soothing the longer we re held. And when our tearful eyes look to find the voice of comfort, we gaze at what the one in whom our trust is given. And in that moment there is peace. In that moment, everything that has been said to us while being cradled becomes real. And we believe it. Jesus restores for us peace. Blessed is Jesus who is the peacemaker, and the true Son of God, for he was persecuted for his righteousness and makes the kingdom of heaven available for all who come to him in faith and seek his peace.

7 His kingdom continues to grow as you may have noticed throughout time and in different places of the world. The peace of God found in Jesus has reached the ears of many of those connected to our own lives, like the saints of those whom we remember this day. By the Spirit through his saints He works His peace into the lives of people, giving them glimpses of the kingdom of heaven that is to come. Brothers and sisters, we are blessed to have those who have shown and taught us Jesus love. And because we have received this from God through his saints, we now who have come to faith are his saints and continue this good work among the people in our lives to bring glory to God and further His kingdom. We are blessed and given over to others as a blessing to walk with those who are struggling to find peace and to demonstrate His love as children of God. This walk isn t easy, it ll take time, and there will be doubt, but our role as peacemakers is not simply to speak about God s peace but to lead our neighbors to the foot of the cross where Jesus was raised up for mankind s peace, just as Pastor Micah walked and led me to the cross. We as the body of Christ can bear the weight of burden and lighten the yoke of those who struggle. In Christ, we are peacemakers called to lift up one another and to welcome all those in the dark to the kingdom of heaven. Now may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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