Restoring Peace

Sermon Date: 
10 Apr 2011
Bible Base: 
2 Cor 13:11-end; John 20:19-23

David Jeans

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In Lent we have been thinking about restoration - today we are thinking about restoring peace.
Our two readings are about peace being restored in different situations.
The first is the disciples on Easter Sunday evening. They were in total turmoil – they had been though the horrifying events of the first Good Friday when the one they followed, the one they had put their hope in, the one they had loved had been cruelly and unjustly put to death. They had thought that a new day of peace had dawned with the coming of Jesus – but their hopes had been dashed and at the end they had all run away.
They were afraid for their own safety – the doors were locked for fear of the Jewish leaders; they were probably also feeling guilty – they had let their Lord down and run away in fear when he had needed them most.
Hopes dashed, fear of what lies ahead, guilt for what is past. I wonder if any of that connects with you this morning.
The doors locked – but Jesus comes among them anyway. He didn’t bang on the door to get in – he just is there, standing among them. Sometimes the doors our hearts can be locked against God because of our fears, our dashed hopes, our guilt. But God is a God of surprises. We sometimes don’t want his presence – but he is there anyway. And he is here anyway. Sunday by Sunday – the first day of the week because we are only here because of that first first day of the week – that first Easter Sunday – Sunday by Sunday God comes and stands among us even when we don’t recognise his presence. ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name I will be present among them’ promised Jesus. We are gathered in his name this morning – and he stands among us by his Spirit. Yes, we are here to meet each other, but primarily we are here to meet with him.
What did he have to say to them? What does he have to say to us?
Not ‘Well, where were you lot when I needed you most?’ Not ‘fat lot of use you were’. Not ‘I don’t want people like you in my Kingdom’. No words of recrimination; no words of accusation; no words of judgment – just ‘peace be with you’. Words of love and peace, words to build up, not words to bring down and destroy.
Alongside those words of peace he points to his hands and his side – why? Because they are wounded hands and a wounded side.
Wounded hands and side which restore hope and remove fear of the future. Because the powers of evil and of darkness have done their worst to Jesus – and Jesus has triumphed over them. There is a hymn which I first sung at memorial services after the Hillsborough disaster. It’s called ‘God is love, let heaven adore him’ (supplement 661). Its final lines are these
Sin and death and hell shall never o’er us final triumph gain; God is love, so love for ever o’er the universe must reign.
This Friday is the 22nd anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster. Some of you will know that I was involved in the aftermath of that dreadful event – by the way, how some are talking about bringing back standing at big football matches I just cannot understand. During the week afterwards I was at the ground being with mourning relatives as they visited. After a few days a wise colleague told me I needed to take a day out from that work, and I took his advice. I went for a walk on Wadsley Common; I was a bit nervous about returning from the Common because I knew I would see the Hillsborough ground and I did not know how I would react. As it happened God brought me down a path from which I could see the ground – but in front of it and rising above it was the spire of Wadsley Church with its cross on the top. And I knew that God was saying to me ‘my love triumphs over all that has gone on down there’. The cross was the worst that sin and death and evil could do to the infinite love of God – and the infinite love of God triumphed over it. There is nothing that can happen, nothing that anyone can do to you that can separate you from the love of God. The cross and resurrection is the source of our peace and the source of our hope.
But there is yet more significance to his wounded hands and side for those disciples with their guilt from the past as well as their fear for the future.
There is an ancient prophecy from around 500 years before Jesus in the prophet Isaiah. It says this about the suffering of God’s servant, and is a prophecy about Jesus:-
He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
By his wounds we are healed – Jesus pointed to the wounds on his hands and his side and said ‘peace be with you’. Yes, you have let me down, yes, you have sinned against me, but by my wounds you are healed, by my wounds you are forgiven.
The wounded hands and side don’t just tell us that nothing that anyone or any power can do can separate us from God’s infinite love – they also tell us that nothing that we can do need separate us from God’s infinite love. He offers us peace from fear, and peace from guilt.
And he breathes on them and say receive the Holy Spirit. God does not just forgive us, he comes to live in us and give us peace within. And he comes to us to send us out to share that peace with others.
Jesus was sent by his Father to bring us peace. As the Father sent me, so I send you says Jesus. The Father sent Jesus as a beloved Son, secure in his Father’s love. God sends us as beloved children, secure in his love. And he sends us to spread peace and to spread forgiveness. Verse 23 is an encouragement to us to take God’s forgiveness to others – it actually almost suggests that the only limits to God’s forgiveness are the limits we place upon it.
Our other passage is at the end of 2 Corinthians. The church at Corinth was a stroppy church full of division and jealousy and words that destroyed rather than words that encouraged. I suspect some members of that church had their doors locked to keep other members of that church out. Paul says this to that church
Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.
The work of Christ on the cross brings us peace as individuals. It gives us a message of peace and forgiveness to take into the world. But it also challenges us to live at peace with one another. It challenges us to strive for full restoration with one another when there are tensions between us. We stand together as Jesus stands among us, showing us his hands and his side. We stand together at the foot of the cross upon which our sins are forgiven, and by which we are healed. We stand together as the body of Christ, not as separate individuals. If we do not strive for full restoration, if we do not forgive one another, if we do not live in peace with one another, then Christ’s body has fresh wounds.
So strive for full restoration and to live in peace with one another – with the resources that God gives
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ which reaches out to all of us, whatever we may have done
The love of God, from which nothing can separate us – so why separate ourselves from others?
And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. God makes each of us his dwelling place – if he is not fussy about the company he keeps, how can we be?