Sermon for the 2nd Sunday after Easter 2017

The Benefit of His Peace. We continue our meditations upon how Jesus brings us peace. Last week, we saw how we have peace in our status as God’s children. This status means we have benefits as God’s children. Last week, we meditated upon what this status means for us; access as God’s Children, His Word, and Sacraments to sustain us. Part of our peace in Christ is to remember our benefits. An apt passage is Psalm 103:2, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” As we read last week, when we forget our status in Christ, we lose our peace. When we forget His benefits, we lose our peace. This morning, let us look to our lessons for how His benefits instill peace within us.

His Presence in our Lives.

          First, in Psalm 46, we read about the benefit of God’s presence in our lives. The lack of reflection upon this truth of Christianity leads to much heartache and despair. The lack of the practice of the presence of God is to ignore what God gives in terms of His Word, prayer, and His holy worship.

          Our Psalm addresses one of the frequent methods by which we lose touch with God’s presence. When we are in trouble, it is extremely easy to lose our bearings in terms of peace. Psalm 46:1 opens by dealing with trouble, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Part of why we often lose our peace in the initial stages of trouble is that we in our times of peace did not submit to and practice all the Lord gives us as means of grace. In peaceful times, it is easy to become apathetic in our spiritual disciplines. In peaceful times, it is easy to sink into the feeling that we earned our “peace” and therefore are in less and less need of God. For instance, just look at worship services in places where Christianity is often attacked such as parts of Africa. People walk great distances and often fill their worship spaces. In contrast, look at places where we are at peace in worldly terms and you will find a lax approach to attendance and participation.

          The kind of peace the Psalmist is writing about is not worldly. God’s peace grounds us in His love to face trouble in His help. The peace is the knowledge that He is with us in the midst of our sufferings. Psalm 46 speaks of two things that cause fear; natural disasters and nations. Verses 2 and 3 provide us the peace God brings through taking our fear, “Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” This concludes verse 1. When facing the storms both of nature and from humanity, the constant for us must be the reminder that God is our refuge and strength, that He is our present help in all times. Our call when facing the raging of nature is to turn to God for prayer and solace, to trust that we are His and in His hands eternally, no matter what happens to us.

          In verse 6 we read, “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; He utters His voice, the earth melts.” Often, we tend to fear and lose our sense of peace by the sins of humanity whether on a national level or a personal level. We tend to have spiritual amnesia about the peace of Christ that passes all understanding when facing how the sins of people affect our lives. As fallen human beings, we often are knocked off course for a moment to then be righted back in Christ through His loving grace. This is why the consistent practice of the presence of God in terms of submitting to the means of grace He gives is important. The further away we are from God in terms of our daily lives and practices, the easier it will be to be swept into the fear of what man can do to the body.

          Verse 7 echoes our verse 1 to still us, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Verse 9 speaks of the Lord making the raging of humanity through its wars to cease. We must take care here that we do not equate a worldly sense of peace with godly peace. The worldly sense of peace is to seek worldly solutions to problems, which in the end cause more worldly problems. For Christians, the world can be in chaos all around us yet we can be at peace in Jesus Christ to face the chaos in His grace, power, and strength. His presence calms us even if all is torn apart in the world.

          Verses 10 and 11 speak to us about where we need to go in prayer when fear is trying to grip us and tear us from godly peace. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Often when we hit hard times, it is difficult to stop long enough to pray and to set aside time for worship. Yet, the only way through the difficulties of life is to be still in Christ. Yes, even in peaceful situations from a worldly perspective, we can forget about God and His provision, taking too much credit for where we are in life. When we take the credit, we push God away and leave ourselves open to greater fears and loss of peace. We must live as we pray in the Communion service, He abides in us, and we in Him.

Healed by His Stripes

          The next benefit of His peace is related to how He is present with us in our sufferings. He suffered for us. We read of this is in the Epistle today from I Peter 2. Verse 24 states, “By His wounds you have been healed.” The suffering we undergo as Christians are something that is part of the Faith. As verse 21 states, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.” The beginning of this passage spoke to what our Psalm outlined, knowing God. Verse 19 states, “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” Suffering for the sake of Christ is a gracious thing. As we saw in the Psalm, such keeps us in peace when we are mindful of God and all He does for us.

          This mindfulness focuses and is thankful that Jesus suffered for our sakes. His suffering was not in vain. His suffering secured us eternal life and full rights as God’s children. Our Lord Jesus Christ as we read in the Epistle committed no sin. Deceit was not found in His mouth. When he was reviled, He did not revile in return. When He suffered, He did not threaten. These all secured the benefit of our salvation, that by His sufferings we are healed from what we bring upon ourselves in sin. In the process of sanctification, the Lord through the Holy Spirit slowly enables us to grow in Him in our suffering for Him. Our peace in this is not in how well we are doing. If that were the case, we would never have peace because we cannot suffer perfectly as Jesus suffered. Our peace is due to the point that He suffered it all for us perfectly, giving us the grace to follow His example, entrusting our imperfect lives unto His care and love.

Our Good Shepherd

          The last area we see that Jesus gives us the benefit of His peace is in the fact that He is our Good Shepherd. We read of the motif of Jesus as our Good Shepherd in terms of His benefit for us in our passages from Isaiah, I Peter, and John 10 this morning. The benefit of Jesus as our Shepherd is that He protects us, cares for us, and even finds us when lost.

          Part of the issue with our rebellious sin nature is that we constantly seek to take care of ourselves or to seek the help of hired hands that do not care for us. It is extremely calming and peaceful to admit we are unable and are in total need of our Good Shepherd.

          Isaiah 40:11 paints the following picture of the peaceful benefit Jesus bestows upon us, “He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” As His people, we are cared for and protected. We are kept close as members of His Body the Church. We have the benefit of Jesus tending us, gathering us, carrying us, and gently leading us. These all bring peace. In the world with sin and death, this level of care is absent. In our blindness in sin, we often seek counterfeits that promise all that Jesus provides. Repeatedly, these promises from counterfeits fail and leave us alone, destitute, and in need.

          Our passage in II Peter 2:25 speaks of how Jesus took all our sins upon Himself to defeat them, culminating in bringing us into the fold of His Church, “For you were straying like lost sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” No matter how hard we try to pay for our sins and rebellion, all prove futile. In essence, the attempt to pay for our sins in the first place is an act of disobedience, of not trusting God to save us. We are properly cared for in Christ.

          His shepherding is described in vivid detail from the Gospel in John 10. He died for us when we as His sheep had no hope of self-redemption. In this passage, we see the key to why we need the Lord, why we need each other in the Church. Christ stated this in verse 11, telling us why He is supreme over all other attempts at seeking help or care, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” This wonderful benefit is eternal. This wonderful benefit brings peace. This wonderful benefit through God’s grace enables us to follow our Lord as our example of life in caring and loving each other.

          We need reminders of these acts of God, what He has done for our benefit to bring us peace. His wonderful presence brings us peace. We are reminded of this every time we gather for worship around the Lord’s Table. He suffered for us so we would not suffer eternal death. We are reminded of this death every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper. He is our Good Shepherd that seeks us, dies for us, saves us, and brings us home. Every time we are invited to the partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are reminded and comforted in that fact that He tends us and cares for us.“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”  Amen.