Peace. We sing songs about it. We march for it. Demonstrate for it. Hold conferences about it and create think tanks to create it. We long for it. But it remains elusive. We live in a world broken by war, poverty, hatred, and illness, making peace seem impossible. Yet Jesus says that it isn’t. He offers us the hope of peace greater than all the brokenness of the world, a peace we can live in right now.
Well, Shalom! Excellent! Welcome to everyone. Welcome to everyone that’s in the video cafe or joining us by the live stream. We’re so glad that you’re here today. We’re talking about Shalom, and it’s not a word that we usually use as a greeting here, although maybe it should be. But Shalom, if you have Jewish friends, or if you’ve ever been invited to a Seder dinner, or going to a synagogue, you have probably heard the greeting “Shalom.” Shalom is a wish for peace. It means “peace,” so someone greets you with the word “Shalom,” they’re wishing peace in your life which is a nice thing because peace, I think, is one of those things in life that we don’t find all that often. It’s something that we need and that we seek and that we want, but it just seems so elusive – finding peace. Do you ever feel like you live in a culture of conflict? Like it- like everything around us is in conflict and at each other, and you jump on Facebook or social media and people are arguing and saying vicious things to one another that they would never say in person. Or right now we’re dealing with some – some heightened foreign conflict which isn’t all that unusual, but it’s what we’re dealing with right now. And then, of course, it’s 2020. Election year! Everyone’s excited about that. There’s actually a podcast that just started called “Worst Year Ever” in anticipation of the political mess that we’re going to experience over the next couple of months.
We’re in a culture of conflict. We’re surrounded by conflict constantly. But you know, that’s not even where we feel it. Like that’s just kind of background noise. That where we really feel the lack of peace, where it really gets us is on a personal level. So many people aren’t at peace in the circumstances of their lives. No, they’re not at peace at work, or maybe it’s our finances, or maybe you’re a student and just all the pressures of school are just overwhelming you. Our students deal with a lot about all that there supposed to be, and all that their supposed to become in school and all the other things that surround it, but maybe you’re just busy. How many times do you ask someone, one of your friends, “How are you doing?” “I’m busy,” we get that response all the time. How many of you say to yourself, “I’m busy”? You know?
Do you ever feel like you’re living your life at breakneck speed? They’re just going from one urgent thing to the next, to the next, to the next. Yeah, I definitely feel that way. I want to write a letter to naps and just apologizing for the way I treated them when I was little, you know? What we had together? I took it for granted, and I’m sorry. And maybe if I write it nice enough, they’ll come back. I don’t know, but our circumstances- we don’t feel at peace. We don’t feel at peace often in our relationships, and maybe, maybe, you’re lonely right now, or maybe you’re single and that’s a state that you don’t want to live in. That you don’t have the relationship that you want. Maybe you’re married and you’re lonely, and you don’t have their relationship that you want. Maybe that relationship broke, maybe currently right now, you’re living with the loss of a relationship because someone has left this life and is no longer with you. And so you’re not at peace with the relationships in your life.
I think another area where we feel this absence of peace is with ourselves. Not a lot of people are at peace with themselves, with who they are, or with their past, or they just feel like “I don’t fit.” They- people just live with this sense of alienation, like they don’t belong. Maybe, maybe that’s you. But where are you this morning in terms of peace is… peace something you’re experiencing, or would you describe your life more as with words like “unsettled” and “frustrated”, “anxious” “depressed?” Your peace is one of those things that we all long for, but we seldom find. A peace kind of operates in our lives like a vacation. Like every now and then in our year, it happens, but it’s more the exception than it is the rule. So I have really good news this morning because, and it may surprise you to know this but, peace is a central part of God’s plan for his creation.
God has always intended for his creation to be at peace. The Hebrew word Shalom, meaning peace, is more than just a greeting. Shalom is a word that has captured the Hebrew in the Jewish imagination. It’s not just a greeting. It’s a vision. It’s a vision from life- so much bigger than what we think it is. Doctor Ivaser Rovinsky of Hebrew University explains how Shalom functions in the Bible with these words. He says, “In the Bible, the word Shalom is most commonly used to refer to a state of affairs. One of well-being, tranquility, prosperity, and security. Circumstances unblemished by any sort of defect.” Shalom doesn’t just mean peace. It’s grander. The vision is grander than anything we ever imagined. My vision is far too small. I just wanted some extra sleep and some time to read. God says that vision is too small. In western culture, we conceive of peace- we think of peace as just the absence of conflict, and that’s what it means to live in peace. God says, “No, it’s bigger than that.” It’s not the absence of something, but it’s the presence of something. Shalom means to live in fullness, in flourishing, in wholeness. The word Shalom is from a Hebrew verb for the word complete. To complete. So, the idea is to live. To live at peace is to live in completion. This vision is so big, and I think because this is such a grand vision that God has for his creation that the temptation that we’ll encounter is to say, “Well this is just a dream. It’s just a vision. It’s there before us, but it’s not something we can really experience or peace is something we’ll have in heaven, but it’s not for this life.” But if you look at Jesus’s words, if you look at what Jesus said, you realize quickly that his answer to that temptation is “No.” Not according to Jesus. That’s not the way that it is, and I want to begin…. I want to look at a verse today. Just one verse from the Gospel of John.
So if you have a Bible go ahead and turn to John. We’re going to chapter 14. We’re going to look at verse 27. If you don’t have a Bible, we’d love to give you one, just stop by the welcome desk on your way out, and we’d love to give you a Bible for your own. So we’re going to look at John 14:27. This is what Jesus is saying to his disciples right before he goes to the cross. So, he’s about to leave, to be tortured and executed, and hear the are words that he says to his disciples, “Peace I leave you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled; neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27) “…. Let not your hearts be troubled; neither let them be afraid.”
So, let’s just take a few moments and unpack just this one verse because I think there’s incredible depth and richness about what Shalom means and what God’s plan is for it. So, the very first word Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you.” He was going, and he didn’t mean, “Hey I’ll see you tomorrow.” He was going to be tortured and executed on a cross. He was about to leave his followers who had placed their hope in him as Messiah in the worst crisis of their lives. They were about to go into crisis, and what Jesus is saying is, “As I leave, I leave you with peace.” So, God’s vision for our peace means that it will transcend our circumstances. We can experience peace even in our darkest moments, and then Jesus follows that up with assurance, “My peace I give to you,” which is helping us to zero in on the source of peace. Isaiah 9:6 says that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. We usually talk about that verse around Christmas. In Hebrew, that’s the par Shalom, the giver of peace, the bringer of completion. “My peace I give you.” The source of our peace is found in Jesus, and it’s a gift. It’s not something we have to get for ourselves. It’s not something we have to obtain or find. The peace of God, God’s Shalom is something that we can receive that Jesus wants to give to us. And any contrast, the peace that he gives with the world’s peace. Not as the world gives, and I think this is so important for us in our culture. We have access to so many things to realize Jesus saying you’re not going to find peace in the things of the world because the world gives peace. Then it takes it away any peace we find in the world is going to be temporary, and then the error that we often make is we look to the things of the world as the source of our peace. It’s going to be that new job or that promotion or the family that I’ve always wanted or whatever the new device. We constantly are searching around outside of ourselves in the world to find the peace that we so desperately look for. Jesus was very clear about the world. He said, “In the world,” in this same message to his disciples. “In this world, you will have trouble.”
We don’t find peace in the world. We find trouble, but peace that he gives overcomes that trouble and that’s why he closes with these words, “Let not your hearts be troubled or afraid,” and I think in this last part of the passage we learn something else that’s really important. That the peace of Jesus, the Shalom of God, doesn’t begin out here in the world. It begins in here, in our relationship with God. That’s where we will find peace, and that’s why the peace, the Shalom of God can transcend our circumstances. Because it’s not out here, it’s in here. But what does that look like? How will we experience it? What is this Shalom that Jesus gives? And if we live into that, if we, if we receive it from him, what can we expect to experience? I think we can expect to experience the peace of God in three dimensions, and the first and most important is that the Shalom that Jesus gives us brings us peace with God. See one of the most uncomfortable truths that we live within life, the reality is that our relationship with God has been broken because of our sin because we live in rebellion against him and as a result of that rebellion, as a result of our sin, our choice to move away from God, our relationship with him has been broken and it separates us. Luke 15 Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son who is a dad. “I wish you were dead. Give me my inheritance.” Then he goes as far away from his father as possible, and Jesus is painting a picture of what our life is like in sin. We have a broken relationship with God, and when we don’t live at peace with God naturally, in fact, the Bible says that apart from the crossword enemies of God if we can’t have the Shalom with God, I would suggest we can’t have Shalom at all because how can we be at peace with creation when we’re not at peace with the Creator. Any peace we experience would be fleeting at best. It would only be temporary. It wouldn’t be normal. And this is why Jesus had to leave his disciples. When he said, “I’m leaving you,” because he had to go to the cross to fix what was broken, and when he was on the cross, he won for us, peace with God of all. In the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Rome, he kind of peals back what went on in the cosmic world when Jesus was on the cross explaining what happened. Romans 5:1, He says this, “Therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The very last words that Jesus said on the cross. He cried out the words, “It is finished,” and then he gave up his spirit. In Greek the word is “tetelestai,” but Jesus didn’t speak Greek. Jesus spoke Aramaic, and in Aramaic, tetelestai would be rendered “Ma Shalem” Sound familiar? In Hebrew, it would be rendered, “Ny Shalom.” It is complete. The peace, the Shalom is finished because Ny Shalom means complete obedience or submission. So what Jesus was saying was, “My submission, my obedience, my offering is complete. It’s finished.” There was nothing lacking in the suffering of Jesus. It took care of everything. Paid in full, and as a result, by faith in Jesus, we can be justified. We’re made right with God by just believing in his resurrection and nothing else. The barrier between us and the Father comes down forever and there is no longer a division between us and the father. We can come home. We can live with God. We can be at peace with him. In fact, the Bible tells us that at the very moment we believe, we put our faith in Jesus, God’s Holy Spirit comes to live in us. God makes his home in us, and we live at peace with God. That’s what Jesus has done for us, and when we’re at peace with God we could also begin to experience another dimension of God’s Shalom. We can experience peace with ourselves. If we live into the peace of God, if we let the love of God and the sacrifice of Christ fill us up, we live into that, live into that peace that we have with God, live with him and learn to love him and receive his love. That peace, that Shalom, that completion that he gives us will begin to change us and we’ll begin living in that peace that he offers.
In another letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, he explains how this works. I’m sorry, not the church in Ephesus, it’s in Philippians. I’m getting ahead of myself. This is Philippians 4:7. Paul wrote to this church, he said, “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” and what he’s saying here is it’s because we’re at peace with God through Jesus we can know the peace of God in our relationship with Jesus and that will guard our hearts and our minds. That will, that will bring us to peace. Our minds can exist, our hearts can exist in Shalom, and again this just reinforces what Jesus said to his disciples that the location of Shalom, the place where we experience Shalom, is in here, in our hearts, in our minds. So, we need to be neither troubled nor afraid. What Jesus offers us is inner wholeness and completion and flourishing that we can have, and live in now. That will allow us to transcend our circumstances. Now it’s very interesting. Paul wrote the book of Philippians while he was in prison, and later in Chapter 4, he says because of the peace of God, the Shalom of God, that transcends all understanding, I’ve learned to be content in all circumstances. And some of those circumstances meant being flogged, and being stoned, and being shipwrecked, and being in prison. Paul was untouchable because of the peace of God, the love of Christ dwelled in his heart. He could transcend even the worst of his circumstances. That’s what Jesus offers us. When we receive the peace of God, we can live and experience the completeness, the fullness, the wholeness, the flourishing of Jesus now, even in our worst circumstances.
As a pastor here I’ve had the privilege of seeing that come to life, and in many people that call Lifepoint their home. I know people that have attended Grief Share and Celebrate Recovery and Divorce Care, some of the care ministries that we have, and in the midst of great loss, in the midst of wrestling with addiction, and hurts, and habits, and hang-ups that they struggle with, in the midst of brokenness, of the most important human relationship in our lives, one of the things that I hear over and over again is that this is terrible, but I’m encountering God in ways that I never thought that I could. I’m experiencing the peace of God even in the worst circumstances. I know some of you that have been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, and in those moments, you’ve seen God come to life in your lives in a way that you never would have expected or could have experienced otherwise. The Shalom that God wants to give us makes us bigger than our circumstances, makes us greater than our circumstances. The peace of Christ can overwhelm the worst of our circumstances through Jesus, through our Par Shalom, the Prince of Peace, we can have peace with God. We can have peace with ourselves.
And the third and final dimension is we can have peace with each other. We can live in peace with others. This past week we observed Martin Luther King Day, and the work of Dr. King shows us gives us an example that it is possible for the peace of Jesus to overcome our broken relationships even on a societal level and Dr. King knew and proclaimed and was very open about the fact that the peace that he sought for our country was rooted and founded in the peace of Christ, in the Shalom of God. In fact, he said, “What I’m seeking, the dream that I have for our country is only possible because of the love of Christ.” When we experience peace with God, and his love begins to change us and begins to bring us to peace with ourselves, it also will begin to change how we view others and how we engage with them and this dimension of Shalom, this one is the one that Paul explains in the book of Ephesians. Ephesian 2:4. Paul is talking about one of the earliest divisions in the church, and that was the division between the Jews and the Gentiles which had always been a separation. That Jews, it always been separate from the Gentiles, and the Good News of Jesus is that the Salvation of God is for everyone. It’s through the Jews, but it’s for everyone and so there’s no longer a barrier between Jews and Gentiles, and Paul wrote this in Ephesians 2:14 “For he himself is our peace who is made us both one and has broken down his flesh. In his flesh, the dividing wall of hostility,” through Jesus we’re made one, and the dividing walls between us are broken down. In another letter that Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia, he extends this idea even further, makes it go beyond just the Jews and the Gentiles. He says “In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female…,” and as that idea grabbed hold of the church, and they began to live that out in the early days of the church it changed. The Roman world, it changed western culture forever. There’s an amazing book by Rodney Stark called, “The Rise of Christianity”,
that goes, that talks about how this love, this peace that hasn’t lived into people’s lives and overflowed into their relationships with others, it changed society. It changed civilization. So, what would that look like in our society? In our cultural context, this idea that in Jesus there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female? Maybe it would sound something like this that in Jesus, there’s no black and or white, neither Democrat nor Republican, neither legal nor illegal, neither straight nor gay. The Shalom of Jesus breaks down the dividing walls. It ends the hostility. The things that separate us, and there might still be disagreements, there were still differences between Jews and Gentiles, but the peace of God, that Shalom of God overcame all that. It was bigger than those things that divide it, and we might still have disagreements in our culture, but if we align ourselves with the peace of Christ, we can just see the world through the lens of the cross – to see God’s deep and desperate love for all people. And we’ll find that the division and the hostility that we feel begins to become replaced with compassion and with understanding, and the yelling matches and the nastiness turn into conversations and storytelling. And hate is overcome by love. That is what the Shalom of God can bring us. Jesus wants to give us this Shalom- this peace so that we can have peace with God. So that we can have peace with ourselves so that we can have and live at peace with others. I’ve been looking at this idea of Shalom for a few months now and, and one of the things that I keep encountering, keep asking myself, this doubt kind of creeps into the back of my mind and like how? ‘Cause I don’t always feel like I live at peace. My circumstances aren’t at peace, my relationships are not at peace. I don’t always feel like I’m at peace with God and with others or even with myself. Okay, so how do I find this transcendence? How do I live into the Shalom of God because it can sound too good to be true?
We don’t always feel at peace with God or with ourselves or with others, and Walter Brueggeman in his book, “Peace,”- he’s an Old Testament scholar. I think he gives us a very profound idea as to what we’re missing. He says, he says “…the Bible is not romantic about its vision. It never assumes that peace alone will come naturally or automatically. It never assumes Shalom will come naturally, automatically. At the moment we put our faith in Jesus, we’re saved forever.” God’s Holy Spirit comes to live in us. We are able to come home. We have access to the Father. It’s absolutely free, but here’s the thing. There is a difference between having access and using access. They’re not the same, so I’m going to give you a great example of how this works.
It’s from the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. If you have not seen this movie, please educate yourselves. One of the characters in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is Cameron, and he does not live at peace. He’s neurotic, and he’s always anxious about everything. And Ferris is totally the opposite, but Cameron’s father owns a 1961 Ferrari 250GT California. Beautiful machine! And Cameron says this about his dad, “He never drives it. He just rubs it with a diaper. What a tragedy- to have a machine that beautiful, that powerful, and never make access of it. Never make use of it. So, Ferris fixes that, and they take the car, and they go for a joy ride. That’s what this is like- when we put our faith in Jesus, we have access, but we have a choice as to whether we’re going to get in or whether we’re just going to rub it with a diaper. It means that we have to take a step. There’s something we can do. Our hearts don’t have to be troubled and afraid, but we have to engage with peace that we have with God. We have to do something to experience this Shalom. God always invites us into partnership with him, into relationship, and in order to live in relationship, you have to engage in relationship.
So as we close I just want to talk about three things. Three things that we can do that will help us engage in this relationship, and it’s… there are more, but it’s three because this is a sermon and we’re supposed to have three things in a sermon – but these are, these are three things that I’ve been practicing over the last few months, and they’ve made a huge difference for me. As a bonus, what makes it really great is that they all begin with “s”, so it makes it an even better sermon now, but there’s – there’s really good news about these three things that begin with “s”. They’re really simple. The stuff we’re about to talk about isn’t rocket surgery, and honestly, we’re just going to skim the surface of these three things. There are some books that I’ve attached to the resource page for this sermon that you can look at if you want to dive deeper into any of these things.
So let’s look at these three things. The first, “Be slow.” That’s easy- kind of. Hurry is the antithesis of peace. You cannot be at peace and be in a hurry. Just think about that. You can’t do it. You cannot be at peace and be in a hurry, and if you look at the gospels, you will never see Jesus rushed. He’s never in a hurry. Dallas Willard, who’s an expert, and spent his whole career thinking about spiritual formation and development, he said the thing that the western world most needs, the people in the western world most need is to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from their lives. We’re always in a hurry, and when we’re in a hurry we can’t be at peace. God has provided me with a “hurry antidote.” Her name is Grace. And every morning I have this experience ’cause we’re trying to get Grace ready for school, and Grace is busy dancing around making faces in the mirror with no pants on, and I’m just like we’re gonna be late, but every now and then God reminds me, through her, to pause and to just live into the joy that she’s experiencing right then. I can’t do it for too long ’cause she does actually have to get on the bus, but it’s a reminder. She’s a constant reminder, in my life, to slow down. To be slow, and as she tells me on a regular basis, “Dad, chill out,” but here’s the thing… if we’re going to eliminate hurry from our lives that means we’re probably also going to have to eliminate some things from our lives. There are things that, that prevent us from having peace. Things that are in our lives that are cluttering our lives, that are going to have to go. Too many activities, too many obligations, too many things that are always urgent, and if you’re anything like me, you look at the things in your life, and you know they’re all necessary. I have to have all of these things. I can’t! I can’t cut them out, but here’s the reality- that I have to remind myself of…can’t means won’t. It’s not that I can’t cut them out, as that I won’t cut them out because the reality is we make room in our lives for the things that are important, and we have the freedom in Christ to refuse to stop hurrying. We can do that, and God still loves us, and he still with us. It’s okay if we do that, but we have to also realize that there’s a cost. If we continue to hurry, and we refuse to stop hurrying, we are choosing not to live in peace. We are making that choice. Whether we know it or not because hurry and peace are incompatible, so we need to be slow. That’s the first step.
Another thing we need to do is we need to be still. Stillness is the peace of the body. It brings the body to peace, and in our culture, we are almost never still. My watch tells me to stand up and move. We’re never still, and even when we sit down, we immediately pull out our devices and engage. We’re not still. There are so many distractions that we have around us, we’re always engaged with something, and it’s not good for us. Being still is really easy. You just sit down and don’t do anything. Just breathe. So, we need to slow down. Be slow. Be still, and finally, be silent.
If there’s a link between peace and silence. Cause we always ask for them together, “I want peace and quiet.” That’s what we look for. Jesus, when he calmed the storm when his disciple thought the boat was going to sink, he stood up, and he said, “Peace, be still.” The word “peace” there in Greek also can be translated “quiet.” Quiet and stillness are associated with peace and with calming and being silent can be really difficult for us when we’re always distracted. It’s really hard to calm the mind and not to think about things and let the worries of our lives overcome us, but silence if we practice it, if we try it, if we try and get silent, we’ll find that silence is the peace of the mind and silent is the best place to meet and to hear from God. Elijah encountered God in that still small voice. Saint John, of the cross, said that silence is God’s first language. Silence is God’s first language. It’s where he speaks to us. It’s where he wants to meet with us, so be slow, be still, be silent. And here’s the best part, you can do all three of those things at the same time. You can be slow, be still, and be silent all at once. And I want to suggest you that if you just commit to being slow and being still and being silent for just ten minutes a day, carve out ten minutes of your day; to be slow, be still, be silent – longer if you can, that’d be great, but just ten minutes of the day, I guarantee you, you’ll begin to start experiencing life differently. You’ll begin to experience more of the Shalom of God through these three simple things. Be slow, be still, be silent and those three things can move us into a deeper experience of God’s Shalom. It’s not automatic. We have to enter into it. We have to engage, but if we’re willing to engage, we’ll find ourselves living into the peace of God, finding peace within ourselves and living at peace with others. All because of Jesus, who was our Par Shalom, our Prince of Peace.
So, what I’d like to do this morning, I’d like to close in the most appropriate way I can think of which is by remembering together, in community the sacrifice that brought us peace with God, can give us peace with ourselves and drops all of the dividing walls between us by celebrating communion together. This is what Jesus left us for so that he could leave us and give us his peace. The Prophet Isaiah in the 53rd chapter Verse 5, he said this, he said, “The punishment that brought us peace was laid upon him, and by his wounds, we are healed.” And Jesus asked us before he left to remember that together, so in a moment I’m going to pray, and after I say “Amen,” whenever you’re ready there are communion stations all over the worship center. Just come up, take the bread, take the cup, return to your seats, and I just want to encourage you to sit, be still, be silent before God, and when you’re ready, take the bread and the cup just by yourself. This is open to everyone that has believed and put their faith in Jesus, so let’s pray together, and then let’s experience communion with each other.
“Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us the Prince of Peace Jesus, our Par Shalom, who through the cross tore down the barrier between you and us so that we could live at peace with you so that we could believe who you say we are and experience peace with ourselves and so those walls that divide us because of our sin and our brokenness between each other could also come down. Thank you for the price that you paid for us. We remember it now. We celebrate your love for us- that you showed us through Jesus. We thank you, and we pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
To what degree are you experiencing peace in your life right now? What is the greatest source of peace for you? What is the greatest cause of disruption?
The Hebrew word “Shalom” signifies the idea of living in fullness, abundance, and completeness – being whole. How does this differ from the way we normally think of “peace?”
Read Matthew 10:34 and John 14:27. Jesus appears to be saying two opposite things in these verses. How could both be possible? Use the surrounding context of both verses to try to resolve the problem.
To live in Shalom means to live at peace with God, with ourselves, and with others. Which of the three is easiest for you? Most difficult?
What is one thing you can do this week to take a step towards living in Shalom?
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