St. Matthew’s Sermon 05-01-2016

St. Matthew’s Sermon 05-01-2016

My Peace I Give to You

Acts 16:9-15, Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5, John 14:23-29

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

I’ve often had a problem with our English language being inadequate for expressing what I feel. One of the cases I may have cited before is the word “love”. I can say: “I love ice-cream”; or “I love you”; or, “I love my wife”. It’s the same word used for very different meanings whereas in other languages, Greek for example, there are several words, each carrying a meaning specific to its use.

Adding to the problem of the lack of words for expressing our feelings, we often use the words we have available as metaphor for other words we dare not speak in polite conversation. (I’ll let you figure out how “love” is used in that way rather than spelling it out for you; after all, I am trying to be polite).

And then, to confuse things a bit more, we have a tendency to over use words, both expressively and in frequency. An example of expressive overuse is found in my earlier statement “I love ice-cream”. I mean really, do I “love” ice-cream? Do I get a warm feeling in my heart when I think of it, do I want to hold it near, or lift it up? If I do I might need to consult a psychiatrist about an eating disorder.

I cannot say that “love” in its true sense can be overused but another example might be the word “peace”. I came of age in the late ‘60s / early ‘70s when “peace” [peace sign] was a common greeting whether or not we thought about the meaning of the word; or I should say, “meanings” of the word.

The final frustration I have with the English language, that I’ll share today, is one that probably exists in all languages; it’s when there just isn’t a word to adequately express what I feel. This became most evident to me after my near-death experience in 1988; how was I supposed to convey an experience so intense that all words fail to describe it.

I could try “Amazing” but that’s not quite there; or astonishing, but that doesn’t reach into the depth of it; wonderful, incredible, marvelous don’t really do it; miraculous, that’s getting close but still not quite what I’m looking for. And even if I try to use many adjectives in many sentences I still won’t be able to get the full depth and breadth of that experience across to you in truly fulfilling way. So the best I can do is try to stir your imagination a bit and let your own mind take you to something that might be close to what I experienced that night. Or perhaps you will at least get the idea that, it being such a rare and personal event, we just don’t have common words to adequately communicate the feelings and emotions that come with it.

Now, think about this, and then try to put yourself in Christ’s sandals. Imagine how difficult it is for Him, the Son of God; the one directly connected to God; the very essence of God in human form; trying to convey the message God gave him to deliver to mere mortals with limited language, limited imagination, and limited ability to understand anything outside of our perceptible world.

That is what Christ was sent to do! And he did it well, limited only by our inability to grasp the depth and breadth of his message that reaches far beyond our boundaries of perception. And he was therefore limited; not by His understanding and ability; but by ours.

And now think about the writers of the books of the Bible. Mere humans themselves, inspired by God, attempting to get the message they received clearly across to people who did not share in the Spiritual revelation; trying to convey their encounter with God to people who have never been beyond their ordinary realm of perception.

This is what our Bible is. Yes, the Bible is the authoritative, inspired Word of God but it is limited. Limited not by God’s, nor Christ’s, nor by the writers’ inabilities, but by ours; by our inability to grasp what is plain and clear to them.


It is said that a picture paints a thousand words. It is not until we approach the Bible stories with this in mind that we get closer to the messages the writers are trying to get across to us. When we see, through their words, the whole picture they are painting we begin to reach beyond our realm of perception into the realm of God.

Approaching the Bible in this way we can perceive things like Jesus’ healings, and feeding thousands, and even rising from death not only as miracles, but visions of the realm of God that defy our human understanding; allowing us to see what cannot be put into words.

This is especially helpful as we read today’s Gospel lesson. Today’s reading is a small part of Jesus’ farewell discourse; a lengthy monolog, 3 chapters long followed by another full chapter of farewell prayer. In this speech, Jesus doesn’t spell things out for his Disciples in a linier directive; rather, he circles around and around repeating themes, tying them together and adding more connections as he goes. As he does this, he is painting a picture for the Disciples, and in turn for us, that gives them the visual expression of God’s love for him, his love for them (and us) and the bonds that bring all together; God, Christ, and us; into the inconceivable love of God.

“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them”. God loves Christ, Christ loves God, Christ loves us, God loves those whom Christ loves, those whom Christ loves love him and God.


As he continues his cyclical speech Jesus expands all this love to include the Holy Spirit in this loving circle; who “will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you”. And, further, he adds peace to the picture; “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you”. And, finally, Jesus pulls joy into all of this love and peace; “If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I”.

On the surface, all of this might not be so hard for us to comprehend. We can understand the relationship of love between God and Christ, and Christ and us; we can imagine how these wonderful relationships bind us all together as one; and we can envision the Holy Spirit as a part of it also. And, with all of that we can imagine peace for ourselves as children of a loving God.

But Jesus isn’t talking to our surface understanding, He is going much deeper than that; and it’s not until we step back a bit and look at the whole picture that we begin to comprehend what’s beyond the surface.

When we start to take in that whole picture we might not struggle to understand Christ’s love for God, but how do we get a grip on God’s love for Christ who is about to undergo such horrific suffering at God’s command?!

How can Jesus even be talking about peace knowing what he is about to endure?

And how can he speak of joy at a time like this?!

In fact, how could Jesus even be spending all this time and energy comforting and reassuring his Disciples when it is He that should be receiving comfort and reassurance?!


I struggle to comprehend all this; I struggle to put my feelings into words; “Amazing” falls far short.



But if we look at this picture yet again; maybe take another step back or view it from a different angle, we might see that it isn’t God’s love for Christ that demands his suffering and death… it’s God’s love for us!


And it’s Christ’s love for God that empowers him to willingly submit to God’s plan, but it is His love for us that he gives himself up to the ordeal!


And to speak of peace in a time of extreme trial is Christ’s demonstration to give us a glimpse of a kind of peace that our small minds cannot otherwise comprehend!


And this is why, and how, Jesus can call us to rejoice in his suffering and death; knowing the depth and breadth of his love for us, and knowing that in his going to the father, whose love is even greater than his, he connects us to that inconceivable love!


Jesus told his Disciples all of this in advance so that “when it does occur, [they] may believe”. But even the word “believe” might not quite get the message across. We may ask ourselves “believe what”; that he had foreknowledge of what was ahead? Well, yes; but Jesus is calling us to believe something much deeper that that too. He is calling us to see the whole picture that includes not only love and peace and joy, but hope as well.

The incomprehensible immensity of all this love and peace and joy, that Jesus is able to give us a mere taste of, calls us to believe in the hope he offers, the hope that someday we will not only be able to comprehend it, but we will personally experience what, today, we cannot even grasp!



John 14:23-29
14:23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
14:24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
14:25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you.
14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
14:28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.
14:29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.


Acts 16:9-15
16:9 During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

16:10 When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.

16:11 We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis,

16:12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days.

16:13 On the Sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there.

16:14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul.

16:15 When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.

Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
21:10 And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.

21:22 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.

21:23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

21:24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.

21:25 Its gates will never be shut by day–and there will be no night there.

21:26 People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.

21:27 But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb

22:2 through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

22:3 Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him;

22:4 they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

22:5 And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.