St. Matthew’s Sermon 12-04-2016

St. Matthew’s Sermon 12-04-2016


Isaiah 11:1-10, Romans 15:4-13, Matthew 3:1-12

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

I spent the first 2 ½ days of this week deer hunting at the camp I inherited a share of from my father. As I was taught by my father, I located a spot in the woods that I had confidence in, made myself comfortable there before daylight (as comfortable as one can be in sub-freezing temperatures) and sat perfectly still for as long as I could waiting for the right deer to come by. About 10 hours each day I spent in quiet solitude; interrupted only once by the sound of a deer running through the woods just at the limit of my ability to see through the trees.

With all that time in inactive, quiet solitude there is a lot of opportunity to immerse oneself in the peace and beauty of God’s creation as well as to spend time in prayerful meditation with our creator. However, without the usual distractions of everyday living, there is also lots of time for all the suppressed thoughts; the good, the bad, and the ugly; to come to the surface. This year I became acutely aware of that problem as I tried to meditate and pray in my isolation. My body was at peace. I can even say my heart was at peace, but my reasoning mind was far from being at peace.

After all other attempts at clearing my mind failed I began to sing to myself (silently).

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Let there be peace on earth the peace that was meant to be. With God our creator children all are we. Let us walk with each other in perfect harmony”.

There is no shortage of epiphanies when one is alone in quiet meditation as I was, and this week was no exception.

There are a lot of different kinds of Peace, of course. It’s another of those multifaceted jewels that shine brighter as you look at them more closely.

I think that “peace” in our most common use today, would indicate the absence of war and violence. This is, indeed, a part of what we wish for God to deliver to us as well as what we should work toward for God’s world as God’s people. Jesus was a proponent of this kind of peace! In his own words, “Blessed are the peacemakers” and “when your enemy strikes you, turn the other cheek” and “love your enemy”.

This is the kind of peace that we hope to create in the world, in our nation, in our communities and even in our homes. The kind of peace that, not only prevents weapons and killing within or between nations, but also forbids harsh words and degradation among people who should, rather, treat each other with love and kindness.


Another use of the word “peace” brings up thoughts of quietness, tranquility, freedom from disturbance; the kind of peace I talked about in the opening of this sermon. This, too, is something that Jesus and Bible writers call for, especially for times of prayer with words such as “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray” And “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed”. This, too, is a kind of peace we should be seeking in our Christian lives! We should be seeking time for just us and God; time of silence and solitude to reflect on the meaning of being a Christian and listening for God’s word that will guide us in that thought; time to be with God and God alone.


Freedom from anxiety or distress is another kind of peace. Surely getting away from war and disturbance, and finding quiet time with God will relieve anxiety. Rest, relaxation and recreation will also help us to escape the things that cause us to be anxious or feel distressed. Jesus speaks of these, too, saying “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear… Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon, in all his glory, was not clothed like one of these”.

And, just one more for the purpose of this sermon, peace can also refer to being in a right relationship with God, being at peace with God. Of course, this is the general message of Christ in his teachings. Being in a relationship with God is a two way thing, working to love God above all else and to do God’s will is one side; and trusting, believing, knowing that God loves us is the other side.


These are only 4 facets of peace; each of those could be cut into many more parts, adding much more brilliance to the gem!

Even though I feel certain I haven’t taught you anything you don’t already know I hope I at least have you thinking about the meanings of peace right now, in this moment, for that’s where we begin if we want to bring peace on earth; we start by thinking about it. And that’s what I was doing out in the woods all alone; I was thinking about peace. More specifically, I was thinking about my own lack of peace.

You see, my epiphany didn’t come by way of thinking about the multiple meanings of peace; and it wasn’t through thinking about peace on earth by any definition. The line in the song I was singing that opened my eyes wasn’t “Let there be peace on earth”; it was the one that reads “and Let it begin with me”.

Dwelling on that one phrase for quite some time, (I had a lot of time on my hands), I thought about how I even begin to bring peace on earth.

Of course I considered how being a nonviolent person helps; but then I realized that there are still millions of people in the world who will override any good that does. And I thought about how getting away from the busyness of life brings peace; but life does happen; it must go on; we can’t all sit alone in the woods 24/7. What kind of life would that be? And, as far as stressing over what I’m going to eat or wear, well, I think I have that down quite well for myself, but how do I get that across to the rest of the world? Where do I begin? And then, the part about being in a right relationship with God! Now that I am quite confident in! No, I’m not trying to tell you I’m perfect and I’m not so delusional as to believe that myself. But I am confident that God loves me even with my flaws.


Still thinking it through, still trying to figure out what I was missing, I sang the words again, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”  “…and let it begin with me.”

Then it hit me; my epiphany! How can I help God bring peace on earth… in all its forms… if I, myself, am not at peace within?

The short answer is… I cannot. Peace on earth cannot “begin with me” until it has begun with-in me!

This sudden awareness was triple. First: recognizing the need for inner peace as a prerequisite for building peace beyond myself. Second: recognizing that I wasn’t at peace within. And third: recognizing why I wasn’t at peace within myself.

The latter goes back to a point before this story begins, at least a week before. What I realized was that in the busyness of life in general, plus the Thanksgiving Holiday, plus the busyness of Christmas fast approaching, plus the busyness of preparing to take a few days off… I neglected to spend sufficient time with God in prayer. These are not valid reasons for not taking the time with God, they are poor excuses.

You see by now, I hope, how this all came about. I was extra busy, I neglected my prayer time, and in so doing I unconsciously allowed all those thoughts; the good, the bad, and the ugly; to build up within. When I finally did take the time, they all came flooding out; interrupting my peace on the surface as they had been subliminally for days and days on end.


What I learned (or perhaps re-learned), and what I hope I am conveying to you, is the importance of keeping our priorities in order and making time with God a top priority. In doing so we can let out and let go of all the junk within us; the good, the bad, and the ugly; all the things we suppress and neglect, and make room for God’s peace, in all its forms, to come inside. Then, and only then; once we have that peace within us; can we do our part in spreading that peace to the rest of the world. When we say “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me”, we must be thinking “…let it begin within me”.

Will you please open you Choral booklet to page         and, with this thought in mind, join in singing “Let there be peace on earth”

God’s peace be within you. Amen


Isaiah 11:1-10
11:1 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
11:2 The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
11:3 His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear;
11:4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
11:5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
11:6 The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.
11:7 The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
11:8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
11:9 They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
11:10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.


Romans 15:4-13
15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.
15:5 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus,
15:6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15:7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
15:8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,
15:9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name”;
15:10 and again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”;
15:11 and again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him”;
15:12 and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.”
15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.


Matthew 3:1-12
3:1 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming,
3:2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
3:3 This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'”
3:4 Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food
 was locusts and wild honey.
3:5 Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan,
3:6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
3:7 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
3:8 Bear fruit worthy of repentance.
3:9 Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.
3:10 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
3:12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”