Sept 8, 2019 (worship in the park) – Terms of Peace!
On a trip to Hawaii I got to spend some time on the deck of the battleship Missouri. On that ship is the place where, 74 years ago last Monday, the document was signed ending WWII in the Pacific. The terms of peace involved the unconditional surrender of the Japanese to the allied powers in the Pacific Theatre. There was no negotiation that was involved in arriving at this.
It’s really a very straightforward document that was signed that day. You can read a copy of it in a case next to the spot on the deck that has a bronze marker at the place where it was signed. Those terms of peace brought to an end the fighting, death and destruction that many of our fathers, mothers, grandfathers, and grandmothers endured for the years of struggle to get to that point.
Without those terms of peace being met, the fighting and death would have continued. But in agreeing to the unconditional surrender, the Japanese government made it possible to end the war. They laid down their arms, took up the pen, and signed the agreement. In doing that they satisfied the terms of peace.
In the gospel lesson today, Jesus outlines the terms of peace needed to end the hostility between God and us. Jesus spells out in plan language that those who wish to follow Him, and thereby put an end to the fight with God that has been going on since Adam and Eve, that these terms must be agreed to. Vs 33, in the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciple.
Those are the terms of peace. Those terms are what must be met in full for us to have peace with God. And these terms echo what we heard in the Old Testament lesson today where God, speaking through Moses said in vs 16 For I command you today … to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase
The terms of peace encompass all of life. There is no part of our lives that God exempts from obedience in order to have peace with Him. Again, in the Old Testament lesson He says, This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life… that is what God says to do. There is no negotiation.
Just as with Japan in WW II the surrender was unconditional so also the demands of peace with God are unconditional. The problem for us however is this; we simply cannot agree to those terms and so lay down our weapons, lay down our sin and rebellion, our waywardness and deceit.
We’re like some of those Japanese soldiers who, after the instrument of surrender was signed ending the war, they could not or would not give up fighting and instead killed themselves. They refused the terms of peace. That’s what we’re like. In our fallen human nature – we, each of us, reject God’s terms of peace. We refuse to obey the commands given to us as those Japanese soldiers did.
And so, God did for us what we cannot or will not do for ourselves. He sent His only Son to meet all the demands of peace. Jesus came to earth, becoming fully human, one of us, and having done that, He then accomplished what we could not. In the words of the Old Testament lesson today, Jesus did, walk in obedience, and kept his (God’s) commands, decrees and laws.
There is nothing that God required for the terms of peace to be met, that Jesus did not do. And in so doing, Jesus did what He said in the gospel lesson today must be done. Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciple.
That’s exactly what God did to satisfy those terms. He gave up everything – gave up His only Son – to death, in order that, by Grace, we might have peace with Him.
Toward the end of World War II, in a Japanese concentration camp in the Pacific, the guards learned that the American army was fast approaching. Fearful for their lives, they unlocked the gates and fled into the woods. The prisoners, however, were unaware of this, so they stayed in their compounds, even though no one was guarding them, and the gates were wide open. When the American liberators arrived on the scene, they simply announced to the prisoners that they were already free. That was good news to those prisoners; they / were / free. And though they were already free, they didn’t know it and they had to have it announced to them.
That is what the good news of the gospel is for us. God telling us we are free. We are free by the righteousness of Christ’s life and sacrificial death having been credited to us by grace alone. The gospel is the announcement to us that the terms of peace have been met in full. We no longer live in the prison of the demands of the law – the demands we could not meet for ourselves.
And now, in turn, what God has done with the gospel is what we get to do with the good news of Jesus. We get to announce to those whom we know that they are free! They simply don’t know it yet!
We’re called to do that, as St Paul said in his letter to Philemon today in verse 6, “I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every / good / thing / we / share for the sake of Christ.”
Having a good understanding of everything we have in Christ calls for us to share that good news. What we possess in Christ is freedom from sin, death and Satan. To keep that to ourselves is the height of selfishness. So, we share this good news of God’s great grace.
How do we apply that grace of God to our lives? And how do we let others know that the terms of peace with God that applies to you, apply to them as well? That’s what Jesus is saying today, that we’re to live with those peace terms as our own. As He has given His all for us, we too give our all for Him. But, again, how do we do that?
Just as the United States, their allies and the Japanese took on responsibility for living in peace and forging a new way forward after the instrument of surrender was signed, so we also find a way forward in our own lives to live in God’s peace here and now. The Japanese had to make fundamental changes in their culture and way of life if they were to abide by the peace terms. That’s what, only by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, we do.
We too find a way to live here and now in the peace that God has bought for us at such a huge and painful cost. Our life, our personal culture, is changed by the power of the Holy Spirit here and now. So how will you live in the peace that has been given you by the grace of God?
Again, no, you didn’t earn it, and no, you didn’t do anything to make that peace happen. Jesus did all that was necessary for the terms of peace to be met when He died on the battlefield of the cross. He spilled His holy blood to secure the ultimate and complete victory that was demanded for the terms of peace to be met.
That He did. And then, by the power of the Holy Spirit He ascribed that victory to you. It is yours. That peace with God is complete and can never be taken from you. But how you live as a result of it, that is in your hands.
There’ve been stories of Japanese soldiers found months or even years after the war who were still fighting, still manning their posts faithfully and diligently. They continued to fight on, without knowing that peace was theirs. And some of them after being discovered and told the truth, some would not accept that peace as their own. They refused to live with the peace they had been freely granted. How many of us are like those soldiers who refused to acknowledge what had been done for them?
God has given you peace with Him – the gates of your prison have been opened for you. How will you share that news with those in your family, in your neighborhood, and school and work?
You, you bring the influence of God to them by the peace that He has given to you. Have you ever known someone who had a tremendous influence on other people, someone who could influence others simply by being in the same room? Bishop Eivind Berggrav was such a man.
He was the leader of the Norwegian Lutheran Church during WWII. The Nazis feared his influence, so they made him their prisoner during the war. Very quickly they learned that they had to constantly change his guard. It didn’t take long for a guard to be drawn under his strong spiritual influence and even converted. The Bishop is one example for us in how we live in, and share with others, the peace of God.
All of this is summed up in Jesus’ words today, in the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciple. We have been made His disciples by the peace won for us on the cross, now we live our lives in the freedom He has died in order for us to gain.
Let me close with this very important reminder. It is true that how we live is important but how we live does not change the fact that what God alone did for us is the only thing that gives us peace with Him. As your pastor I make mistakes. As you go through your day and life, you too make mistakes. My mistakes and sins, and your mistakes and sins, do not change the mistake-free, sin-free, life of Jesus Christ. That is the life He sacrificed to make our peace with God.
Our peace with God does not change based on how we live. That peace is guaranteed because of the sin-free life that Jesus lived and gave up for us on the cross. And it’s because of that that we do try to live to honor Him the best we can. And when we fail, as I so do often, we are forgiven.
That is where we live. We live… live in that forgiveness, in that peace … here… and now!! My mistakes and sins do not reduce or diminish my salvation. And neither do yours. We live forgiven and set-free from our bondage, not because we’ve done anything to deserve it, but because our Liberator came and defeated the power that held us captive.
The terms of peace, that have been met by our liberator Jesus Christ, never change because of how we act. No, how we act is changed because He has liberated us. We are free according the peace of Christ, which is ours in His Word. In Jesus name, Amen.
Sermon #1044 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
Old Testament Reading Deuteronomy 30:15-20
15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Epistle Reading Philemon 1-21
1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker— 2 also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home:
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. 6 I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.
17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
Holy Gospel Luke 14:25-35
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”