July 3, 2022 – Worship

PEACE – (Luke 10:1-11)

   I believe that for all of us this year – the year of 2022 – has been difficult and painful when we see the world. Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, more than 4 months have passed. But we are still seeing many people – soldiers and civilians including children – losing their lives and homes, losing their hopes… We don’t know how many more people will be killed or have to flee their homes, seeking refuge outside Ukraine.  

   We also cannot forget that on May 24 there was a massacre at the Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas that claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers.

   You see, those are just the tragedies that have captured the headlines. There are many other tragedies happening in the world that don’t make the headlines… But they are no less important, no less painful, and no less tragic. Some are national, some are global, and some are personal…

We are heartbroken by those ongoing painful issues and events… We long for peace… We pray for peace for ourselves and the world… We may wonder what peace really means and how we may attain it and keep it…

I think the word peace is subtle to define. That’s why we talk about peace in many different ways.

   “All I want is a little peace and quiet.” We say that as imagining a scene like this. We think of peace as an ideal to be attained – like a sort of state of being calm and serene or like the absence of conflict.

Just hold your peace if you don’t want to make him angry.” “Listen to your wife. Then your home will be at peace.” You see, we define peace to be a particular set of behaviors.

   “If this person or that group changes their mindset and behaviors, peace will come here.” We’ve convinced ourselves that peace will come through changes of the other person’s or group’s mindset and behaviors. Ultimately, we condition peace on our ability to change or control another, even through violence. One little example for this is the missile named a “Peacekeeper,” that is clearly meant for destruction of humanity. But peace that is achieved through violence is a false peace. It’s not a real peace.

The reality is that we have no control or ability to change another. The only person over whom we have any power or ability to change is ourselves.

In our passage for today, Jesus sends out the seventy-two of his followers to be laborers for the harvest. He gives them detailed instructions about the attitude they should have when they enter each new town. If you take a close look at verses 5 and 6, then you see that he does not send the seventy-two out to change the towns they will enter. He simply instructs them to offer his peace.

   “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you” (Luke 10:5-6).

How often do you think Jesus teaches us to go and change other people? Instead, he does spend a lot of time teaching us to change ourselves and our way of being toward another. That is the CHANGE OF HEART. That is the key that could truly make a difference… and that is at the core of peace.

We see tragedies happening in our country and the world – whether they are by terrorist attacks, mass shootings, wars, prejudice and discrimination against a minority group, or any kind of conflict and mistreatments in our personal relationships… If we see them as problems to be fixed or behaviors to be corrected, things will not likely change. Because the roots of them lie in the deeper issue – which is the human heart. We need a change of heart. We need PEACE OF HEART.

And if it is truly a matter of heart, again the struggle for peace begins not between me and another but within myself. Let’s think about this story.
   A school teacher was sitting with his class children, and a boy named Tim was smiling beautifully. The teacher said, “Tim, you have a very beautiful smile,” and he said, “Thank you.” The teacher told him, “You don’t have to thank me, I have to thank YOU. Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful. Instead of saying, “Thank you,” you should say, “You’re welcome.”
   In the story the boy was spreading peace and happiness as he was smiling. His teacher recognized it. He also felt happy too as he saw the boy smiling. He thought if the boy was aware that he was making others happy, the boy could say “You are welcome,” instead of saying, “Thank you.”
It’s very simply. By the way we live our daily life we contribute to peace or to war. If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will benefit from it. This is the most basic principle of peace.

The point is that if I want peace, I must first have peace in my heart. So the real question is What is in my heart? What is my heart abundant with?

If my heart is full of fear, insecurity, conflict, and pain, these are the seeds I will sow. If my heart is full of peace, I will sow seeds of peace. If my heart is full of peace, that peace just comes naturally and so everyone around me will benefit from it.

Again, if I want peace at home, in the church, in the nation, or even for the world, it depends first upon peace in my own heart. Yes, it begins with PEACE OF HEART within myself. Then what does peace of heart look like?

  • Peace of heart is about “being merciful and not judging” (Luke 6:36-37). It means being merciful to those who have done wrong things to us. It refuses to judge another by their skin color, their economic or social status or any kind of differences…
  • Peace of heart is about offering forgiveness “not seven times but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22). It refuses to throw a stone (John 8:7) to another whom many others are throwing their stones…
  • Peace of heart is about loving our enemies (Matthew 5:44), turning the other cheek and giving our shirt to the one who has taken our coat (Matthew 5:38-40)…
  • Peace of heart is about “loving our neighbors as ourselves” (Mark 12:31). It would mean that no matter who the other person is, he or she matters as much as we do. It rejects categorizing others as  conservative or liberal, democrat or republican, Muslim, sinner or saved, and making them enemies to be defeated…

 Peace of heart is like a certain businessman who used to commute to work every day on the New York subway. He regularly stopped at a newsstand along the way to buy the New York Times to read on the train. One day a business associate accompanied him. When they came to the newsstand, the businessman said to the attendant, “Will you kindly give me a copy of the New York Times?” The attendant grabbed a copy and threw it at him.

   The businessman said, “Thank you. Please accept your money.” The attendant grabbed the money and thrust it into the cash register with a loud grunt. The businessman said, “I wish you a very good day.” The attendant glared at him and responded, “I hope you have the worst day of your life!” With that he spat right in his direction. Undisturbed, the businessman walked off toward the subway.

   His companion, who had been getting more and more exasperated, finally burst out, “How can you put up with such treatment? I wouldn’t stand for it for one moment. I would walk to the other side of town to catch the train rather than be treated in such an outrageous manner!”

   His friend replied, “Look, I have to take the subway to work every day. That newsstand is right on my way. Why should I inconvenience myself because the way this person treats me?”

We are talking about what peace of heart might look like, and all these things are not about a particular set of behaviors. Rather they are ways of being – a way of life. Our behaviors toward one another come from our way of being toward one another, which is ultimately based on what is in our hearts. Indeed, it is a matter of the heart – your heart and my heart. If our hearts are at war, it makes no difference how polite or nice we are to each other.

When Jesus sent the seventy-two out, they went empty-handed – no purse, no bag, no sandals. But they went carrying peace of Christ. For them, offering that peace was more than a typical greeting, “How are you? So good to see you.” It was more than a friendly handshake or a warm hug. It was offering a way of life that comes from a heart full of peace. The disciples were stretching out their hands-full of it. It was a fee gift, an offering. It was to be shared.

And as Jesus said, that peace is to be offered to anyone – without evaluation, without judgment, without checking references. And if anyone shares in the peace, it will make a home with them.

My friends, we can cultivate and practice that peace of Christ if we stand on solid ground ourselves. What is that solid ground? Romans 5:1 says, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” No one will have peace of heart until they stand on the solid ground that is Jesus Christ and surrender themselves to the Prince of Peace.

Let us continue to pray and work for that peace of Christ within. And let it begin here with you and me. May it be so!

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.