Der Vasken's Sermon on June 17, 2018

Jun 20, 2018

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

"And Blessed are those who make Peace, for they shall be called the children of God."

Our twenty-two pilgrimage participants have been home now for about three days.  As many of you know, I spent the better part of the last two weeks on a spiritual pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Holy Land with twenty-two amazing young adults.  It was a fascinating and amazing ten-day experience and one that I hope our parish can experience together again next summer.

On this pilgrimage we visited most every important site affiliated with the Gospels and the Life of Jesus Christ.

  • We learned about and prayed in the tomb where His Resurrection took place.
  • We knelt before the place of His crucifixion.
  • We kissed the manger in Bethlehem and touched the spot of His birth.
  • We rode on the Sea of Galilee and read how He walked on water and calmed the stormy sea.
We did all those things and we were all the better off for each of those experiences.

This was now the fifth time I have been to the Holy Land.  Each time I come away with having been "touched" by something new.  This time I was touched by the quiet peace found on the site of the Sermon on the Mount.  We spent overnight on this holy mountain where Jesus spoke His famous sermon.  Reading aloud the words of Jesus' most well-known sermon, I choked up with emotion.  "Where did that come from?" I thought.  I have read those famous words many times before; yet this time, it was different.  

As I was reading these words, I thought about how often we hear of the Holy Land in unfavorable ways:

  • Struggles between governments and struggles between religions,
  • Controversy over land ownership,
  • And the issues between the Palestinians and Israelis.
But here we were on the peaceful mountainside overlooking the Sea of Galilee and all we could feel was the peace and presence of Jesus Christ.  These were the words that filled my throat with emotion: "And Blessed are those who make Peace, for they shall be called the children of God."  With this quote, Jesus begins His famous sermon by describing the traits He seeks within His followers.  He calls those people, who live out these traits, "blessed" because God has something special in store for them.  And so He addressed an enormous crowd of followers on that particular day by saying:  "...Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; blessed are the merciful...; and blessed are the pure in heart..." and on and on, He describes different traits that should be found in the life of a Christian. 

And then He mentions a basic Christian trait.  It's a simple trait but an important one.  He said, "Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."  Peace and peacemakers and a peaceful breath of fresh air in life are not always easy to find.  So how do we find that peaceful breath of fresh air in our lives when our lives are surrounded by things not so peaceful?  Things like our illnesses or our mortgages or our schedules or the daily news reports telling us how bad our world is.

In general, we are people, who deal with too much stress.  We become consumed in worries:

  • "A loved one is having financial problems and I can't do much to help;"
  • "I have constant deadlines looming;"
  • "Bills have to be paid;"
  • "My flowers outside are wilting and I don't have the time or energy to water them;"
  • "The phone won't stop ringing;"
  • "And the mail is piling up..."
That is stress.  We all have it and we all know the value of breathing in that peaceful breath of fresh air.  Children of God know where to find that peaceful breath of fresh air.  We find it in our faith and we find it through our faith.  Children of God know how to breathe in the "peace of God" and breathe out the chaos, breathe out the stress and breathe out the noise of the world around us.

We are called "children of God" to be makers of peace--to focus more on God and less on the noise of the world around us and to spend more time on listening for the voice of God and less on listening to the chatter soaring around us.  But before we can become peacemakers for others, we must find a way to bring peace into our own lives every day and that begins with Christ.

So on this warm Sunday of Father's Day, we owe it to ourselves to look at our lives and think about where we need more peace and are we living our lives as the "children of God" ought to?  The words, spoken in the Sermon on the Mount overlooking the beautiful Sea of Galilee, are meant to be a blueprint for us to follow.  So let's remember His timeless Words:  "Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."  

Where does your life need more peace?  And ask God to fill you with it.

Amen.