Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Same Ol', Same Ol', Is not the Same Ol', by Rev Steven R Mitchell, based on Luke 24:36-48, for Mountain View United, Aurora, CO

The Same OL’, Same OL’; Is not the Same OL’

By Rev Steven R Mitchell

Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 4/19/2015

Based on Luke 24:36-48


        In this morning’s gospel lesson, we read another authors account of Jesus meeting with the disciples that first evening of discovering an empty tomb.  In John’s account (which we read last week) we see Jesus speaking with the disciples, who were behind locked doors.  In both stories the disciples are fearful because they assume Jesus’ ghost is appearing before them.  In both stories, Jesus’ first words are, “Peace be with you.”  This is where the similarities stop. 

In this story, Luke shares how the disciples understanding of a ghost was challenged.   If I were to take a survey of this room, asking, “Have you ever had an encounter with what you believe to be a ghost?” I would get some “Yes’” and some “No’s.”  But almost all of us could describe the characteristics of what a typical ghost would have. (ask audience for their understanding of what a ‘ghost’ is.)  Luke tells us that after Jesus had proved to the disciples that he was who he said he was, He then does a very un-ghostly thing – He tells them that he is hungry and asks them if they had anything to eat. 

I have always been a lover of the cartoon series “Casper the Friendly Ghost).  As a child I would watch this series religiously.  I was totally delighted when some years ago, a movie version was made.  The movie showed the same ol’, same Ol’ things that a ghost would do.  It showed how ghosts were mischievous, loved to scare people, and enjoyed haunting empty houses.  It also showed how when a ghost would eat, the food would just fall start through them, splattering onto the floor.  But this movie did something different, it provided a moment where Casper was able to materialize into a fully human body.  All of a sudden, the same ol’, same ol’, was no longer the same. 

When Luke is describing the events of that room, with Jesus walking through locked doors, suddenly appearing and disappearing, and of showing human needs such as hunger, Luke is telling us that things were not the same ol’, same ol’, but that something new has happened.  Jesus although dead, although a ghost, was not dead, was not a ghost, but still fully human. 

This story is a very hard concept for some of us to wrap our minds around.  For those of us who have experienced what we would call a ghost, it might be easier to toss around the idea of disciples talking to Jesus, as a ghost.  Yet Luke is telling us that Jesus is more than a ghost, that even though Jesus was no longer the same prior to his crucifixion, he was still the same.  I would like to explore this story of Luke’s by sharing with you an event that I attended this past Thursday at the Temple Emmanuel in Denver. 

I had the privilege of attending The Governor’s 34th Annual Holocaust Remembrance Program.  The topic of this program was, “Survival and Forgiveness: The True Story of Eva Mozes Kor, Mengele Twin.”  The guest speaker was Eva Mozes Kor.  Eva and her sister were twins, from Portz, Romania.  At the age of 10 years old, they were taken to Auschwitz concentration camp, where they underwent genetic experiments conducted by the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele.  Both Eva and her sister Miriam, survived Auschwitz; with Miriam eventually living in Israel, and Eva moving to the States, becoming a U.S. citizen 1965.  Author of two books, Angel of Death… and Echoes From Auschwitz, Eva shares her stories across the country talking about survival and (what I believe to be even more important) forgiveness.

In this gathering of over 1,600 people, you could not help but be filled with tears as at least 35 people stood up who are survivors of those concentration camps, with another couple of hundred family members also standing.  This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII and the release of those who were still living in Nazi concentration camps.  As I was listening to Eva’s story, I was struck by how she was able to forgive the Nazi’s for the murders of her family members and of the cruelty that she and her sister Miriam endured at the hand of Dr. Mengele. 

A part of her healing came through the establishing of the organization: CANDLES: Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors.  The other step in her healing came through going back to Germany, meeting one of the Dr’s who worked under Mengele, and both of them visiting the facility where these experiments occurred and his signing a letter acknowledging his participation in those experiments. 

The second part of Eva’s sharing was some of the life lessons that she has learned in her journey.  Eva then, that up to the point of having that letter signed, she had spent almost 45 years hating the Nazi’s.  What she realized was, through that hatred and non-forgiveness, she was still a victim, she was still a prisoner of the war, of the Nazi’s, and of Dr. Mengele.  With the signed letter by a Nazi Dr. describing all of the brutality and abuse that she and scores of other twins endured at Auschwitz, Eva said she was able to forgive the Nazi’s.  When challenged by a Jewish Rabbi that through Jewish history, it was the perpetrator who needed to confess and ask for forgiveness before forgiveness could be granted by the victim, Eva said, “if these guys are dead and unable to ask, where does that leave me?  It is I who has the power to forgive.  It is I who needs to be released from the fear and anger that are the seeds of future violence.”

There is something very important and often over looked, that needs to be brought out in Luke and John’s story about what went on behind those locked doors between Jesus and the disciples.  Jesus was the first to speak in these stories, and the very first thing he says is, “Peace be with you.”  In saying this, Jesus is giving forgiveness.  This we understand, but what I think we fail to understand is that by tradition, it should have been the disciples asking Jesus for forgiveness, not Jesus offering it first.  In fact, there are no accounts of the disciples ever asking to be forgiven.  Without forgiveness, I do not think that the disciples would have had the courage and assurance needed to move forward in life.  I also think it was important for Jesus to give “forgiveness” first, not just as an example of what a ‘good person’ should do, but because I don’t think Jesus would have been able to ascend to God without doing this.  If Jesus truly is God in human form, then he would still have human feelings; if Jesus still needed to eat solid food, then I think Jesus still had human emotions that also needed to be attended to.

Emotions such as anger, fear, low self-esteem are all emotions that paralyze and cripple us as human beings.  As Eva responded, “How do I benefit myself by hanging on to that anger?  Why should I deny myself the joy in life by living with grudges? How do I better myself by harboring seeds that lead to conflict?  Eugene Peterson paraphrases on one of Jesus’ responses to forgiveness this way: If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?  

As I sat listening to Eva, I also realized that she was talking about ghosts.  Ghosts come in many forms, but they all represent the past in some form or another.  When the disciples first saw Jesus, they saw a ghost, but once they had “peace”, they then saw Jesus their teacher and friend.  Eva was saying that as long as she lived with non-forgiveness of those who hurt her, she was always going to be haunted, imprisoned really by the ghosts of her past. 

Forgiveness is the essential message to be understood through these post resurrection stories.  The power of the resurrection story is found through the truth of “forgiveness.”  It is in the death of Jesus that we understand the power that comes through forgiveness.  On the cross, Jesus utter, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.  Behind the locked doors, Jesus gives forgiveness to the disciples, “Peace be with you.”  Later by the sea of Galilee when Peter is still unable to forgive himself for his betrayal, Jesus again speaks forgiveness language to Peter in saying, “go feed my sheep”. 

Events like the Holocaust program are designed to continue to remind us of the horrors that humanity does to itself, hopefully so we will learn lessons that will help us prevent future atrocities, but it also reminds us of the importance of what “forgiveness” plays in the ability to move forward in life.  When we talk about living as a resurrection people, we have to live “forgiveness”, for that is where life, new life is found.  Amen

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Faith That Touches, by Rev Steven R Mitchell for Mountain View United, Aurora, CO based on John 20:19-31

A Faith That Touches

By Rev Steven R Mitchell

Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 4/12/2015

Based on John 20:19-31


       Have you ever done something that so filled you with guilt and shame that the only way you could deal with it was to totally shut down.  Something that you said or did but haven’t been able to forgive yourself for; possibly beat yourself up continually over it for years down the road?  Have you ever wronged someone so badly that you can not to this day look them in the eye?  I suspect that is what the disciples were feeling after Jesus had been arrested and executed.  Think of Peter who had vowed to die for Jesus, and then when put to the test denied ever knowing him.  Or, of how the other disciples running away when the soldiers came to the garden of Gethsemane to arrest Jesus.  I suspect they were hiding behind closed doors not just out of fear of being arrested themselves, but that the story of the locked doors also speaks to their feelings of shame and guilt as well.

        In this morning’s Gospel reading we find a continuation of the Easter Sunday story.  In the first part of this chapter, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, she runs to the disciples and tells them that she has seen and talked with Jesus.  They do not believe her.  Now it is evening.  The disciples are safely behind locked doors, in hiding, not believing Mary’s story that Jesus was not dead.  After all, her report of talking to Jesus must stem from some sort of psychotic hysteria. 

Then mysteriously, Jesus appears among those safely behind locked doors and brings belief to all the disciples except Thomas who was not present.  When Thomas shows up, the disciples tell him that Jesus had been visiting with them.  Thomas, does not believe their story and goes so far in his resistance to say that before he will believe this outlandish story, he would have to personally touch the wounds that Jesus had from his crucifixion.  A week later, as scripture reads, Thomas was with the rest of the disciples who were still hiding behind locked doors when Jesus appears to them  again.  Jesus specifically singles out Thomas and invites him to prove to himself that He, Jesus was indeed in front of him.  Immediately Thomas exclaims, “My lord and my God!”  Now all of the disciples have had the opportunity to see Jesus post resurrection.

The resurrection stories about Jesus are very confusing to our modern society.  They demand that we ignore hard science for supernatural events.  Much of today’s generation says to the church, “Come on guys, do you really think I’m so na├»ve as to believe what you are telling me?  Nobody comes back from the dead.”  Or do they?  Yet over the past couple of decades, there has been a major increase in the fascination of Vampires and of Zombies.  Both of these creatures deal with the activities of the undead.

As an example, in the movie, Young Frankenstein, the grandson of Baron Von Frankenstein, young Fredrick Fronkenstein, (he didn’t wish to be associated with his crazed grandfather) takes up the family business of trying to create life from dead tissue.  So with the help of his assistant Igor [who like young Fredrick changed his name from Egor to Igor], they find a freshly executed criminal and prepare the body for a transplant of the brain of the deceased Hans Delbrook, a brilliant scientist.   

As Igor attempts to steal this brain for his employer, lightening flashes, scaring Igor and he drops the jar which contains the brain.  Igor quickly grabs the closest jar, which contains another brain and takes it to the young Fronkenstein, at which time the Dr transplants this brain into the body of the seven foot corpse.  After the Dr. completes his experiment and brings the body back to life, the new creation is determined to have a flawed brain, at which point Igor admits to not bringing professor Hans Delbrook’s brain, but rather the brain of someone named “Abby Normal.”

Let me say first off, that these stories about Jesus’ life was written for those who already believed in Jesus as Christ, not to those who didn’t.  These Gospels were not written as evangelistic tools for swaying non-followers of Christ.  These stories were written so those who believe in Jesus might learn more about him, designed to strengthen and encourage those who follow Christ.

As Western Christians, who live in a world that demands empirical evidence in order to prove an event to be factual, stories like this still come up short in convincing some of us that a physical resurrection could actually happen!  We as a culture have come to equate truth as needing to be physically factual.  We in the church love Thomas.  In fact we have given him the title of Doubting Thomas!  He is the incredulous nonbeliever who hides inside every believing Christian – the questioner in us that resists easy answers to hard questions of faith, who always wants a little more proof. Feasting on the Word, yr B, Vol. 2, pg 400 Serene Jones   However, if we look to this story as one that speaks about the unique character of “resurrection faith” and its relationship to doubt, then we can start to understand how this story can be our story as well.

We have in this story, a group of people who are riddled between guilt, fear, and doubt as they hid for their lives behind closed doors.  Guilt for deserting Jesus in his greatest hour of need; fear that they too might be killed as followers of a man who had been pronounced a criminal against the state and the religious community; and doubt about the future of the movement that Jesus had been teaching, a movement about a world that could be lived out through love.  Then Jesus shows up, somehow gaining passage through closed, locked doors.  These men do not recognize Jesus until Jesus speaks to them saying, “Peace be with you.  As God has sent me, so I send you.”  Then Jesus breathed on them and gave them the Holy Spirit.  In that instant, Jesus is giving them forgiveness and commissioning them to go on with “the work.”  A week passes by, a second time Jesus, passes through closed doors and this time goes up to Thomas and offers Thomas the proof that is needed before Thomas can believe. 

An interesting observation is that the disciples, after encountering Jesus a week earlier were still hiding behind closed doors, nor do they immediately recognize Jesus in his second visit.  When Jesus went specifically to Thomas, it is only Thomas who says, “My Lord and my God!  We did not hear this kind of proclamation from any of the other disciples.  So I wonder who the real “doubters” might be.  How often are we like the disciples or Thomas in particular, demanding proof that Jesus is alive and yet do not recognize the presence of Jesus when Jesus is right in front of us? 

Referring back to the movie Young Frankenstein, there is a scene in which the young Dr, finally accepts his birthright and identifies himself no longer a Fronkenstein, but rather a Frankenstein.  With this claim to his blood line, he then goes to the creature that he has created, the creature that has become known as the “monster” and proclaims to the creature that he is not unloved, unwanted, or evil as the world labeled him, but rather is worthy of love and is accepted and loved by the one who created him. 

Then they learn a song and dance routine to prove to the world just how lovable the monster can be.  Yet, this wasn’t enough; there was no transference of what the creator possessed to that which was created.  In a final act of desperation, the Dr hooks himself and the monster together through a machine and performs a transference of a part of the Dr to the creature and vice versa, thereby allowing a part of the Dr to stabilize and normalize the creature into a whole human being.

This is what the Easter story is saying to us in Jesus going to his disciples behind closed doors.  It is the story of Jesus once again seeking out his flock, those who are filled with guilt, with fear, with doubt, yearning for him.  In that encounter Jesus gives strength, direction, and the ability to move beyond the perils of daily living.  This story about Jesus’ resurrection cannot be based on empirical evidence, but rather through experiential encounters.  It is Jesus who refuses to let heart’s hide in anguish behind the dead bolts of guilt, or fear, or doubt, these feelings that can block a relationship with God.

It is a story about Jesus coming again and again to those of us who are scared and confused in a world which is full of hate and death.  It is a story of a Jesus who offers himself to those who long to see him.  It is our story of faith in the one who comes through locked doors touching anyone who is yearning for the peace that comes through pure love.  Amen

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

What Are You Hoping to Find?, based on John 20:11-18, by Rev Steven R Mitchell

“What Are You Hoping to Find?”

By Rev Steven R Mitchell

Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 4/5/2015

Based on John 20:11-18

        In the movie “Torch Song Trilogy”, Arnold the son of a grieving mother who had just lost her husband, was asking his mother what she thought she would do now that “dad” was dead?  Her response was, “I guess I’ll move to Florida.”  “Florida?  What for ma, you don’t have anyone down there, Phil (the other son) and I live here in New York.  Why would you want to move down there?”  “When your great-grandfather died, your great-grandmother mother moved to Florida, when my father died, my mother moved down to Florida, now that your father is dead, I’ll move to Florida.  That’s what we do, we move to Florida!”  Arnold responded with, “But mom, what do you want to do?”  She quickly responded by saying, “I want to die, but until then, I’ll move to Florida.”

        That scene was dealing with rituals.  And rituals are great things, they help us get through periods in our lives, that otherwise would be so difficult that we would not be able to navigate through.  The most dramatic being, when we lose someone very dear to us to death.  We go into a period of shock, as a defense so as to not load our feelings with more grief than we can bear.  It’s as if we have an internal breaker box, that when too much pain comes, the breaker trips, shutting down our emotions.  But it isn’t only our emotions that shut down.  Our ability to reason, to make decisions, even to recall simple events that are only an hour old, we can also become paralyzed; our whole system seems to shut down, to where only the bare minimal in activity seems to be allowed to function.

        I am sure as we think about this morning’s reading, many of us here can put ourselves in-part, into the shoes of Mary and the disciples.  For they were having to cope with a terrible lose, the execution of the man they had looked to as their “rabbouni”, their “teacher”, the one that Peter had declared as “Messiah”!  They surely were operating under a great deal of shock, as they start to deal with the death of their beloved, Jesus.  They not only were dealing with his death, but also must have been concerned about their own safety, wondering if they too would be picked up by the authorities.

        We have this amazingly beautiful story of Mary going to the place where they had laid Jesus, temporarily during the Sabbath, and finding that the tomb had been opened and Jesus’ body wasn’t where they had left him.  But amid all of the fear, doubt, and confusion, we see where Jesus appears to her and speaks with her.  The story doesn’t go into the technical details of “how” Jesus” was raised, but rather the story focuses on how Mary experienced “Jesus’ resurrection!”

        The resurrection story is an amazing story on many different levels.  First off and most importantly, the story talks about an event that goes beyond all logical and physical reasoning.  When a person dies, the body doesn’t come back to life, at least not normally.  This event, is telling us that something supernatural has occurred, and that this event has ongoing implications for the world. 

Another very important part of this story, deals with who Jesus is appearing to, who He is having conversation with, and who has been entrusted in sharing with the world, this most important news!  In a world where men were the shakers and movers, here we see God once more picking the lowly, in this case a woman named Mary, to become the new bearer of the “Good News” that God has not died but yet still lives!

        This particular account of the resurrection story has an intriguing question being posed to Mary by Jesus when he asked her, “For whom are you looking?”  It could be said in another way, “What are you doing here?”, What are you looking for, Mary?”  “What do you expect to find?”

        The question might be asked of us when we come to church; when we come to worship, be it on Easter Sunday morning, or Christmas Eve, or any Sunday of the month for that matter, “what is it that we are looking for?” ,“Whom do we seek?”,  What are we hoping to find?  Do we come to worship out of tradition?  Do we move to Florida, like Arnolds mother, because that’s what others before us have done?  Possible we come because our families have always come to church on Sunday’s and that’s what we do, because, it is programmed into us.  But when you get here, what do you expect to happen?  Do you expect to find God here? 

        What am I hoping to find when I come to worship?  Am I supposed to feel better for coming to worship?  Am I supposed to feel closer to God when I’m in worship?  Is it in worship that I think I will encounter Jesus.  Then, like Mary, when I get here and do not find Jesus, or I don’t feel like God is as present as I thought He should be, am I shocked, or distressed, or even more depressed than before I got here?  When I come to church, do I come and find an empty tomb?

        Have you ever ask yourself, “Am I the empty tomb?”  Do I ever think that God has died within my own life, and I’m hoping beyond all hope that God is truly alive, maybe I can find him living in a church, and that possibly by coming before The Cross, I will find God?  Can I too, like Mary, experience a “resurrection” within this empty tomb?  You see, I don’t think it is as important to believe that Jesus rose from the grave as it is about how we personally encounter Jesus through the empty tomb.

        Is Jesus alive within us, this morning?  Mary had a personal encounter with Jesus there at the tomb.  Have we had a similar personal encounter with Jesus at our empty tomb?  Or are we more like Peter and John who recognized the empty tomb, but didn’t encounter Jesus there at the tomb?  Jesus didn’t speak to them at the empty tomb; they left, not having this experience that Mary ended up having, at least not at that point, for if we continue to read on, we learn that Jesus did come to the other disciples later on. 

        Why did Jesus appear to Mary and not to the two disciples who had come to investigate the report from Mary about the empty tomb?  Possibly it was because when John saw the wrappings of the burial cloths neatly placed in the tomb; he remembered what Jesus had been telling them about his death and would arise from death into eternal life.  Maybe Jesus appeared to her because she needed personal comforting to ease her grief and anxieties over the death of the one she loved  For when Jesus first appeared to her, she didn’t recognize that it was He.  For me, the lesson that I see in this part of the narrative, is that we encounter Jesus in many different ways, and often, we do not immediately recognize Jesus being with us, but that it comes over time.

        This morning as we come to Christ’s table, we celebrate the “empty tomb”!  We celebrate the story of “resurrection”.  We do experience resurrection daily in our lives, but like Mary, we might not recognize it immediately, but in time, as we are able to comprehend how God works in our lives, begin to recognize God before us in our daily lives. 

        God’s love for us is so great, that life renews itself, even during times when we cannot see it!  I ask you the question that Jesus asked Mary, “What are you hoping to find?”  I think we are here today, looking to understand that death has no victory over us, but rather, life is eternal.  This is the message of the empty tomb: God loves his creation so much that death has no lasting sting, but through “resurrection” life has victory!  Amen

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Looking for Peace, By Rev Steven R Mitchell, based on Mark 11:1-11

Looking for Peace

By Rev Steven R Mitchell

Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 3/29/2015

Based on Mark 11:1-11


        Just in case you haven’t quite figured it out, today is Palm Sunday!  The day that we celebrate what some call the “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem by Jesus.  I’m not sure that I would call it “triumphal” as this marks the beginning of the end of Jesus’ earthly life.  For in just four days Jesus will be betrayed by one of his own disciples, put on trial for heresy of the Jewish religion and treason toward the Roman Empire.  This is the one day where we, who are often referred to by some, as the frozen chosen, allow ourselves to become physically active in worship; waving our palms high, marching around the sanctuary, and shouting “Hosanna!”

        For those of you who know your scripture fairly well, you will have recognized that this morning’s scripture is a loosely translated version of Mark’s account of Jesus’ entry.  I wanted to use this particular reading because it introduces a clearer picture about the political conflict between Jesus and Rome.  Nowhere in any of the New Testament accounts, will you find any account of a procession of Pontius Pilate.  This is conjecture on the part of some theologians.  A conjecture that is very reasonable.  It is reasonable because, in general, the governor of Judea did not reside in Jerusalem on a permanent basis, but rather came to town for various occasions, such as the festival of Passover.  Pilate’s job was to keep order and peace in the region of Judea.  Order and peace as viewed in the eyes of Rome that is.  Jerusalem is not only the capitol of Judea but was also the center of temple worship.  It was the place that you came to in order to experience redemption before God. 

        Over the past nine weeks, there has been a small group who has gathered to review the book, The First Christmas, authored by Marcus Borg and John Crossan.  One of the important themes of this book was helping to understand how Rome saw its Emperor, Caesar Augustus, as being the son of god, the prince of peace for the world.  Caesar was viewed by the Roman Empire in exactly the same role that we as Christians understand the role of Jesus Christ.  This book pointed out that both Caesar and Jesus spoke of bringing peace to the world.  The difference is in the way that they worked toward bringing peace.

        In this morning’s account of Jesus entry into Jerusalem against the back drop of Pilates entry that same day, contrasts the two diverse ways in which peace was being sought.  Pilate enters into the city with pomp and circumstance, upon a horse, as a military conquer, bringing order and peace through physical might.  He would have had a show of soldiers marching at his side as a way of displaying the physical power that he has at his disposal in order to keep peace.  This type of entry reminds me of old film footage of when the Germans marched into Paris, with rows and rows of soldiers, tanks, and canons, to show the citizens of Paris who had control and by who’s rules they were going to have to live by.  Those film footages provided an appearance of peace, but was there really peace?  Order, possibly, but peace, hardly.

        By contrast Jesus is entering through another part of the city on a donkey, not a majestic horse.  He is accompanied by his army as well, his disciples and greeted by a crowd who is singing “Hosanna” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!  The crowd sees Jesus as the new king David, the warrior that will deliver back to them their freedom.  “Hosanna” means: save, rescue, and help.  Hosanna – save us, we pray   Blessed is the one comes in the name of God, who will save us, and bring peace.  This is where the stark reality becomes so apparent to those who are putting their trust in Jesus as the Messiah.  They were looking for a King David, the one who was known as the warrior king, who brought peace and unity to the tribes of Israel and Judea.  David, who like Rome, brought peace through military might and kept order through that military might. 

Yet this was not the way that Jesus spoke as a way of bringing peace.  Jesus taught that lasting peace never comes through bullying, or through killing, or through the devaluation of another person, but rather, true peace only comes through the willingness to respect the other person; to see that every person has enough in which to live on; by providing space for each person’s dignity.  True peace comes only through non-violent change.

Not much has changed since Jesus walked this earth.  We still have conflict; we still use violence as a way of trying to bring about peace.  Nations still rise against nation, neighbor against neighbor, but most sadly, many of us still rise up against ourselves.  As much as we as a nation long for peace within the world, the truth is, many of us are still searching for a peace within our own lives.  Many of us secretly wave a palm deep inside, screaming “Hosanna!  Save me, I pray, Oh God!

The search for peace comes on many levels.  For some, it is a peace that is found in having enough to live day by day and not living in fear of being homeless or going hungry.  For others, peace comes in having relationships within the home that are respectful.  Still others, peace comes with the sense of dignity and respect for their color, race, sexual orientation, or physical, or emotional abilities.  For some peace is found in self acceptance and/or of self-forgiveness of past life experiences.  Some people feel so conflicted that they cannot believe that God has forgiven them and more importantly that they are worthy to be loved by God. 

How do we find this peace?  We say, “Just believe that God loves you and you will find that peace.”  But that is too flipped an answer.  It is an answer that for some is not attainable through just believing; it is not enough to have that sense of peace take root deep within their heart.  When you are homeless, starving, beaten down verbally, ostracized by the majority on a daily basis, there are no words that will bring a sense of “peace”, of “hosanna”.  Jesus knew this.  Jesus was so aware of the brokenness of people’s lives, of how life itself works at breaking us down, that he physically toiled to show a lifestyle that could bring about peace, not just at a social level, but at a personal level as well.  He said to those who are the peace makers,”When I was hungry, you gave me food; when I was naked, you clothed me; when I was in prison, you came to see me. When you do this to the least of my brothers and sisters you have done this to me.” 

I believe all of us are looking for peace in one fashion or another.  I also think that Jesus showed how we can find peace.  We start to find peace, we start to find God’s shalom, in how we treat one another and how we treat ourselves.  Peace can be found when as the song says, “When we work with each other side by side, and when we guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride.”  Like Jesus, we find peace through our relationship with God and like Jesus a major part of that relationship is developed in how we relate and work with our brothers and sisters. 

There is no peace found when we force ourselves onto others.  There is no peace found when we allow others to force themselves on us.  There is no peace found until we learn how to love one another in the way that God loves.  Peace does not come through the force of might, but rather through the humility of the heart.  This coming week, we shall once again experience the humility of God’s heart through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus; the one who says “Let not your heart be troubled.”  As we walk this week with Jesus, let us too find the peace that lasts by allow what holds us from finding our peace, to be crucified on the cross.  Amen