The Choice for World Peace – May 22

A sermon based on John 14:23-29

given at Mount Vernon, Ohio on May 22, 2022

by Rev. Scott Elliott

As we continue to try and adjust the service back to normal I thought I’d warn you today that in the weeks ahead I plan to reintroduce humor in the sermons as we adjust the timing. It shouldn’t surprise most of you that a goodly portion of the humor will include puns. I’ve already had some folks urge me to do impressions instead. Which is fine but, the only impression I do well is John Wayne singing Christmas Carols . . . so that’ll have to wait.  Today’s message is about peace. Most peace puns we’ve probably all heard. Like, what did the scientist get when she put green legumes in a centrifuge? Whirled peas.  But, last night Nancy helped me find a new one, when I asked if I could have a little peace and quiet while I cooked dinner, she took the battery out of the smoke detector. Just be happy I did not tell the joke where I ask, If you had a choice between world peace or Jeff Bezos’s money, what color would your Lamborghini be?

And actually, that last joke,  I snuck in. It’s not really a pun, but it helps segue into the lesson which refers to the peace Jesus left and gave us. That peace is a Way to God’s shalom, God’s peace which means well-being for all.  My Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms defines peace as “more that the lack of war [it] points to full societal and personal well-being coupled with righteousness and possible only as a gift of God.” In the Gospel of John Jesus is considered from Chapter One onward as the very incarnation of God in creation from day one onward.  So, this peace for all, Shalom, is the gift Jesus gives, it’s what he left us all a treasure map to . . . Peace on earth good will to all.

Jesus’ teachings indicate that the way to that peace, God’s peace,  is providing love (desiring and working toward well-being) and justice (giving what is due, which is well-being). To put it another way, God’s peace requires heavenly choices by humans to love and end injustices. Those are critical choices – not just for grads but for all of us. We can choose to act toward world peace or not.  Two extreme examples of choosing not to,  are Jeff Bezos’s money choices and President Putin’s power choices. The heart of the Bezos joke is the strong cultural push to choose the world’s way of idolizing power and money and objects like fancy cars over idolizing God–who’s way is world peace.

Every time we choose personal prosperity or power, over world peace we reject the peace Jesus left and gave us. It’s easy to tell because Jesus’ peace is not of this world, Jeff Bezos’s money IS of this world, Vladimir Putin’s power IS of this world.  Obviously the chances of getting to literally choose between instant world peace and instant billions of dollars or power to rule a nation is not very likely to come our way. But over the course of our lifetimes, we do get to choose between the peace and good will for all Jesus offers and the paths primarily for self alone which the world offers.

The Gospel stories are about choices between God’s Way that Jesus chooses and takes and teaches and leaves behind,  and Caesar’s way that Herod and Pilate and Judas and sinners choose and take.  One of those ways leads to more and more of heaven breaking into the world, the other leads to more and more of the world breaking. God vs Caesar. Jesus’ Way vs Worldly ways. And clearly in our culture you can take the worldly way and be looked up to and admired and legitimized. But the worldly way does not give the peace that Jesus does because the worldly way is not about peace that provides well-being to all. It’s about well-being for self or tribe while Love the desire for the well-being of others, takes a back seat. Justice– providing what is due– is put off for all but you. So, peace takes a back seat too. Heaven does not break in taking Caesar’s route.

Jeff Bezos is an example. He has a hoard of wealth – in the neighborhood of two hundred billion dollars. That’s so much wealth he could choose to use it for all manner of heavenly purposes on a massive scale. He does not have to. But he could. To use Jesus’ examples in Matthew 25, he could choose to empty a large percentage of his coffers to tend to Christ in the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, strangers,  imprisoned and other least among us.  If he did that more of heaven would break in, peace would be closer too, because so many more would have well-being. Of course, Jeff Bezos acting toward their well-being would couple righteousness with it. Righteousness is doing what’s right and maintaining right relationships all of which Mr. Bezos would be doing with the Christ within all those he’d help.  It’s not criminal for Mr. Bezos to choose to do as he does with his money. It’s also not heavenly or peace-full.

President Putin is a worse example, while it is criminal to a lot of us for him to do as he has been doing warring in Ukraine, in his country it’s legal. Some in our country even think it’s legal. President Putin is a modern example of someone acting like Caesar. He has hordes of power that he uses for himself and his tribe to the exclusion and detriment of many. He has used it to intentionally cause terrible and unspeakable things to the people of Ukraine and Russia. He has so much power he could choose to use it for all manner of heavenly purposes on massive scales. To use Jesus’ examples in Matthew 25, instead of warring or hoarding or ignoring he could choose to tend to Christ in the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, strangers,  imprisoned and other least among us.   If Mr. Putin did that, more of heaven would break in, peace would be closer too, because so many more would have well-being.  Of course, President Putin acting toward their well-being would couple righteousness with it. Righteousness is doing what’s right and maintaining right relationships all of which President Putin would be doing with the Christ within all those he helps.

I have given two extreme examples of modern men in the news behaving of this world with choices the world allows them to make. Even as I speak they make those worldly choices. Power and money choices that help themselves and their tribe above all others–and hurts others and the world or lets them be hurt.  If we were in their shoes what color of Lamborghini or chateau or yacht or rocket or missile would we choose? Or would we choose something not of this world, but of heaven and so tend to Christ in the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, strangers,  imprisoned and other least among us?  That’s the gist of question asked over and over and over again in the gospels. One leads to peace of Christ, one does not.

And that’s the question asked of people like us by Jesus. Jesus was not teaching or preaching to the likes of the Jeff Bezoses or Vladimir Putins of the world, the Caesar-like people of his or our day.  The Caesars have a proven track record of not listening to Holy teachings or following paths toward world peace.  They follow the ways of the world, not the ways of God. It gets them what they want, not what God wants.

Jesus was teaching and preaching to the non-Caesars, the vast majority of folks, the yous and me s of the world.  Jesus was– and still is– trying to get us to not idolize and aim to be like the Caesars, the Putins, the Bezos of this world. Indeed, he taught us and showed us to do more than not idolize them.   He was and still is trying to get us to idolize God and aim to be like God incarnate– Christ– in ways that we use the power and wealth and resources we have from God for peace on earth good will to all.  It’s not to be used for peace on earth good will to only us and ours. It’s not to be hoarded ignoring other’s needs. That’s Caesar’s way, that’ the way of this world.  It’s supposed to be peace on earth good will to all. That’s literally Jesus’ way, not the way of the world. Jesus does not give as the world gives and we are not supposed to either. Material wealth is not supposed to be our goal – the wealth of well-being for all, peace is supposed to be the goal.

Doing for us and ours alone is not the means– doing for others what we want done for ourselves is the means.  It’s called the Golden rule because it’s the sign of heavenly riches. Jesus’ Way doesn’t involve hoarding,  it involves generous giving.   Jesus’ way doesn’t involve oppression or injustice or unloving conduct of any kind, nor does it involve ignoring such conduct.  Jesus’ way requires action, love in action. It’s about justice being sought, and kindness being loved on our humble walks with God. That way that Jesus left gives us peace not of this world. May we all work toward it and seek it every day of our lives. May our choices be peace-full.  AMEN.

                        COPYRIGHT   Scott Elliott © 2022 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED