Sermons from St Faith's   

The Peace of Christ

Revd Denise McDougall

Sunday, 26th May, 2019

I think we’ve all become accustomed to and, I suspect, somewhat tired of the endless debates, tensions, and differences of opinions about what politicians believe is the right way forward for our country. I’m sure none of us or any of our leaders have any real idea about what is going to happen next in terms of our position within Europe or how long the uncertainty will last for.

Whatever does happen in the future though and whatever our own personal opinions may be, I think we will continue to live with confusion, disagreements and scepticism about what is happening within our country for a very long time to come.

And of course this is what makes history and while we inhabit this earth there will continue to be squabbles, discontent and war, amongst the Church, the world and dare I say it even amongst our congregations!

It is interesting that today’s passage from the Book of Acts tells of another significant event in European history, as it is the first recorded preaching of the gospel in Europe.  Paul had been frustrated at being unable to move ahead with his missionary work in Asia and was unexpectedly called across to leading cities in Europe. He believed God wanted him to take the gospel message not just to Gentiles but to devout synagogue worshippers, superstitious philosophers and spiritual leaders and it is more than likely that his Christian sermons were preached in a synagogue. Lydia’s hears Paul and her heart is opened, God moves her to baptism and it is thought that she became the first convert to the Christian faith on European soil.

As Paul, Lydia and all Jesus’ followers did all those years ago, we too must listen, pray and invite the Holy Spirit to direct, guide and inspire us in our decision making. Paul understood the distinctive heart of Christianity to lie in the historic facts of the Gospel and Jesus’ promises of peace and the Holy Spirit which would remind them of his teaching, inspire them and guide them.

I pray that we can confess our faith and show by our lifestyles, just as Lydia did,  that we too have accepted the challenge to spread the gospel message, transmit its power and show an outpouring of God’s generous love. When God makes a demand on us I hope that we can respond with love and share the gospel message by our actions in the fragile and fragmented world that we live in today. When people act with loving generosity, they can discover the nature of God in Christ and within themselves.

Christ’s final greeting to his Apostles as John records must have sounded very strange, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.’
A lot of what Jesus said was very challenging and he asks his companions to put their trust in him, just as he asks for our trust and faith. Despite our selfish and damaged world we can still accept Christ’s legacy of peace. Christ’s peace can be experienced in even the most disheartening or traumatic situations.

We live in tough times: I wonder what sort of situations you left behind before coming to Church this morning? Did you leave an orderly routine or total chaos? Did you leave home with the turmoil and stresses of daily life and relationships churning around in your head?

Of course peace is something we all want but human peace does have a number of meanings; for some it is the absence of war, for others a full night’s sleep and for others a time of quiet and their own space.
And to achieve this we are often bombarded by all sorts of outside influences. How often are we encouraged to take out a particular insurance policy so you can put your worries behind you! Go on holiday to the sun, buy a new car, flat screen tv, coffee maker and so on to take the stresses and strains out of life. It would appear that anything and everything promises a better life or a happier existence. Yet statistics don’t bear this out. Despite lots of people having more and more disposable income and owning many of the latest gadgets with advanced technology, we live in an age where countless people strive for something that can’t be bought. We all know what makes for ordinary human peace in our lives but the peace of Christ has a far deeper and more profound meaning, a peace which is beyond all understanding.

Then as we come into church we begin to soak up the atmosphere and many of our concerns take on a different perspective. Is that why we come? Are we searching for something very special, are we looking for security, or perhaps anticipating God’s love and peace made real through the inner presence of His Holy Spirit and the sacraments.

Christ was asking his Apostles and all his followers subsequently to believe in a peace that was not about personal comfort or satisfaction. A very different peace from what marketing tactics focus on in our consumer-crazy world.

And as well as offering the Apostles peace Jesus also tells them not to be afraid. But how could they have possibly not been afraid? Jesus has told them he is going back to the Father.

And how can they not be afraid today? They realise Jesus is now finally about to leave them but he assures them that he will always be amongst them through the Holy Spirit and pledges a God given peace.

How can we not be afraid today, we constantly hear of wars, indiscriminate destruction, deliberate acts of terrorism, abuse, poverty, modern day slavery, things that all provide massive barriers to preaching the gospel.
But as the apostles had, we too have Christ’s assurance and promise of peace and that we too are never alone.  Peace is not simply the absence of violence or pain but an awareness of God’s love made real through the inner presence of the Holy Spirit. The Christian vision of peace is different from the secular world’s understanding;

So let us all try to cultivate Christ’s legacy of peace by making more time for God, creating more spaces in our lives for prayer and reflection and being as open and as willing as Paul and Lydia were to God’s calling.

And to share that legacy we must be sympathetic listeners, willing to work together and when things go wrong have the humility to able to say ‘I’m sorry’. In order to pass on the true peace of Christ we have to be at peace with ourselves and that means leaving all our own grudges, resentments and hurts behind us. In Christ we are forgiven and we are asked to forgive, we are loved and asked to love.

The peace of Christ is an everlasting peace for us in this world and the next, it is a prize greater than anything the world can give – a peace which passes all understanding.    Amen.


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