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Gathering

PRELUDE

THANKSGIVING for BAPTISM

GATHERING SONG          “Christ, When for Us You Were Baptized”          red book # 304

GREETING

KYRIE                                                                                                         red book pg. 147  (set 4)                

PRAYER of the DAY

 Word

ISAIAH 42:1-9                                                                    

PSALM 29

ACTS 10:34-43

MATTHEW 3:7-17

SERMON                                                                                                                  Pastor Chris Halverson

Peace by Jesus

Cheyenne Wyoming, where I grew up, is a military town. It houses FE Warren Air Force Base, one of the few bases in the country without an airstrip. All it deals with are nuclear missiles—Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, also known ICBM’s.

And having a large population of your town whose life and livelihood revolve around Mutually Assured Destruction—around making sure someone can press a button and end life as we know it—leads to some strange things.

Specifically, it leads to some strange bumper stickers. For example, “ICBM!—Thermonuclear Destruction!” “Peace by superior firepower” and “Peace by overwhelming firepower.”

Well, today, as we find ourselves between Jesus and John, between Peter and Cornelius I want to talk to you about peace.

Today, as we celebrate Christ’s Baptism and re-affirm our own Baptismal calling as Daughters and Sons of the Living God I want to talk to you about peace.

But I don’t want to talk to you about peace by superior firepower.

And I don’t want to talk to you about peace by overwhelming firepower.

No. I want to borrow a phrase from Peter’s Preaching in the Book of Acts and talk to you about “Peace by Jesus.”

Yes, like Peter I want to talk to you about Peace by Jesus!

 

John has been building up our anticipation. He has been building up our expectation. He has been rattling off insults toward Pharisees and Sadducees. He has described the particular moment in history that he finds himself in as a time of fire and of flame—a time at which a sharp and angry ax awaits the moment where it may cut down and chop up.

Here is seems John the Baptist is channeling Jonathan Edwards, preacher of the famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, who preached,

“The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours.”

 

John ends his description of the one who is to come by saying, “but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

 

In short John the Baptist is putting people on notice that the wicked way the world is, is about to end. The one coming will bring peace by fire and ax, flame and winnowing fork! Peace, by superior firepower! Peace, by overwhelming firepower.

 

But the next few words are some of the most gracious in the entire scripture, “Then. Came. Jesus.”

Then came Jesus, and then came peace by Jesus! Peace, by Jesus!

For if you read along with me you will see that Jesus’ first words to John—the first words he speaks in the Gospel of Matthew, are “Let it be so.”

He is saying let it be so to John—who was looking for heft and strength, not humility. He was looking for one who would come baptizing in bold and fiery ways.

But instead the one who was coming after him was asking to be baptized. The one who was coming after him was saying, calmly,

let it be, let it be, let it be.

 

And this shouldn’t surprise us. This fits with Jesus’ character.

When his disciples look for a warhorse, “an ICBM of the time” they find a donkey.

When his disciples look in awe at the temple, when they are overawed by its “superior fire power” Jesus responds, “Eh, all those rocks will fall down soon.”

When they expect him to take out the Roman occupiers he instead is executed by them!

Because I’m not talking about peace by overwhelming firepower, but peace by Jesus!

And it is only after John allows for this peace—

only after he allows for the humility of Jesus.

Only then, does he get a firework show.

Only then do the heavens open up and he witnesses the Holy Spirit—like a dove—alight upon him.

Yes, peace by Jesus involves the opening of heaven and the proclamation that you are a child of God.

 

Because you see the Peace of Jesus didn’t stop with today’s gospel reading, it continues on with Peter’s proclamation in the book of Acts.

It goes on with Jesus “doing good.”

I kinda like that phrase. Doing good. Plain and simple, peace provided by Jesus’ practice of doing good. But it doesn’t stop there either! Jesus healed the afflicted, and is raised from the dead!

And that too would be enough! That would be a place to stop. Jesus’ peace began with a humble baptism punctuated by heaven opening, the Holy Spirit coming down, and the proclamation of who he is.

It would be enough if he simply did good. It would be enough. It would be Peace by Jesus.

Death and Resurrection would be enough too. It would be Peace by Jesus,

But Peace by Jesus doesn’t stop there!

Jesus continues to move with his people—causing them to preach that he is judge of the living and the dead.

 

Now I know, a judge seems like less than a peaceful figure—it reminds us of Jonathan Edward’s angry God burning us up like spiders.

For that matter John too was looking for a judge!

John too was looking for someone to charge and to condemn.

So it’s all the more amazing to contemplate! We find Peace by Jesus because it is through Jesus’ name that we receive forgiveness of sins!

 

We find Peace by Jesus because the Judge of the living and the dead is also the Public Defender of the living and the dead.

Yes, think of what a crazy courtroom that is, where the Judge comes down from his bench and to stand up and defend us! Down from his bench to forgive us!

And that would be enough! That would be Peace by Jesus!

But that isn’t it! It doesn’t stop there! After Peter finishes speaking in the book of Acts the Holy Spirit comes down. Just as the heavens opened up for Jesus to proclaim him Son of God, there, as Peter finishes preaching the heavens open and the Holy Spirit makes a similar proclamation, alighting upon non-Jews in such a powerful way that none there can say anything except, “they too should be baptized.”

And that would be enough, the expansion of the kingdom and the family of God to include non-Jews would be Peace by Jesus.

But it doesn’t stop there!

Peace by Jesus is here! Right here today!

Today, in Baptism, you experience Peace by Jesus.

Today, when confronted with peace by overwhelming firepower and expectations about God’s judgment—know that the Judge is on your side and has washed away your sins with the waters of his Baptism. Because today there is Peace by Jesus!

Today, you are marked with the cross of a man so humble he went to death, and a man so powerful that he came back that we may do the same. Because today there is Peace by Jesus!

Today, you are marked with the calling to follow a man so good that he healed and preached good news no matter what. Because today there is Peace by Jesus!

Today, the heavens open up and are open to all, no matter who you are or where you’re from or what you’ve been through. Because today there is Peace by Jesus!

Today, the Holy Spirit claims you as Daughters and Sons of God! Because today there is Peace by Jesus!

Today, there is Peace by Jesus. Amen and Alleluia!

HYMN of the DAY                        “When Jesus Came to Jordan”                       red book # 305

APOSTLES CREED

PRAYERS of INTERCESSION

PEACE

Meal

OFFERING

OFFERTORY ANTHEM                             “Glory To The Lamb!”

GREAT THANKSGIVING

LORD’S PRAYER

COMMUNION SONGS

Also, “Let There Be Peace On Earth”, red book # 800, red book # 443

Sending

BLESSING

ANNOUNCEMENTS

SENDING SONG                 “Wash, O God, Our Sons and Daughters”               red book # 445

DISMISSAL

POSTLUDE

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