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“Live in Peace”
James 3:13-4:6


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost—September 23, 2012

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text for our sermon is today’s Epistle Reading from the 3rd and 4th chapters of James, especially these verses:  “But the wisdom that comes down from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”

When Titus was just starting out as a young pastor, Paul advised him: “Remind the people . . . to be peaceable and considerate.”  That is something all of us need to be constantly reminded of, “to be peaceable and considerate.”  For we are all sinners, and sin is the root cause of all hostility.  Sin is the cause of hostility between us and God, and sin is the cause of hostility between us and our fellow man.

It all started in the Garden of Eden.  “The Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’  He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden and I was afraid . . . so I hid.’  And the Lord God said, ‘Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?’”  The fall into sin brought hostility between us and our Maker.

And the fall into sin also brought hostility between us and our fellow man.  “The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me, she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’”  That right there is the beginning of finger-pointing, blaming, fighting, and arguing.

In Ephesians, Paul describes sin as “the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”  For many years the Berlin Wall ran down the middle of Germany, dividing a nation.  In the same way, imagine sin as “the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” running right down the middle of your life, dividing you from God, and dividing you from your fellow man.  But, Paul says, “He himself is our peace . . . who has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”  Just as the Berlin Wall was broken down, Jesus Christ has “destroyed the barrier” of sin, “the dividing wall of hostility” separating us from God, and from one another.

“For unto us a child is born,” Isaiah prophesied, “and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”  The angels sang at his birth, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”  The mission of Jesus can be summed up in that one word: peace.  He came to re-establish peace between you and God, and peace between you and your fellow man.

Paul puts it this way in Colossians: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”  Through his blood shed on the cross, the sins of the world, including your sins, are all paid for and forgiven.  “Peace I leave you,” Jesus says, “my peace I give you. . . Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  Trust in Jesus Christ, and do not be afraid, for God is not angry with you, as Paul says in Romans, “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

That is what motivates you to forgive and live at peace with others.  John says it this way, “He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Over and over again, the New Testament calls upon us who know God’s forgiveness, to be ourselves peaceable and forgiving in our relationships with others. 

Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”    Paul says in Colossians, “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  What grievances do you have against others?  “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Paul says in Romans, “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. . .  Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace.”  And Hebrews says, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men.”  Sometimes it is indeed an “effort” to forgive those who trespass against you, an “effort” to restrain your anger and live in peace.  But just remember the ultimate “effort” Christ exerted on the cross for you, to earn you forgiveness for your trespasses against God, to restrain God’s anger and make you at peace with him.  As Paul says in Ephesians, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us . . .”

“The wisdom that comes down from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”  If in your life you sow seeds of anger and bitterness and revenge, then that is what you will harvest.  But instead, in your life sow seeds of love, forgiveness, peace.  “Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus says, “for they shall be called sons of God.”  Because you are a child of God, because you are at peace with God, in your life “Live in Peace.”

Amen.

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