Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sermon: 2nd Sunday in Easter

"The doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked in fear and Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord." The disciples were gathered together for the first time according to the Gospel of John, after they had dispersed, ran away after the arrest of Jesus.

Now they were locked in a room, in fear of being captured by the Roman & Jewish Authorities. And Jesus comes to them in Peace. And when they understand it is Jesus before them, they rejoice, their fear is relieved, and they begin to understand that they have only started their journey as his disciples. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on them… Its not enough to be locked into the room together and believe, No. Jesus sends them out in peace with the Holy Spirit…

It reminds me of an earlier episode when Jesus was talking with the 12 disciples who were frightened and he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” The Peace of Christ, unlike the peace of the world, is given to us, to strengthen our resolve even when the world goes to hell in hand basket all around us. The peace beyond our understanding is given to us in love.

As the author and pastor Frederick Buechner put it, “for Jesus, peace seems to have meant not the absence of struggle, but the presence of love.” There will be struggle, but in the midst of it, is the peace and love which Christ offers to us… But as Julian or Norwich reminds us, Peace and love are always alive in us, but we are not always alive to peace and love.

Today, the Jewish people around the world are remembering the days when many Jewish people had locked their doors, hidden themselves away, in fear of being captured by the Nazis and sent to places like Bukenwald or Dachau, or worse yet Treblinka and Auschwitz. Today is Yom HaShoah, the Day of Remembrance for the Holocaust of WW II. As someone of German and Polish descent, I look back at the Nazi regime and the Holocaust with great sadness, and also because there was a Professor Kurt Huber in Germany who stood up to the Nazis and was executed for his resistance (part of the White Rose).

Something as big as the Holocaust can cause us to look away, to miss that even in the midst of such tragedy, hope and peace and love still existed, God was still at work in this world when evil tried to destroy the Jewish people… On this day of remembering, let me offer three stories I believe touch on that peace that comes from above…(stories are from the book "Small Miracles")

(1) Rabbi Shapira from a Polish Village
-always greated everyone, kind, loving…
-even Herr Mueller, silent farmer
-day after day, “Good Morning Herr Mueller”
-one day, he replied, Good Morning herr Rabiner.
-the pleasantries and respect, every day until the Nazis came, all changed
-all the Jews were shipped off
-Rabbi went to Auschwitz
-soldier putting the people into two lines: one for death, one was life
- Good Morning Herr Mueller
- Good Morning herr Rabiner
- sent to the line, to life

(2) Young boy in a concentration camp, a young girl across the fence, tosses an apple to him -happens for days until he is shipped off to a new camp
-but the memory of the young girl and the apple gave him hope even on the worst of days -after the war, they meet again on a blind date and learned about each other and were married -on Oprah Winfrey in 1996, their story was told…

(3) A rescuer, (righteous gentile) “Chiune Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat who helped thousands of Jews leave the Soviet Union while serving as the consul of the Empire of Japan to Lithuania; Sugihara continued to hand-write visas (reportedly spending 18–20 hours a day on them, producing a normal month's worth of visas each day) until September 4, when he had to leave his post before the consulate was closed. When asked why he risked his career to save other people, he quoted an old samurai saying, ‘Even a hunter cannot kill a bird which flies to him for refuge.’” (from Wikipedia)

In Sugihara’s honor, Israeli Officials planted a grove of cedar trees as one of the rescuers in WW II. Later they learned his name means, cedar grove in Japanese.

We remember because, we live in hope, we remember so that we do not have new holocausts before us, we remember because we live in that peace, love and hope that God has given to us in Christ. We stand as witnesses to the dead and the living today…

From Tomorrow On (By Motele – a young boy in the Warsaw Ghetto)

From tomorrow on, I shall be sad---
From tomorrow on!
not today. What is the use of sadness---tell me that?---
Because these evil winds begin to blow?
Why should I grieve for tomorrow---today?
Tomorrow may be so good, so sunny, Tomorrow the sun may shine for us again:
We shall no longer need to be sad. From tomorrow on, I shall be sad---
From tomorrow on!
Not today: no! Today I will be glad.
And every day, no matter how bitter it be,
I will say:
From tomorrow on, I shall be sad,
Not today!

And for us, Jesus comes into our lives, the fear that holds us back, the doors we have barred shut, Jesus gives us his peace, and sends us out, and all that fear, all those doors are thrown open in peace and love… What will we do? – We will remember… Peace Pole!

To date, more than 200,000 Peace Poles have been dedicated in over 190 countries around the world. Peace Poles can be found in town squares, city halls, schools, places of worship, parks, and gardens - any place where the spirit of peace is embraced by people of good will.

“O God, make us children of quietness and heirs of peace.” – St. Clement of Rome

A Prayer attributed to St. Francis (BCP p. 833)

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

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