There’s something called peace of mind, which happens when we have a clear conscience.
Peace can be the absence of war, but that kind of peace is rare. Just as one war ends, it seems like another one starts. I doubt anyone in the room remembers the slogans, but World War I was supposed to be the war that ended all wars. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before an even bigger war began.
When it comes to experiencing peace with God, how we understand God will determine how we receive this peace. There are, after all, many definitions of God. There’s the angry God who takes pleasure in making life difficult. There’s the demanding God whom we never can seem to please. There’s the distant God, who just doesn’t seem to care. Then there’s the omnipotent God we sang about in the opening hymn – the all-powerful one. I think that’s the God most of us believe in. But maybe there’s another way of looking at our Creator that makes more sense of life and how we live it.
The God we meet in Scripture is present, passionate, committed, caring, and loving. It’s this God who made a covenant with Abraham and Moses and Jesus. It’s this God who walks with us when we experience pain and suffering, for this is the God we meet in Jesus. Theologian Jurgen Moltmann calls this God we meet in Scripture, the "Crucified God," because we meet this God on the cross and ironically it’s in the shadow of the cross that we find peace.
It’s common to think of suffering as an expression of divine judgment for sin – or maybe it’s just karma – and yet too often we see the guilty go free and the innocent suffer. War is that way – it’s the innocent who generally suffer more than the ones who are guilty of the violence. Consider for a moment the millions of Jews who died in the death camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. What did they do to deserve their fate? Such events in history pose a difficult question for those of us who believe in a compassionate and caring God. Why, the critics ask, if God is omnipotent, did this happen? Where is God in all of this? And my only answer is this, God is present with us in our suffering, strengthening us so that we might endure and gain character, which leads to hope.
"the flabby and trivial hopes for pleasant weather or a hearty supper. `Hope' for Paul is not the equivalent of desire or wish. To the contrary, hope refers to confidence, trust, conviction. The `hope of sharing the glory of God' is Christian certainty that God's glory will be shared with all."1
Because we’re prone to idolatry and often make things that are of less consequence an idol – be it baseball, music, food, drink, or power – we need grace. We need an invitation to have our slate wiped clean so we can start over. This means that in Christ our past doesn’t determine our future. This gift comes to us from the God who is compassionate and caring, a God who isn’t worried about image or getting revenge, a God who doesn’t need a blood sacrifice to settle accounts. And Jesus offers us that invitation, because he has shared our lives and therefore he sanctifies and makes holy the lives we live.
Today, according to the church calendar, is Trinity Sunday. This is a day to remember that the God we worship comes to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Trinity bears witness to the holy and righteous God who is present with us in Jesus, so that this holy God might share life as we live it, and then empower us by the Holy Spirit so that we might live fully before God as compassionate and loving people. When we do this, then peace will be at hand – not peace as the world defines it, but peace as God defines it.
- Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching, C, (WJK, 1993), 357.
- Bruce Sanguin, Darwin, Divinity, and the Dance of the Cosmos, (Copperhouse Books, 2007), 156.
- Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace, (NY:Riverhead Books, 1998), 96.
Rev. Dr. Robert Cornwall
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
June 3, 2007