First Lesson: Isaiah 52:1-10:
Awake, awake, Zion, clothe yourself with strength! Put on your garments of splendor, Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again. 2Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, Daughter Zion, now a captive. 3For this is what the Lord says: “You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.” 4For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “At first my people went down to Egypt to live; lately, Assyria has oppressed them.
5“And now what do I have here?” declares the Lord. “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock,” declares the Lord. “And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed. 6Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.”
7How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” 8Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the Lord returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. 9Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. 10The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.
Psalm: Psalm 85 on page 97 in Christian Worship
You showed favor to your land, O Lord;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people
and covered all their sins.
Show us your unfailing love, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.
I will listen to what God the Lord will say;
he promises peace to his people, his saints.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Second Lesson: Romans 12:7-13:
7Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.”
10Again, it says, “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.”
11And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples extol him.”
12And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.”
13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Gospel Lesson/Sermon Text: Matthew 5:9:
Blessed [spiritually calm with life-joy in God’s favor] are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they will [express His character and] be called the sons of God. (The Amplified Bible)
Introduction: When I was a young boy, the Vietnam War was still raging. One of the things that I remember from growing up was seeing footage of peace marches and demonstrations that were happening all over the place. They weren’t happening in my small town of Thompson, Iowa. However, Walter Cronkite would bring us the news of those events almost every night on the 5:30 news. One of the things that you saw everywhere, even in my small town, was the peace sign. I just recently found out that it was a sign devised by and anti-nuclear protester in England in the late 1950s. It is meant to represent the letters N & D in the semaphore alphabet. That stood for the nuclear disarmament movement. I also remember that this be attitude of Jesus was quoted maybe more than any Bible passage in those days. I vaguely remember an old public service announcement that used this verse to speak about the peace movement. What is this be attitude talking about? That is the subject of today’s message.
Blessed Are the Peacemakers
I. What kind of peace?
II. For they will be called the sons of God
What kind of peace is Jesus speaking about here when he tells us that peacemakers are blessed. Back in the 1960s, I think that most people thought that Jesus was referring to the movement that was going on at the time. They thought that Jesus was, in this verse, advocating for the establishment of World Peace. It is a natural thing to think that. It is something that every generation has dreamed of. It would be nice if all wars would cease. It would be nice if all nations would settle their differences with words rather than weapons. However, this is probably not what Jesus is talking about in this the attitude. For one thing, this is something that would only be able to be achieved by people who have a great deal of power. The people who could achieve this kind of peace are the leaders, the movers and shakers, who are in very high government and diplomatic positions. We, as Christians, can certainly pray for World Peace. It is not wrong to wish for it. However, there is very little that any of us can do about that.
Another thing that makes it unlikely that this is the kind of piece that Jesus is speaking about is the fact that he said that one of the signs of the last days was that there were going to be wars and rumors of war Leading up to the last day of judgment. With those words, he was indicating that there will never be a time when the nations of this world are going to be at peace. So, if this isn’t what Jesus is talking about, what is he talking about? It turns out, as usual, that he is speaking about quite a lot here.
One kind of peace that he is speaking about here is the piece that he, himself, established when he came into this world. Remember, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the angels of God appeared to the shepherds outside of that little town. They proclaimed that the birth of this son of David was a birth that announced peace on earth to men on whom God’s favor rests. We hear those words every Christmas. The piece that the angels spoke about was the peace that Jesus established between holy God and sinful mankind. By nature, we are at war with God. As Paul said in the book of Romans, the sinful mind is hostile to God. But Jesus, through his perfect life and innocent death, removed that wall of separation and that undying warfare between God and man so that we can be in his presence now and forever without fear.
Paul writes in the book of Colossians, chapter 1 about the peace the he has established through Christ: 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and 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. Since he established this piece, what is our role in bringing this kind of peace to the world? Paul writes about that in 2 Corinthians 5: 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We, in other words, have the ability to let the world know that God has established this peace. We are able to tell them that God has reconciled us and made us his friends through the work of our savior Jesus Christ. This is the best way in which we establish peace on earth. This is the only piece that will truly last. Because we have this great message of peace and reconciliation to share, we are also able to bring peace in other important ways in this world.
Another kind of peace that is sorely lacking in this world is inner peace. The people all around us have all sorts of things going on inside of them which makes them agitated and at war with themselves. There is the sadness of loss that people feel every day. There is the anxiety over all the myriad problems that we have in our lives. We know people who are going through periods of depression and sadness. All of these things can make a person’s life agitated and difficult to handle. We look at all of the inner turmoil going around in the lives of the people that we love and we ask ourselves, “What can I do about this?”
The answer is that we can bring them a kind of peace. We can remind them that the God who has worked out our greatest problem in life, our problem of sin, knows about all of the other problems that we face in life. This God has promised to make all things work out for our good. This savior has promised to be with us always, to the very end of the age. We may not be able to solve all of their problems and cure all of their inner demons with just a quick word, but we can work every day to try to bring them the comfort and the assurance that their God wants them to have. In this way, and it is hard work, we can endeavor to bring this kind of peace to the people around us every day. This is work that our God greatly appreciates. This is work that we do in his name and by his power.
There is another kind of warfare that the Bible speaks about. It is not as big a subject, seemingly, as the subject of war between nations. However, it is something that is much more common. It is also something that we have a greater ability to do something about. I’m speaking about the clashes that develop between people. We see all sorts of examples of this in the Bible. We see the jealousy and rivalry that existed in the family of the sons of Jacob. We see the resentment that they held toward their brother Joseph because of his apparent preferential treatment by their father. We also hear of the apostle Paul speaking about this fairly often in his letters to congregations and individuals. We hear about congregations that were divided over leadership and all sorts of other matters. This is especially true of the congregation that the apostle Paul served in the city of Corinth. We also hear about the personal conflict that existed between individuals in those congregations, like the conflict between Philemon and Onesimus whom Paul helped to reconcile.
Of course, we can think of all sorts of examples of this sort of conflict that we see in our lives. We see it in our families. We see parents and children who have some sort of long seated issue that they can never seem to resolve. We see sibling rivalry. We see neighbor divided against neighbor. We can even see riffs that develop in Christian congregations where this sort of thing just should not exist. What does Jesus want us to do in situations like this? He wants us, once again, to work at establishing and maintaining peace. As Paul wrote in Romans 12: 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Again, this is not easy work. Sometimes the things that divide people are not things that are easily solved. Yet, for the sake of Christ, God wants us to work at bringing about peace between those that we know and love. Jesus says that those who do so will receive God’s blessing.
What is the blessing that Jesus talks about in this beatitudes? The blessing he offers is that those who work in their lives to establish peace will be called the children of God or the sons of God. What is he saying by this? He is saying that one of the distinguishing characteristics of God is his desire for peace. Paul writes about this characteristic of God in 2 Corinthians 13: 11Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. When we work at bringing about all these different kinds of peace, we are seen to be people who belong to God. When Jesus talks about being known as the children of God or the sons of God, he means that this sort of activity, the activity of working toward peace, is something that will draw the attention of the world and will let them see the piece that their God brings them through us. Jesus gives them this boost before he gets to the last of the beatitudes. He lets them know that what they do in this world is something that is valuable to the world before he tells them the other reaction that the people of this world will have toward them. This attitude is something we will discuss in our final look at the beatitudes next week as we hear Jesus talk about the blessings of those who are persecuted for the sake of Christ. Amen.
Blest Are the Humble Souls that See (V. 7):
Blest are the men of peaceful life,
who quench the coals of growing strife;
they shall be called the heirs of bliss,
the sons of God, the God of peace.