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Sermon for December 4, 2022 – 2nd Sunday of Advent

Speaking of Life 5002 | The Full Package of Peace

Program Transcript

Speaking of Life 5002 | The Full Package of Peace
Greg Williams

The second Sunday of Advent carries with it the theme of peace. It’s a wonderful reminder of yet another Christmas gift we can anticipate in Jesus’ coming to us. And the gift of peace is certainly a gift that needs to be received in our day and age.

But the gift of peace Jesus brings does not stand alone. Peace is the nature of Jesus’ rule and reign as the true Lord and King of his creation. You cannot separate Jesus’ person as King from his reign of peace. Jesus is not just our source of peace; Jesus is our peace. Peace does not come to us from any other source. That means to receive Jesus’ gift of peace is to receive him as our Lord and King.

When we do, we are receiving the full package of peace. Let me explain.

Peace has a foundation. It is built on righteousness and justice. These three, righteousness, justice, and peace, were the model by which ancient Israel’s rulers were measured. Unfortunately, they often fell short.

Let’s look at all three.

First, Righteousness is a word best understood as an orientation of the heart that seeks truth, compassion, gentleness, goodness, and overall wholeness in all relationships. “Righteousness,” biblically defined, could be rephrased as, “right-relationship.”

Second, Justice is then understood as a working out of these inner qualities within human communities. Therefore, justice comes from individuals whose hearts beat with righteousness in all their relationships. On this basis, justice is not an external law to govern people’s interactions, but an internal reality working out towards others.

Thirdly, Peace, then, is simply the result of communities living in righteousness and justice among one another.

So, these three, righteousness, justice, and peace go together. Listen for the repetition of these three words in Psalm 72 that are desired and sought in a king:

Give the king Your judgments, O God,
and Your righteousness to the king’s Son.
He will judge Your people with righteousness,
and Your poor with justice.
The mountains will bring peace to the people,
and the little hills, by righteousness.
He will bring justice to the poor of the people;
He will save the children of the needy,
and will break in pieces the oppressor.
They shall fear You as long as the sun and moon endure,
throughout all generations.
He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing,
like showers that water the earth.
In His days the righteous shall flourish,
and abundance of peace, until the moon is no more.
Psalm 72:1-7 (NKJV)

No doubt, this Psalm finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ, our Lord and true King. He is the reason we celebrate the Second Week of Advent with a focus on the theme of peace. Jesus comes to us, bringing to us as gifts of grace his own righteousness, justice, and peace. If your heart is yearning for abiding peace, Jesus comes to you with the full package.

I’m Greg Williams, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 • Isaiah 11:1-10 • Romans 15:4-13 • Matthew 3:1-12

This week’s theme is Jesus brings peace and we are to be his peacemakers. The call to worship Psalm petitions God to give to the king the righteousness and justice that leads to peace. The Old Testament reading from Isaiah is a classic announcement of the future king, from the line of David, who will bring a reign characterized by justice and peace. The text from Romans offers encouragement from the scriptures to glorify God by living in harmonious relationships with one another. The Gospel reading from Matthew accounts John the Baptist’s announcement of the coming of Jesus who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Welcoming God’s Welcome

Romans 15:4-13 (NRSVUE)

This week’s theme is Jesus brings peace and we are to be his peacemakers. The call to worship Psalm petitions God to give to the king the righteousness and justice that leads to peace. The Old Testament reading from Isaiah is a classic announcement of the future king, from the line of David, who will bring a reign characterized by justice and peace. The text from Romans offers encouragement from the scriptures to glorify God by living in harmonious relationships with one another. The Gospel reading from Matthew accounts John the Baptist’s announcement of the coming of Jesus who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Today’s advent theme is peace. So, as we look at our passage today, we will be encouraged to remember God’s past work in Christ that establishes peace between God and humans, and by extension, between all people one with another. As believers:

  • We celebrate the peace already introduced by the Father in Jesus as recorded for us in the Gospels.
  • We look forward in hope, anticipating Jesus’ return and the fulfillment of the New Creation he brings where peace will fill the earth and be the way of life between all peoples.
  • We participate in his peace in the present, as much as we possibly can, as a witness of the reality of peace found only in Christ.

This makes perfect sense, of course. If we are celebrating the peace Jesus brought in his first coming, while at the same time anticipating in hope the ultimate peace that will come with his second coming, why would we not aim to live out that peace in our present lives today? What’s the point of celebrating something in the past and hoping for the same thing in the future if we don’t really want it in the present?

However, living in peace in the present is not a simple task. In fact, without Christ, it is impossible. That’s why we need the to be reminded every Advent season, and every Sunday throughout all seasons, where the source of all peace is found—in Jesus. We are not invited to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and try harder to live in peace with others. We do not gather to be given a message on the importance of living peacefully in a world that is in so much conflict, as true as that is. And we certainly do not gather to hear a how-to message on living in peace with others. If peace can be established by such means, we would have had peace a long time ago.

We gather to receive once again the peace of God given to us in Jesus Christ. It is only in receiving the peace he has for us, that we can live out that peace in our relationships one with another, first in the church, and then in the world, as much as possible. As we do so, we do not expect to establish world peace by our efforts. Rather, we do so as a witness to the world that Jesus is indeed the only source of peace.

This is why it is so important that the church live in unity one with another. We are a witness of the unity in the triune God. We are a witness that invites others to participate alongside us in the life of peace made available in Jesus Christ. In this way, we become peacemakers in the world, not by our strength, but in the power of the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, who is Peace.

That’s a long introduction to our passage today, but to be fair, the Apostle Paul has set up this passage with a long introduction himself. In fact, Paul is going to make the admonition to believers in Rome, and by extension to us today, to “welcome one another,” which is another way of saying “to live in peace with each other,” or to live in unity. He spent the first 14 chapters in Romans building up to this point.

The church in Rome was made up of Jews and Gentiles. The vast differences between the two had created a great deal of tension, which Paul addresses. He spends 14 chapters reminding the church, and us today, of God’s identity, which is revealed in Jesus. He reminds us that the commands of Scripture are always grounded in the indicative (revealing) of God’s character.

Or to put it another way, God’s commands are grounded in God’s revelation of who he is. God doesn’t tell us to do something outside of who he is for us. If he commands us to live in peace, it is because the triune God is a God of peace. And Jesus has brought to us, in himself, the very peace that exists between Father, Son, and Spirit. We cannot achieve peace by our own efforts. Rather, true peace is received as a gift of grace.

It seems the divisions in the Roman church were so intense that Paul knew he would need to spend extra time in reminding them where the source of peace was … or more accurately, who the source of peace was. Surely, we are in the same situation today. The world around us is fracturing over so many issues, and the church has succumbed in large part to this influence. If the church is going to fulfill her calling as a witness in the world, it must return to her Lord, who is the only source of peace for the life and witness of the church.

In Jesus, churches, and the believers who belong to them, can resist the temptation of division by being reminded of the peace and unity established in the past work of Christ, as well as being reminded of the soon coming kingdom of peace Jesus will establish at his second coming. Both these past and future realities established in Christ can open our hearts once again to receive the peace Jesus holds out to us to receive by grace in the present.

Let’s begin our passage to hear this reminder once again in hopes of having our hearts turned to him who is ever with us as our peace on earth and good will toward all men.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4 NRSVUE)

Paul begins by referring to what “was written in former days.” As we do during Advent, Paul begins by looking in the past. Specifically, he looks back to see what God has already told us in the Scriptures. We can trust what the Scriptures tell us because God is trustworthy. The Scriptures are his gift to us for our “instruction” and “encouragement.”

So, before Paul delivers his admonition to the church, he wants to remind them, and us today, that all Scripture “was written for our instruction.” A primary thing Scripture does is teach us. From here, we may ask the question, “teach us what?” Ultimately all of Scripture is given to us so we may learn who God is as revealed in Jesus Christ.

We can take comfort that God had us in mind when he inspired the prophets and poets to pen the words of Scripture. Through seeing who God is in Jesus Christ, we are given steadfastness and encouragement for our present time. But this does not mean the Scriptures just contain a lot of information and facts about God. The “knowing” we are given through the Scriptures is a real and personal knowing, because God meets us personally within the pages of the Bible.

The Holy Spirit is actively teaching us all things about himself as we read the Scriptures seeking to know the Lord more. It’s a book where the author sits down with you as you read it. So, the Bible is not a gift God gives from afar because he does not have time to show up in person, he gives it to us personally and stays in the room as we unwrap it and read through it.

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6 NRSVUE)

Notice that harmony is something God grants or gifts us. This will set up his command to “welcome one another” in the next verse. He is not presenting peace as an ideal to work towards but rather a reality to receive. As we live out this reality in our relationships with others, we “glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Glorifying God is a way of reflecting who God is. God as Father, Son, Spirit, lives in perfect unity. This life of unity is a gift given to us in Jesus. As we receive this gift and live it out, we “glorify” or magnify to the world a bigger picture of who God is.

The church lives out her witness to the world through her union in Christ, receiving the peace the Lord gives her. This peace lived out in the church then does not become a sign that points to the church, but rather a sign that points others to Jesus. The church is simply participating in the peace he gives. It is not setting out to establish on her own a new program, ideology, principle, method, or set of rules for peace that the world must follow. No, it is serving as a witness to the Lord of Peace who they follow, calling others to do the same. We do not assume that peace will come in any other way. It is a work of grace, and God gets all the glory.

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7 NRSVUE)

To welcome others to this degree, we must first welcome Christ’s welcome. Again, we are not left with a welcome grounded on common practices, ideology, or behavior, but on the reality that in Jesus all are welcomed as children of God. As we put our differences aside, we can “praise the Lord,” which in turn reminds us again of his welcome and acceptance of us. As we see more fully the Father’s welcome of us in Jesus, we are able to more fully participate in this reality by welcoming one another.

I’m sure we can all recount an experience of being in a place that we knew we were not welcome. That is not a pleasant experience on any level. When you aren’t welcome, the last thing you are able or want to do is welcome another to that place. Rather, you want to get out and go somewhere you feel welcomed. The same could be said of knowing and experiencing our welcome in Christ. Because we know that in Christ there is no condemnation toward us (Romans 8:1), we can be welcoming to one another. We are set free from all our insecurities and fears, enabling us to not be consumed with ourselves, but rather turn our focus towards others for their good. We welcome others into the welcome of Christ, where they too can lay down all that keeps them from living in the freedom and peace the Lord gives.

For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the ancestors and that the gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will confess you among the gentiles and sing praises to your name”; and again he says, “Rejoice, O gentiles, with his people”; and again, “Praise the Lord, all you gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him”; and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the gentiles; in him the gentiles shall hope.” (Romans 15:8-12 NRSVUE)

God had always intended and purposed that the Gentiles would be welcomed as God’s chosen people along with the Jews. Notice how Paul repeatedly cites scripture to make his point. He cites four scriptures to remind and reiterate the truth of God’s heart towards us. God does not intend to leave us in a fragmented and divided world. He does not intend to leave us fragmented and torn apart within ourselves or with others. He has intended from the beginning to bring us into his life of wholeness and peace. That’s what he has done in Jesus Christ, and that is the hope we have for the future. In this sure hope we can be encouraged to turn to the Lord, despite all our failings towards peace, and receive once again the peace he offers us by grace.

Paul then concludes with a benediction that we can receive for ourselves today. This is a blessing Jesus is holding out to you now, in our time of troubling divisions all around. Open your hands to him and receive the peace that only he can give.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NRSVUE)

May we see Paul’s message to the church in Rome as written for us today, pointing us to the unity and acceptance held out to us in Jesus Christ. As we trust in him, may we experience the peace that the second week of Advent points to – a peace grounded in the reality of reconciliation of all things forged in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Welcome Mat w/ Al Kurzawa W1

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December 4 – Advent 2
Romans 15:4-13 “The Welcome Mat”

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Program Transcript

Anthony: Let me read the first pericope of the month. It’s Romans chapter 15, four through 13. I’m reading from the Common English Bible. It is the Revised Common Lectionary passage for Advent 2 on December the 4th.

Whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction so that we could have hope through endurance and through the encouragement of the scriptures. May the God of endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude toward each other, similar to Christ Jesus’ attitude. That way you can glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ together with one voice. So welcome each other, in the same way that Christ also welcomed you, for God’s glory. I’m saying that Christ became a servant of those who are circumcised for the sake of God’s truth, in order to confirm the promises given to the ancestors, and so that the Gentiles could glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, Because of this I will confess you among the Gentiles, and I will sing praises to your name. 10 And again, it says, Rejoice, Gentiles, with his people. 11 And again, Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and all the people should sing his praises. 12 And again, Isaiah says, There will be a root of Jesse, who will also rise to rule the Gentiles. The Gentiles will place their hope in him. 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Al, what does this passage unveil about the God revealed in Jesus Christ?

Al: Oh man. So many good things.

First off, what jumps out at me is just that line in verse 5, May the God of endurance and encouragement. Jesus doesn’t ask us to endure out of our own strength and endurance. God is the God of endurance and encouragement.

I did a sermon in 2 Thessalonians this past week, and there’s this line there that says, God is the God of eternal encouragement. I just love that line. Eternal encouragement. Jesus isn’t asking us to endure from our own strength or our own endurance. And that’s where there’s that sense of peace, because it’s God who is the God of encouragement and endurance.

It’s his endurance that we see displayed in Jesus through his whole physical life, his ministry, and his endurance all the way through the cross and the grave and the resurrection. It’s his endurance that we now get to participate in.

And you look at this passage where he talks about the Gentiles, and you see that God is always bigger than we make him out to be. He’s more inclusive, sorry, more inclusive, more encompassing. His plans are larger and bigger than what we think.

Part of this Christian journey as disciples is that we’re always learning that God is so much bigger, so much broader. His plans are so much more all-encompassing than we can think of. We’re always having to readjust just how big this God is that loves us.

Anthony: Yeah, I’ve heard it said, Al, that if you ever cross a line where you think you’ve gone too far in saying, God is just too good to be true. You can’t actually get there. You think you may have. But like you were saying, life is this ongoing repentance where our minds are being blown and changed by the reality of the God revealed in Jesus Christ.

And it’s so much better than our fallen imagination can get to. And thanks be to God that it is his endurance and his encouragement. So, what are the implications both corporately and personally to welcome each other in the same way Christ has welcomed us? What say you?

Al: Just one more thing on that past question and then I’ll answer that one.

One of the other things that jumped out in this passage to me was that hope comes first. That it’s not our plans in preparing; we do all that, we make our plans, or we prepare everything, and then we hope for the best.

We have a hope and a God who is faithful. So, we hope in him. And then we make our plans and preparing, and it comes out of that hope of what we’re doing.

And the difference there is between us making our plans and that’s the center. And then God takes up any slack versus God is the center, the God of encouragement, the God of hope is at the center. And then because of who he is, then it’s born out of us knowing how to and being in relation to him, that we then do things and make our plans and all that out of that hope.

That was just one other thought from that passage I wanted to bring out. And then you asked about the implications both corporately and personally. Reading this passage, I thought back to Paul who’s writing this, and a guy named Ananias and a guy named Barnabas.

Because Paul, he was Saul, it was his name. And he has this unbelievable encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. And then he goes on and he’s blind. And this brother, Ananias, comes and he comes to Paul and lays his hands on him, and he welcomes Paul. It’s this beautiful story.

I just love the story of how Ananias, after talking with God, “God, are you sure this is who you want me to go? This guy’s coming to arrest us.” And God goes, No, I’ve got plans for him. And Ananias goes and lays hands on him.

And then you have Barnabas who welcomes Paul and actually takes him to meet the apostles because people were a bit scared of him. And you see in Paul’s life how he was welcomed even with his background and his story.

And yet he was welcomed. And so, we then translate that into how Christ was, he was welcoming of everyone. And we see even of Saul, he welcomed Saul into the fold as he’s converted. And so, we now have this wonderful model of, personally, we look beyond labels. Our world right now just loves doing labels, and it’s going beyond labels of rich, or poor, evangelical, charismatic, orthodox, capitalist, socialist, libertarian.

We go beyond that, and we look at the person, all of the person. We welcome them into God’s embrace. We’re just reflecting the embrace that God already has for them. So, we do that personally and the people we meet, but then we also do it corporately as the church, we have open doors. We welcome people and we let them know they belong, that soon as they show up, they belong, that God loves them.

Anthony: Yeah. We trust that one died and therefore all died. And so, we can no longer look at anyone from a worldly point of view. Correct? That we can only see as Christ sees. And I can’t help but think of that passage in Luke 19 where God in Jesus Christ welcomes Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector despised among his own people. And Jesus welcomed him into his own home. I’m going to come stay with you, Zacchaeus.

And that’s the initiative of our Lord revealed in Jesus Christ.

Verse 13, Al, I think is a wonderful benediction. And what would you say to someone, especially during the season of Advent, somebody who’s not experiencing as much joy and peace as they would desire? What’s Paul declared here for all of us?

Al: The first thing I would do is I would just sit with the person. I would find out where they are. I would just listen before I said anything because the last thing I want to do is offer shallow cliches to someone who’s hurting or feeling loss, or possibly going through something that I’ve just got no experience in, or no understanding, or I don’t have a common ground with what they’re going through.

I don’t want to offer, simple cliches. I want to just sit with them. And then in sitting with them and listening to them, hearing their story and just being with them in whatever they’re feeling. Then possibly in that sitting with them, then this benediction is lived out and they start to feel this sense of peace because they know they’ve been heard. Someone has actually taken the time to listen to them.

Then after doing that and making sure they’re listened to, then if they still feel like they’re looking for a word from me, that I feel like they want me to say something into their situation, I would just share with them that we can hold peace and anxiety, hope and despair together at the same time. We’re these walking paradoxes at time, and that we can be experiencing multiple feelings at once.

I might be feeling a sense of love from my wife today, and at the same time feeling anxiety from my daughter who’s having a hard time at school. I can feel the peace of God’s presence in my life and at the same time be hurting for a friend who’s going through a rough time. The peace and joy of God aren’t limited just to what we’re feeling at the time, in the moment.

The peace and joy of God are our fruit that is born out of our hope – as we talked about in this passage – born out of our hope in a God who does not disappoint, a God who is faithful, a hope in a God who’s the God of eternal encouragement and endurance. He will see us through whatever we’re going through, however long it takes.

He will be with us. He’s Emmanuel, and he will go through what we’re going through with us. So, our hope in God gives us a perspective of the bigger picture of the God who came to us and takes us with them in the ascension. And it is in that bigger picture beyond what we’re experiencing right now, or we’re feeling right now, that bears that fruit of peace and joy in our lives.

And that’s probably what I would then talk to a larger audience, like a congregation, and bringing out in this passage – that we all might be sitting in different spots during this month, and with everything going on, hectic and busy and joy. And we’ve got all these mixed feelings, but in all of this, God is with us.

And we focus on the big picture of the God who we have hope in, who doesn’t disappoint. He makes his promises, and he fulfills them. He promised a Messiah, and the Messiah came so we can rely on this God who keeps his promises again and again. Our hope focuses on who God is, the God that is a God of encouragement, the God of hope.

And then out of that, the peace and in this benediction that Paul gives us, this peace that he talks about. And the joy then is born out of that hope that we have in him.

Anthony: I appreciated what you said about just sitting with someone, listening to them, making sure they feel seen and heard. To me, that’s the marrying of gospel proclamation along with gospel demonstration. It’s just being with somebody and in that way, reflecting the truth that God is a God of hope and of all joy and peace, even in the midst of great sorrow. The paradox that you mentioned, that’s a beautiful way of expressing it. It goes back to that old saying that’s become somewhat cliche, but it’s still truthful, that people don’t care what you know until they know that you care. And that’s what I hear you stating there. That’s beautiful.

Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life

  • What did you think about the video’s claim that to receive Jesus’ peace is to receive him as Lord and King?
  • What did you think of the connection of righteousness and justice forming the foundation of peace?
  • Discuss Jesus being the full package, our righteousness, justice, and peace.

From the Sermon

  • Discuss how Advent has a three-fold focus of past, present, and future.
  • Encourage one another by reminding each other of the peace Jesus has brought to us in his first coming. How might the first recipients of the gospel have understood the peace Jesus brought, with God, with one another, and with the world at large? Share the peace you experienced the first time you heard the gospel.
  • Imagine together what peace on earth could look like in the kingdom of God. And remember, however good an imagination you have, you will still not be able to come close to the actual peace God has for us. So, imagine with all your might. What might living in his peace be like?
  • Now, with the reminder of the peace Jesus has brought, and in hope of the soon coming future we just imagined, what ways can we be a witness to a fragmented world that Jesus is the source of all true and lasting peace?
  • Discuss the difference between receiving peace as a gift of grace from God and achieving peace by our own efforts.
  • How does knowing you are welcome in Christ enable you to welcome others?

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