NEW YEAR COMING
The Bible passage that we’re going to be looking at in a few minutes stresses something that I think is really important for us to think about right now. It stresses the need to let the peace of God rule in our hearts. In fact, that’s exactly what it says in Colossians 3:15 (NIV): “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
That sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? Just be at peace. Live in peace. Be ruled by the peace of Christ. We can all say a big Amen to that. After all, if you really do believe that Jesus is your Saviour and that God has your back, how could you not be at peace? It should be easy, right? Well, maybe not. The words are easy to say. But it is much more challenging to live them out as we shall see.
That’s a particularly important thought as we head into a new year. When you look back at 2018, what do you see? For some of you, it was a great year. Some of you had weddings in your family. We’ve had lots of babies born this year in the congregation and in your extended families as well which means there are lots of new parents and grandparents. I know that Ruth and I became grandparents again this year for the third time. Some of you went off to school or had children who did that. That can be both exciting and a little nerve racking. Some of you got new jobs. Some of you retired. For lots of us 2018 was a great year.
But that’s not true for everyone. There are quite a few people for whom 2018 was not so great. In fact, you may be glad it’s over. Some of you lost loved ones this year. Some of you received difficult medical news. Some of you experienced breakups in your family. Other people lost jobs and wondered how they would support their families. It has not been a good year for you and all you can do is hope that 2019 will be better. And I hope, for you sake and God willing, that it will be.
Regardless of what 2018 meant for you, it’s almost over as we begin a whole new year on Tuesday. The truth is that we don’t know what 2019 holds for us. You might have plans for the year – and, quite frankly – I hope you do. I hope you’re making good plans for the coming year. But also be sure to be flexible because the best laid plans of mice and men can soon go astray as the poet Robert Burns wrote many years ago. Just like in 2018, 2019 will be a great year for some of you and a challenging year for others. Knowing that reality, what does the Bible say to us about how we live it out? What we will discover is that whether 2019 is a banner year for you or a challenging one, the instructions are the same. And it has something to do with peace.
LETTING PEACE RULE
So, let’s get started with Colossians 3:15 (NIV) which says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Peace. God calls us to let peace rule. That means that we are encouraged to live peacefully with others but, more importantly, it means that we are called to live with inner peace. This is a way of being, to be peaceful. That’s what it means to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. But what does that mean? What does it mean to be at peace?
The first thing I want to say is that we don’t always stress that as much in the Christian faith as we should. In fact, as Christians, we tend to stress doing more than being. What do I mean by doing? You know what I mean. Isn’t it true that the Church is constantly telling us what we should do to be faithful? We are called to reach out to the poor and disadvantaged. We did that this year when we collected ninety-five shoe boxes for third world children. We are called to feed the hungry. We do that this year when we collected white gifts for the Downtown Mission and provided seventy-seven Christmas hampers for the Essex Food Bank. We’re called to visit the sick and we do that on a regular basis, both in hospital and at home. We’re called to lead people to Jesus so that they will come to know him as the Lord and Saviour. Lots of us do that in big or small, public or private ways. We are called to worship regularly and we do our best to provide quality worship from this church for our community. We are called to learn what’s in the Bible and we do that through our messages but also through our Bible studies. We do all kinds of stuff. In fact, we’re really good at doing things to be faithful.
What we’re not so good at is the being part. We’re really good at doing Christianity. Sometimes we would do well to stress more that we are also called to be Christians. That’s because doing and being are not the same thing. Doing is what we do in our communities outside of ourselves. Being is what happens inside.
Now don’t get me wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing. In fact, we are called to do. James 1:27 (NIV) says. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” True religions is living out those things that we claim to believe. James says that it’s about looking after orphans and widows. That’s good stuff. It’s stuff that we should do.
In Matthew, Jesus says that we are to share the Gospel with the world. Matthew 28:19-20a (NIV) says this, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Go and get it done.
I’ve been meditating on Ephesians the last couple of months and there lots of things in Ephesians 4. Ephesians 4:25 (NIV) says this: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Don’t lie to each other. Don’t do that. Ephesians 4:26 says, ” In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry…” Again, don’t do that. Verse 28 encourages Christians to seek gainful employment and give to those in need. Verse 29 says that we are to avoid unwholesome talk but should only speak in ways that build others up. There is lots of instruction about what Christians should do and I hope we’re all working to live like that. It’s essential but it’s not all there is. So let’s move on and talk about what it means not to do but to be. Specifically, what does it mean to be at peace or as we read in Colossians, to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts?
Again, we often forget that in our Christian walks. We’re really good at doing the external stuff, not so good at being the internal stuff. And yet the Bible is filled with examples of people being just that and instructions on how to do it.
I think it’s kind of interesting that, in our society, things like inner peace are thought of as more eastern. They come out of the eastern religions like Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism. They sound very new ageish – if that is even a word we use anymore. We see those eastern traditions as putting a greater stress on the inner work that allows us to live in peace. And yet, when you read the Bible, there are all sorts of examples in Scripture where we are encouraged to do the exact same things.
Did you notice something I said a minute ago? I said that I have been meditating on the book of Ephesians for the last couple of months. First of all, it’s true, I have been. But did you know that in Christianity and in Judaism, there is a strong tradition of meditation? Joshua 1:8 (NIV) says, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” We are called to meditate on Scripture day and night. Does that surprise anyone?
How about Psalm 1:1-2 (NIV): “Blessed is the one… whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” Another verse about meditating on Scripture.
Let’s try one more. In Genesis 24, Isaac is looking for a wife. His father Abraham had sent him back to the land where he grew up to find himself a wife. Isaac isn’t sure what to do to find a suitable partner so he gets down from his camel and starts walking through a field, seeking God’s will. We pick up the story in Genesis 24:63-65 (NIV): “He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel and asked the servant, ‘Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?’ ‘He is my master,’ the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.” What happens next, of course, is that that Isaac and Rebekah meet and he takes her back home to become his wife. But notice that in order to find a wife, Isaac finds in necessary to meditate. He’s not sitting on the ground cross legged chanting some eastern word. In fact, he’s up walking around but he’s still meditating. The bottom line is that seeking that inner peace is very much part of the Christian tradition and we should embrace it. We should learn to embrace those inner traditions.
Meditation isn’t the only one. A more familiar on is prayer. Prayer is something that we should do every day because it too brings inner peace. Like everyone else here today, there are times when I struggle with knowing what to do. When that happens, I know that one of the greatest tools I have at my disposal is the power of prayer.
There are, of course, lots of Bible verses that talk about prayer. Ephesians 6:18 (NIV) is one of them: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Take all kinds of things to God in prayer. In fact, take everything to God in prayer and you will find peace.
And how about this one in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV) which I think is one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” I love that verse and the peace that it brings.
LIVING IN COMMUNITY
We are called to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. The Bible tells us to meditate and to pray. But then Colossians 3:16 (NIV) takes us to the next step: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” What this tell us – and this is really good news – is that we don’t do it alone. In fact, we can’t do it alone. If we want peace to rule in our hearts, it has something to do with God. What that means is that the message of Christ must dwell within us.
But what is the message of Christ? The message of Christ is the Word of God and as we read in John 1, the Word of God is Jesus. If you want peace to rule in your heart, then you have to let Jesus in. It’s one thing to believe in Jesus, to accept his message of forgiveness and love but it’s something else to let him into the deepest recesses of your soul. That’s hard to do because those are the places that we don’t want to share. Not with our family, not with our spouse, not with our friends and not with God. Ironically, those are the places, the deep recesses of the soul that we really need to share. Because we’re ashamed of them. Or we know they’re wrong. Maybe it’s a temptation that, though wrong, is exciting in its own way. Maybe it’s a private addiction of fantasy. Or maybe it’s something you did in the past that was hurtful to another person that caused them pain. You wish you hadn’t done it but you did and you can’t undo it but neither do you want to let anyone know about it and so it stays hidden deep within.
Do you know what those things do? They create inner conflict. And guess what inner conflict is? It’s the exact opposite of inner peace so if you want inner peace, you have to deal with the inner conflict. And the best way to deal with those inner conflicts is to let Jesus into those deep dark places that stay hidden in your life. When you do that, do you know what happens? The healing process starts and the journey to peace begins but it won’t begin unless and until you give them to Jesus.
And once you do that we are told to teach and admonish one another. That means that when it comes to inner peace, the community of faith has a role to play. To teach and admonish is to remind each other what faith is all about. It is to remind each other of what Jesus has done for each and every one of us in his life, in his death and in his resurrection.
I just want to go back to Ephesians again, this time to Ephesians 4:16 (NIV) which says, “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” To find inner peace, we are not on our own. We have Christ deep within us and we have each other to support and build one another up. That is the way of inner peace.
IN GOD’S NAME
We will close with Colossians 3:17 (NIV) which says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” What this tell us is that once you have inner peace, once the peace of Christ is ruling in your heart, that whatever you do, in word or deed will be done better because it will be done in the name of the Jesus.
That’s not to say that we can’t do great things before that inner peace takes hold in our lives. People are capable of doing lots of great stuff all by themselves because God gave all people, Christians and non-Christians alike, the desire and the ability to make a positive difference in the world. But when you have that peace of God in your heart, when you have allowed God to deal with those inner conflicts, you can do so much better because you are more in tune with the Spirit and more aware of what God actually wants you to do.
As it says in Matthew 6:33 (NIV): “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Do all you can to live your faith out in the world but seek first God’s kingdom because his kingdom is one of peace. Seek that peace and your doing will be so much more productive.
holds for you, be it a great year or a challenging year or something in
between, find that peace in your heart that only Jesus can give. When you do
that, you will weather the storm and celebrate the victories no matter what
2019 has in store for you. And in all these things, give thanks.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Holy God, your Spirit moves over the greying landscape. It hovers over the bare fields and shines through the stars of the clear winter’s night. The touch of your hand is on all things: the beauty of a snowflake, the frosted designs on the inside of a window pane, tulips bulbs sleeping the ground waiting for the first warmth of spring. We offer our thanks for your blessings and praise you for the wonders of Creation.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the most precious of all gifts that you have given to us, your Spirit who lives within those who put their faith and their trust in you. Strengthen us and enable us to live our lives in a way that brings joy and glory to you. Enable us to follow the wisdom and leadership of your Spirit in every aspect of life.
We come to the end of another year and we look forward to a new page being turned on the calendar. We give you thanks for the year which is past with all of its ups an downs. And we thank you for the year which is almost upon us and we say, “Yes,” to all that it will bring our way knowing that you are in every moment.
We pray for the refugees of this world as they continue to live with an uncertain future. May they find the forever home that you have prepared for each of them. We also pray for our military personnel far away from home striving to bring peace and justice to a troubled nation. While we know that war brings death, we also pray for the safe return of our soldiers to their homes and families.
We remember the sick or recovering at home or in hospital, especially, Lyle and Sharon. Touch them and us with your Healing Spirit that we may feel the power of your Inner Blessing.
Lord of Life, we need to be single minded and focused on what you have
called us to do. Keep us wary of distractions that would attempt to delay the
accomplishment of your great goals. As you provide us with the strength that we
need, we look straight ahead with diligence and determination to the tasks that
you have set before us. In all things, we trust in you to direct our paths,
enabling us to make the best decisions as we pray and seek you in all areas of
endeavour and praise. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
December 30, 2018 / Christmas 1
1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26; Psalm 148; Luke 2:41-52; Colossians 3:12-17
CALL TO WORSHIP
Arise and shine for our light has come.
God’s glory has risen in our midst.
The darkness which covered the earth has been driven away.
Come, let us worship the light that brings true life.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
God of Love, we come to you to acknowledge your power, grace, and glory. We come with the belief that your promises are certain and your Word is secure. May your praise be on our lips during every moment of life, at night or day, whether awake of asleep. You are in all circumstances, in the successes and the failures, the defeats and the victories. Thank you for your great faithfulness and for loving us unconditionally with a love that knows no bounds or borders. Gracious God, hear our prayers. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Merciful God, despite your faithfulness, we sometimes do not put our best foot forward. Enable us, by your grace, to better comprehend and understand the power of your words. Teach us to be more responsible for the things that come from our mouths. Help us always, through our words and actions, to bring healing out of hurt, life out of death, restoration out of destruction. Forgive our sins, O God of Creations, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
As we meditate on God’s Word, we realize that God’s love is greater than our deepest and darkness sin. Nothing in all Creation can rob us of the salvation that is ours when we place our faith and hope in Jesus Christ. God’s hears our honest confessions and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
Our greatest praise is for you, O God, for you provide for our every need in all situation. Keep us watchful that we may notice your blessings when they come our way. For all things great and small, we offer our thanks asking for your wisdom and grace so that all that we have may be used for your holy purpose. Amen.
May God’s praise be always on our lips and Spirit of God always on our hearts. As we leave, may we go with the grace of Christ to love and serve our God and Saviour.