Remembrance Sunday (1994) Peace.

All over this land, there are memorials which say: 'They died in war, that we might live in peace'.
 
In biblical teaching, peace is not merely the negative absence of hostility, aggression and war. Instead, it is a positive thing; a gift of God; strong, active and purposeful, when and where it is allowed to be.
 
To the people of Israel, in the Old Testament, God said: ‘I will give peace to this land, and this people’. (Lev.26:6).
 
To his followers, Jesus said, and still says: ‘My peace I give to you’.
 
Peace - positive ... strong ... active ... purposeful. Did we receive it?
 
Peace - a gift from God, for us to enjoy, and to share. Are we helping to create the context within which God’s gift may flourish?
 
Peace - that great quality, which, along with love and joy, gives sense, purpose and richness to life. Are we always peaceful?
 
In the Old Testament, through the prophet Zechariah, God spoke of the one-day coming into the world of the Christ, and said of him: 'He shall speak peace to the nations’.
 
The strong inference is, that Christ speaks peace, both as example and guide, but that his words cannot be effective, until his followers live out that peace, and fulfil his purpose. Does Christ 'speak peace' through us? Do we proclaim it with our lips, and give witness to it in our lives?
 
When I did my 'National Service' in the army; the first few months were spent in a very old-fashioned barracks. Thirty of us, all new to the army, lived together in one, long barrack-room; where we tried to adapt ourselves to our changed situations; and began to learn to live with one another, whether we wanted to do so, or not.
 
On most evenings, there was a considerable amount of noise in the barrack- room, until ‘lights-out'. There were men playing cards, and arguing about their gambling losses.  Others practised on the mouth organ, or played their portable radios, or simply sat and talked - a whole lot of noise.
 
One recruit soon made it very clear that he was a Christian; that he liked to go to bed early; and that he wanted quiet, while he knelt by his bed and prayed. Some men teased him. Others asked why they should be quiet, while he said his sissy prayers.
It happened that the good, Christian in question was by far the biggest and strongest man in the platoon. He got his own way; and obtained the quiet that he insisted upon. It took him a week or so to achieve it; during which time he fought many of the other men, and cracked a few heads together.
 
A self-professed Christian; a man dedicated to Christ, the 'Prince of Peace'; got his own way, through acts of violence; and he appeared not to see any inconsistency in the matter.
 
The words and actions of Christians are not always consistent. Where they are not, critics are only too ready to seize upon the inconsistency, and say: ‘Look at this! They say one thing, and do another’.
 
For years, I worked in Fleet Street, in the days when newspapers were printed and published there. A woman who worked for one publisher, professed herself to be a Christian, and a woman of peace. But there was another side to her; a flaming temper that was aroused quite quickly, and which sometimes got a bit out of control.
 
There was a particular sub-editor, who couldn't stand that woman. He suspected that she was not all that she said she was; and his hope was that, one day, he would catch her out - and one day, he did!
 
Yet another printing-strike was proposed. Something had to be done to prevent the strike from taking place. The woman in question decided to visit the printers in the huge, machine-room, and 'say her piece'.
 
At first, she was quite reasonable in her approach to the men, but something triggered her temper, and she ended up by shrieking:
 
‘You are pigs, the whole lot of you. You're not fit to live! If I had my way, I’d shoot the whole lot of you: except that shooting is too quick. I'd have you all hanged, instead, and slowly at that’.
 
She had made so much noise that she had not realized that the sub-editor had entered the print-room, and heard every word. He said: ‘Ah! Christianity! A many-sided thing! Now I know exactly what is meant, when people speak of: ‘The Church militant’
 
It is easy to point the finger elsewhere, and say: ‘What a bad witness to the faith’; but what of us? Are we both persistent and consistent in our desire for peace, and in our expression of it?
 
In the needy world within which we live: peace will not be received, and maintained, in any widespread manner, until the people, as a whole, truly want it.
 
Perhaps the Church could do more in helping, and encouraging people, to seek, and find, ways of peace that remove hurt, and establish blessing.
 
Jesus taught that one of the Church's chief functions was to be a channel of God's peace. Christ, established his 'Gospel of Peace' at the Cross - and it was very costly.
 
The Early Church preached the 'Gospel of Peace', and also found it costly. Throughout the ages, and still, today, wherever the cause of true peace has been pursued, there has always been a cost of some sort. But, it is all eminently worthwhile!
 
One of the Church's older hymns says: 'God is working his purposes out, as year succeeds to year', and we believe that this is so.
 
Some people may think that the process is too slow for their liking, but ours is not to question the ways of God, but to believe that good will prevail; to obey his commands; and to play our part in the cause of peace.
 
Christians are a people of great hope, and of enormous potential for good! Realizing that potential, and helping to bring good into being, in the many and various situations of life, is part of our calling.
 
Peace! Positive...strong ... active ... purposeful! When we receive it, and share it, we exercise a powerful witness to God's love.
 
The famous American preacher, Dwight L. Moody, once said. ‘A great many people are trying to make peace, but that has already been done. God has not left it for us to do ...
 
... All that we have to do, is to enter into the peace that is already made, and given by God, in Jesus Christ’.
 
There are some particularly beautiful words in the Old Testament, which say: 'The Lord bless you, and keep you. the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you ...
 
... the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
 
May the Lord bless us in this manner, so that we, being blessed, may be a blessing to others'.      Amen.