Sunday, October 19, 2008

Therefore, in View of God's Mercy

Text: Romans 11:33 - 12:8

A FEW YEARS AGO SHORTLY before Thanksgiving I received a donation request from a famous secular charity. Over and over it said that November was the time of year to "give thanks"-- or maybe it was, "be thankful"; I don’t precisely remember which--and therefore I should "give thanks" by giving a healthy amount to their cause.

It was and is a worthy cause, I’m not disputing that. But it struck me how the writer kept talking about us "giving thanks," but seemed to turn himself inside so as not to imply there was anyone or any Being we should give thanks to. It didn’t even seem important that the potential giver should be able to think of anything specific that he or she was thankful for. Thankfulness seemed to be an emotion or a state of mind unconnected with anything or anybody in particular, but seeing as how everyone was in America was supposed to feel that way in November, it would be really, really nice if we’d "give thanks" by being thankful with our money and write a check to this charity.

That may be enough for the worthy causes of this world, tapping into an emotion of thankfulness so we’re thankful with our cash or our volunteer service or whatever. But when it comes to the One who alone is worthy of honor, glory, worship, thanks, and praise, when it comes to Almighty God, it’s not enough simply to be thankful with, we have to be thankful for, and thankful to.

In other words, the Thank Offering we receive today is not something that stands by itself, a project that the women of the church do because it’s a good idea and a helpful thing to do. No, it is a joyful response to our Lord and God, for who He is and what He has done for us. It should be offered in view of His mercy.

St. Paul leads us in praise starting in verse 33 of the eleventh chapter of his letter to the Romans. He says, "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" We can never reach the bottom of what God has to give and what He knows and what He does with His knowledge. There is no way we can figure out what God does and why He does it. We cannot poke, prod, weigh, measure, analyze or comprehend the Triune God and His ways. We can only fall at His feet and give Him the thanks and praise He deserves.

This is true of everything God is and everything He does. But it’s especially true of the amazing salvation He accomplished for us in Jesus Christ. This doxology is the thanks and praise called for by the vision of God’s grace that Paul lays out for us in the first eleven chapters of his letter.

In the first three chapters of Romans the Apostle, writing in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, shows us just how sinful we all are. We are all guilty before God. We’re all lawbreakers, we all deserve the sentence of everlasting death for offending against His holiness.

Wait a minute! Aren’t we pretty nice people? But pretty nice people think and do very wicked things every day of our lives. If we believe God should overlook our sin and not pass judgement upon us, it’s because our sin has blinded us to God’s overwhelming holiness. God could’ve decided to finish the job He started in the days of Noah and wipe humanity from the face of the earth and He’d have every right to.

But the thing is, He didn’t. From the middle of chapter 3 on through chapter 8, the Holy Spirit reveals how the one true and righteous God not only let us, the guilty, live, He also made it possible for us to live forever in blessedness with Him-- by sacrificing His beloved only-begotten Son Jesus Christ in our place. And all we have to do is accept that free gift by faith. And that isn’t a work of our own, for even the faith to accept His grace is another free gift from Almighty God.

Chapter 9 up to verse 33 in chapter 11 is all about God’s mercy in opening up this wonderful salvation to us Gentiles. He didn’t have to. He could’ve restricted it to His chosen people, the Jews. Instead, He has grafted us together with faithful Israel in one living tree, rooted in Christ and bearing fruit for the glory of God!

This mercy deserves endless thanks and praise! Jesus Christ our Savior and God made all this possible by the propitiation He won for us in His blood. He voluntarily took the punishment we deserved, He makes us adopted daughters and sons of God, and now shares with us the inheritance that by all rights belonged to Him alone. As Charles Wesley wrote in his hymn "And Can It Be?":

He left his Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace.
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race.
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For, O my God, it found out me!

How unsearchable are the judgements of God! How impossible it is for us mere humans to trace out His paths! It doesn’t make a bit of logical sense that our God would do what He did for us, but He did it.

And He did it without consulting you or me and it’s a good thing for us He did not. As Paul says, "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?" Some people think they could’ve given God better advice about how to be reconciled with humanity. They say they can do without Christ on the bloody cross. They try a hundred other ways to get into God’s favor; they say No Thanks to the free gift God gave humankind on Calvary and they try to earn their way to God on their own. But we who have been saved by the blood of that cross, we don’t understand it, either, but that only fills us with more admiration, thankfulness, and praise.

But is our thanksgiving designed to try to pay God back? Is that our obligation, to try to reciprocate His great and immeasurable gift to us? No, God is so great and glorious and mighty; what Jesus did for us is so rich and powerful, trying to even things up with God with our thanks would be incredibly foolish and futile and even insulting. We know that. For as Paul says in verse 35, "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?"

No one has ever given anything to God, to put the almighty Lord of the universe in his or her debt. No one could ever counsel God on how and where and when and how He should do things.

How could we? For everything comes from Him, including us, everything comes through Him, and everything goes to praise Him. That is the where and how and why of everything that is made. All glory belongs to God forever. God is the reason we have everything to be thankful for, and He is the One we are thankful to. And so, He gives us the privilege and opportunity to be thankful with.

So we come to verse 1 of chapter 12: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers [and sisters] in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-- this is your spiritual [or reasonable] act of worship." And in verse 2, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." With our bodies and minds God enables us to give thanks to Him for His awe-inspiring mercy, wherein the eternal and innocent Son of God died to make us who were God’s enemies into His friends and children.

This phrase, "in view of God’s mercy, . . . offer" is so important! A lot of people say they don’t need to bother with theology and doctrine, they’re too busy loving Christ and serving Him. But friends, we can’t love and serve Christ if we don’t know Who He is and what He’s done for us! When we understand the teaching about how Jesus Christ died on a cross for our sins and rose again for our life, that’s what fills us with the gratitude and love that drives us to give and to serve! Otherwise, we’re loving and serving a Christ we’ve made up in our own heads! It is in view of the mercy of God in sending His Son into this world to die in our place, that we offer our bodies and minds in thankfulness to Him! God in His mercy has incorporated us into the body of His Son, in His mercy He by His Holy Spirit is renewing our minds more and more to be like the mind of Christ, and equally due to His mercy we can show our thanks with all He has given us.

A minute ago I said something about serving Christ. Strictly speaking, that is just a figure of speech. Do you realize that neither you nor I or any human being can directly serve God? Again as Paul says, "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay Him?" Rather, we serve God by serving our neighbor, particularly our brothers and sisters in the Church. And so we take up offerings like today’s, to serve our neighbor through ministries of education, health, nutrition, job-training, evangelism, and more. We are thankful with our money for the sake of others, because God in His riches and wisdom and knowledge has been so overwhelmingly generous to us.

But we see here in our verses from Romans 12 how our thankful response transcends mere money. A check or a few volunteer hours may be enough for a secular charity; our God expects us to show our gratitude with our very lives. God has given everyone of us gifts to be thankful with for the good of the Church and the world. God’s spiritual gifts are given not to bring glory to us who have them, but to be a means for us to show our gratitude for God’s mercy in Christ towards us.

It’s striking how Paul prefaces his exhortation about the gifts; he says: "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." This phrase, "measure of faith" . . . since the passage concerns the distribution of gifts for service, could this imply that God gives different amounts of trust in Him to different people, such that if, say, you find that your faith is small, your thankfulness through service can be small, too? No, God does not leave us that excuse for practical ingratitude. Rather, "the measure of faith" God gives us is the yardstick of the one faith of the Church, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was raised on the third day and appeared to many faithful witness, and that He will return on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead. Seeing the mercy of God displayed in the humility and victory of Christ, how can we think of boasting in our spiritual gifts, as if we had made them or earned them or as if we had them for our benefit and not for the sake of others? When we show our thankfulness through word or act or material possessions, we’re using only what God has given us to be thankful with.

But He has given us wonderful gifts of grace to be thankful with, and He has given us His marvellous mercy in Christ Jesus to be thankful for and Himself to be thankful to. It doesn’t really take a spiritual gifts survey to find out what your gift is: If there is something that gives you joy in the Lord as you do it, if it builds up the church and you simply must do or burst, where you sense the presence of the Holy Spirit guiding and aiding you as you serve, where you see others as well as yourself overflowing with thanksgiving to God as you engage in that activity or skill, that is a gift of grace you have been given for the sake of Christ’s one body, the Church.

It is good for us to be thankful with our money, as with the offering today. It is better still to be thankful with our lives, our bodies offered as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, and our minds transformed and renewed to agree more and more with the mind of Jesus Christ. In this way God gives us more and more to be thankful to Him for, as we test and approve His good, pleasing, and perfect will, and so He gives us more and more to be thankful with. For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things: To the one Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to Him be the glory forever! Amen.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Battle Is the Lord's*

Texts: 1 Samuel 14:47; 1 Timothy 6:12a; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:12; Hebrews 3:12, 12:1a & 2; 1 John 2:14b; 2 Timothy 2:22

TOBY, I WANT TO READ YOU something from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. It’s from Part Two, the place where Faramir, Captain of Gondor, takes Frodo and Sam into protective custody in the Forest of Ithilien. Faramir is expressing his hopes for future of Gondor and its capital city, Minas Tirith, even as the Dark Lord Sauron prepares to make total war against the Free Peoples of Middle Earth. He says:

For myself, I would see the White Tree in flower again in the courts of the kings, and the Silver Crown return, and Minas Tirith in peace: Minas Anor again as of old, full of light, high and fair, beautiful as a queen among other queens . . . War must be, while we defend ourselves against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Numenor; and I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom. Not feared, save as men may fear the dignity of a man, old and wise.**

Toby, these past few months, I’ve come to know you as a warrior for the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ and His holy Church. So I charge you, as St. Paul charged Timothy, "Fight the good fight of the faith." Defend your flock against the destroyer who would devour all. Make war against the world, the flesh, and the devil. And as you do, fight not for the excitement of battle, struggle not for your own glory and honor, but for the glory and praise of Jesus Christ and the building up of His City on earth.

Toby, I charge you to fight the good fight against the world and everything in our culture that stands opposed to Jesus Christ and His Church. Bind to your heart as a breastplate the words of 2 Corinthians 10, where St. Paul says, "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." Fearlessly, constantly preach Christ and Him crucified. With all your skill, wield the double-edged sword of the word of God, so your people and your peers may see how it judges and reveals the thoughts and attitudes of man. And remember, you are in the world but not of it. Exercise godly discernment. Fight against the temptation to take sides for or against an issue according to human factions and understandings. Make war on our culture’s sinful tendency to identify Jesus Christ with any human cause or commonwealth, however noble or great. Struggle against the world for the world’s own sake, boldly proclaiming the Gospel of peace through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I charge you to strengthen your congregation to fight with you. Arm them with wisdom and grace in the Holy Spirit, that they may prevail against the destroyer who would devour all. Especially in the present economic distress, train them to base their confidence not in material things, but on the Rock of Refuge that is Christ alone. In your war together against the world, I charge you to guard them and yourself against earthly pride. There must be no lording it over other sinners in need of God’s grace, and no thought that the victory is up to you. Remember always: He is the Lamb victorious, Christ the Son of God. In this faith, I charge you to fight, for the battle is the Lord’s.

Toby, I charge you to make war on those attitudes and proclivities that would undermine the Church and her calling to exalt Jesus Christ, especially here at Jefferson Center, in Beaver-Butler Presbytery, and in the Presbyterian Church (USA). When you engage in conflicts with those who live as enemies of the Gospel, do not let it become personal. For as Paul says in Ephesians 6:12, "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Make war against legalism, libertinism, and laziness in doctrine and practice. Take your stand against cowardice and covetousness in pulpit and pew. Defend the weak, rescue the perishing, build up the saints in the virtues of our Lord Jesus Christ, love both the loveable and the unlovely as Christ has loved you. Lift high the Cross, bow low at the feet of Him who hung on it, and live in hope of the resurrection He has promised all His saints. For, for the joy set before Him our Lord endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Fight in hope for His Church, for the battle is the Lord’s.

And Toby, I charge you to fight against yourself, against your own sin of mind, flesh, and will that so easily entangles. In your personal life, be strong and overcome the evil one by the word of God that lives in you. Flee to it, cling to it, make the word of God your stronghold and high tower, for by it you will find sure refuge in Jesus Christ, the living Word. Be a loving and faithful husband to your wife, and a gentle, just, and strong father to your children. Make war on the temptation to put them second, third, last after your duties and obligations to the church. Be a loyal friend to your colleagues in ministry, as we build one another up in our common faith. Be accountable to others, for without companionship in the Lord, you will surely fall. Again as St. Paul advises Timothy, "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." In all you do, lift up the love of Christ as your banner. Before that blood-marked standard the forces of the devil flee, for the battle is the Lord’s.

Toby, I charge you to make of yourself a sharp and shining sword in the hand of the Lord, reforged from brokenness in the fires of the Holy Spirit, ready to be unsheathed by your King. And remember, it is not you who wield Jesus Christ; no, your Captain the Son of God wields you.

Toby, I return you to the passage from Tolkien I opened with. I charge you to look beyond this noble fiction to the marvellous reality we are promised in Jesus Christ. As you fight the good fight, may your every desire be for the day when the white-clad company of the saints will stand like trees blossoming in the court of the King of kings, and the Lamb of God be crowned with many crowns, and the New Jerusalem descend in peace from heaven. Fight such that the Church may be full of light, high and fair, the beautiful and queenly bride of Christ her Savior. As you defend her against the destroyer who would devour all things, love not the battle for its own sake, or your skill in spiritual combat for your own glory. Before God and this company I charge you: Love earnestly the City of the children of God, the Church of Jesus Christ; and above all, love the Lord who rules in her. Love Him for the living memory of what He has done, for His eternal Sonship with the Father, and for His wisdom, light, and love as He justifies us, sanctifies us, and glorifies us by His grace. Fear Him, pledge your best allegiance to Him; in all your warfare, trust utterly in Him. And in Him, with Him, and through Him, this same Jesus Christ will give you the victory, for the battle is the Lord’s.

*Charge to the Pastor, preached at the installation of the Rev. Toby Brown, Jefferson Center Presbyterian Church, Saxonburg, Pennsylvania

**J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Part Two: The Two Towers, Ballantine Books, New York, 1965, p. 355

Sunday, October 5, 2008

God's Unworldly Peace

Texts: Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46

TODAY IS WORLD COMMUNION SUNDAY. On this day it’s nice to think of people all over the world, sitting down together in peace and justice at the Lord’s Table, sharing in the communion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

At the same time, we know that peace and justice are in short supply in this world. We’d better get busy and make them happen, right? After all, isn’t is all up to us? God is sitting back on His throne waiting and watching for us to get it right. And we will get it right, won’t we? We just have to lobby and legislate and conference and connect and do all those earthly things sincerely enough. If we can just come up with the right program, peace will come, justice will reign, and like the old song says, we’ll "teach the world to sing in perfect harmony." And God the Father will pat us on the back and tell us how wonderful we are to have accomplished all this; in fact, He’ll tell us He couldn’t have done it half so well Himself.

Time out! Did you believe one word of that? I hope not! I hope you were saying to yourself, "She’s got to be putting us on. Anybody who’s got any sense at all knows you can’t bring in universal harmony and justice and world peace by legislation and policies and thinking happy thoughts! Things are too complicated for that!"

If that’s what you were thinking, you were absolutely right. Things in this world are too complicated for that. We can’t usher in universal peace by imposing it from the outside by our human efforts. And we certainly can’t get everyone in the world to sit down in fellowship together by pretending our differences don’t matter, by overlooking all the very real disagreements and differences human beings have between each other. The peace of God does not come to the world by way of human effort, not even by the human effort of loving Christians like you and me. We do not have everything under control here. If there is going to be universal peace when some wonderful day all people will enjoy sweet communion with one another, it’s going to have to come from Someone else.

True peace does come from Someone else, and it comes in a way this world would never suspect, through a cross and a grave that was filled for three days and has been empty ever since.

It’s ironic that one of the lectionary readings today should be this one from 21st chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. Our denomination is urging us to take today to think about peacemaking, and the Gospel lesson is all about violence and conflict! It’s full of thefts, beatings, murder, and retribution, all over fruit from a vineyard. But through--not in spite of-- all this, this parable of our Lord gives us the key to the peace, justice, and prosperity that will one day bring all the world to fellowship at one table.

Jesus begins, "Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard." All His listeners would know that the vineyard stood for the nation of Israel. You can read in Isaiah especially how God’s chosen people were the vineyard He had planted, and how He expected the fruit of righteousness and obedience from them.

Jesus continues, "Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey." Just like the landowner in Jesus’ parable, God delegated responsibility and authority over His people to their judges and kings, their prophets and priests. It was up to these civil and religious leaders to set a good example of righteousness and make sure that the people did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. They were accountable to God to teach and lead Israel so that the nation would reflect the glory of God and cause His name to be exalted among the Gentiles. Jesus’ hearers knew that, too.

But did they? No, you read the Old Testament from Judges to Malachi and it’s one continuous history of conniving kings and pandering priests. Even the prophets, the men and women the Lord sent to call Israel back to His law, more often then not prophesied for money and standing, and perverted the Word of the Lord. And when, as Jesus says in His parable, God the vineyard owner sent His true servants the godly prophets to call for the fruit of righteousness, the tenants, that is, the religious and civil leaders, had them beaten, stoned, and killed.

What if Jesus had wound up His parable by saying, "But things are better now. The chief priests and Pharisees are zealous for the Law. They’re leading the people well, they’re perfect examples of peace and justice, and they’re giving God all the honor and glory He’s due"? No one would have complained about that, the chief priests and Pharisees least of all.

But that’s not what Jesus said. He goes on with His parable like this: "Last of all, he [that is, the vineyard owner] sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said." He describes how those tenants, who everyone knows are the religious and civil leaders of Israel, determine to kill the Owner’s son, how they think that if they do that, they won’t even have to answer to the Owner any more, that the vineyard somehow will become theirs. Maybe they’re thinking the rule of adverse possession will kick in, maybe they think they’re so powerful nobody could come and arrest them for this crime, maybe they’re just deluding themselves. However it was, Jesus depicts these tenants, these leaders as trying to make the vineyard totally theirs.

And that’s ironic, too. Because when the Pharisees first got started as a movement, they did a pretty good job of looking after God’s vineyard. After the Jews returned from exile in Babylon, they led the charge to keep the Jewish nation free from the idol worship and scriptural ignorance that got the people removed from their land in the first place. Eventually, though, they stopped being concerned for God and what He said was due to Him, and focussed more on how they thought things should be. Oh, yes, they’d still tell you they wanted to bring in the kingdom of God, but it was by their methods, their techniques, their rules. And ultimately, it was for their glory, not for the glory of God.

But, Jesus says, the Owner isn’t finished. He doesn’t stay away and let the wicked tenants have the vineyard now that his son was dead. "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those wretches?"

His hearers said, "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time."

Exactly. That’s the way things would work in their earthly economy, and even more, that’s how it would work in the judgement of God. Jesus caps His story by quoting a couple verses from Psalm 118. He says, "Have you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?" Of course they’d all read that. They’d known that since synagogue school when they were little kids. These verses just rub in the point about something valuable that’s rejected by those who are supposed to be responsible for putting things together. The builders look like fools, but the Lord takes this rejected stone, and makes it the chief element in the whole building and makes everyone marvel at what He alone has done. The rejected son may have been thrown out and killed in the vineyard parable, but the rejected stone does not stay rejected: it brings shame to the builders and glory to God.

And here is our Lord’s conclusion to the matter: The kingdom of God will be taken away from the irresponsible, ungodly leaders and from the faithless people. It will be given, He says, to a people who will produce its fruit. And the rejected stone will bring judgement and destruction upon those who run afoul of it.

But that was hitting way too close to home for the chief priests and Pharisees in the crowd. Verse 45 tells us they knew good and well Jesus was talking about them and their misconduct when He told this parable. And they didn’t like it one bit. They didn’t like the way Jesus was obviously making Himself out to be the son of the vineyard owner, the Son of God. They didn’t like how He was claiming to be the capstone of the nation. Matthew tells us, "They looked for a way to arrest him."

Ironic, right? It’s like they were determined to make the parable come true, by putting the One who claimed to be the Son of God to death. They refused to take warning and change their attitudes and their ways, and so they fell on the Stone which is Christ, to be broken to pieces.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day did not profit from Jesus’ teaching. But we don’t have to be like that. We can hear, and heed, and become part of the people who will produce fruit for God in His kingdom. We can be the nation that can offer the world true peace in Jesus Christ and invite men and women everywhere to sit down in holy communion at His Table.

Do you want that to be true about you? Then hear what our Lord Jesus says. He says that God is the landowner, not us. His is the kingdom, and power, and the glory, not ours. We hear about the kingdom of God, but if we think that’s something we can bring in by our own efforts, we make the same mistake the chief priests and Pharisees did. For what is the kingdom of God? It is that state of affairs where God is totally in charge, beginning with your heart and mine. It’s a state of peace, justice, and righteousness that only God can give. On this earth it hasn’t come completely or fully yet, and Jesus says that God gives the kingdom of God on this earth to those who humbly acknowledge that it is a gift, and not something they earn or own by right or title. It’s lent as a trust to those who will produce its fruit, the kind of fruit we read about in Galatians chapter 5:22-23. And the greatest of these fruits is total dependence upon God and His ways.

We do not bring forth the fruit of God by using the methods of the world. We give God His due by giving up our human control and abandoning own human schemes--however religious or spiritual they might be-- and turning the ownership of our lives and efforts over to Him.

And isn’t that what St. Paul is saying in our Philippians passage? If any man could claim to be the perfect tenant of God’s vineyard strictly going on his religious pedigree and accomplishments, Saul of Tarsus was that man. But he used his religious power to persecute the church! And let his knowledge of the law convince him He knew better than God.

But our Lord Jesus Christ in His mercy put to death the wretch that was Saul of Tarsus and caused him to be born again by the power of the Holy Spirit as Paul the Apostle. It became Paul’s only goal to produce the fruit of the kingdom in himself and in others, not in his own strength, not through his own righteousness, but through Jesus Christ who had taken hold of him and claimed Paul for His own.

What is true peace, in this world and the world to come? As it says in verses 10 and 11 of Philippians 3, it is to "know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection of the dead."

That’s not the kind of peace this fallen world wants or desires. But it’s the only lasting peace God our Father has to give. In Christ’s sufferings we find comfort, in His death we find justice, and in His resurrection we find peace forever more.

On this World Communion Sunday, we can have a foretaste of the first fruits of that great banquet, when people will come from east and west and north and south and sit down at table in the kingdom of God. Each and every time we meet as a church anywhere in the world and set aside bread and wine from a common use to a holy use and mystery in Christ’s name, we join in God’s peace with our brothers and sisters of all times and all places, the peace won for us through Jesus’ violent death and earth-shattering resurrection.

To know Jesus Christ is to know peace, for He is the Prince of Peace. As good tenants of His vineyard and joyful citizens of His kingdom, let us come to His table and share in Him, the Son of God, the Living Stone, and our only spiritual bread.