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Edward F. Markquart

Series A
Visions for Peace: No Short Cuts

Advent 2A     Isaiah 11:1-10

Wouldn’t it be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if there wasn’t so much killing going on right now in Iraq? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if the Muslims and Christians in the Sudan would miraculously started to live together in peace? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if there were no death squads in Columbia and people weren’t shooting each other?  Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if there were peace on earth?

Or, if you can’t have peace between nations, wouldn’t it be nice to have peace within our families? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a whole week together as husband and wife and not have a fight? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if your children did not fight with each other? Wouldn’t it be nice to go on a family vacation and not have any blow-ups? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if tempers didn’t flare so quickly, like a match that suddenly ignites? If you can’t have peace in Iraq, maybe we could have peace at home and in our families. That would be nice.

Or, if that isn’t possible, wouldn’t it be nice to have peace within myself? Wouldn’t it be nice if I weren’t so harsh with myself? Wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t explode at myself in anger? Wouldn’t it be nice if my guts were calm? Wouldn’t it be nice if I could sit around all night and not have a compulsion to eat ice cream or drink wine or beer in order to calm my nervous stomach? Wouldn’t that be nice? If I can’t have peace between nations or peace within the family, maybe I could at least have some peace within me?

Or, if I couldn’t have these, wouldn’t it be nice to have peace at least a few days before or after Christmas? We all know what time of year this is, Christmas time. During Christmas, we are often short of money, short of time, and short of temper. In preparation for the Prince of Peace, wouldn’t it be nice to have a little bit of Christmas peace at your house or mine?

Down deep inside, don’t all of us long to have a greater sense of peace? Down deep inside of every human being, there is a longing, a deep God-given longing that there would be a greater sense of peace within ourselves, within our families, within our nation, and between nations.

Isaiah felt the same way. Isaiah was a prophet in the Old Testament and he felt the same way. He had the same longings. He, too, had this longing for peace like a man in the desert longs for water, like a starving man longs for bread.  That is the way that Isaiah longed for peace. 

The year was 700 B.C. The Jews had been fighting for forty years. First they fought with the Assyrians, then the Egyptians, then the Assyrians, then the Egyptians. All the kids had grown up with a weapon, with a spear in one hand and a sword in the other hand. From a time a kid was three years old, all they were doing was playing war games. … Can you imagine living in Columbia or Palestine or the Sudan today? From the time you were born until the time you were twenty, all you do is to be taught to kill or be killed.  All your life you have been taught to shoot and kill. That is all you have known. Can you imagine forty years of that kind of life? Can you imagine what it feels like to have spent your whole life being trained to kill or be killed.  … That’s the way it was for Isaiah. Isaiah was tired of it. He was tired of four decades of killing. He was tired of kids being trained to kill. He was tired of mothers and fathers and sons and daughters fighting with each other. He was just plain tired of people fighting. Isaiah longed for peace; he longed for peace as much as a parched dry thirsty man longs for water or a starving man longs for bread. Isaiah longed for peace because he had experienced so much war.

Isaiah was not only tired of war and longed for peace. He had read the book of Genesis and knew that all human beings were made for peace. He knew that God created us to be peaceful with each other. Isaiah knew that we were made in the image of God, and therefore we are made to be peaceful with each other. When God created Adam and Eve and humankind, it was not God’s intention for us to hurt each other. It was not God’s intention for human beings to fight with each other. It was not God’s intentions for mothers and fathers, and husbands and wives, and blacks and whites, and Arabs and Israelis, and Russians and Americans, Muslims and Christians, to be at war with each other. That is not the way that God made us. We are made in the image of God. We are like God. We are made for peace.  Therefore, down in your guts, every time you fight with your husband or wife or children or self, you don’t like it. You don’t like it. Why do you not like it? Why is it that you don’t like to fight? Because you have been conditioned this way? No. Why? Because you have been made in the image of God. You and I have been made by God to be peaceful people. We always feel so much better about life when we are at peace with ourselves, family, and each other.

The prophet Isaiah longed for peace. Isaiah had a dream just as Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream.  Isaiah dreamed dreams of peace, and he wrote down these beautiful, beautiful dreams, some of the most memorable words in the whole Bible. “The lamb and the leopard shall lie down together. The suckling child, one who sucks at his mother’s breast, shall play with wasps and not be stung and the weaned child, three or four years old, shall put his hand into a den of cobras and shall not be bitten by the snakes.” Isaiah was a dreamer of peace. He had dreams and visions of peace.

Why?  Why is there always those dreamers who dream of peace? Why? Why is it that in every society there are people who dream of peace, who dream of a world in which people are not shooting or hurting one another? Why is it that there are dreamers of peace so that a husband and wife can live with each other and not fight? Why is it that there are always dreamers of peace in which children actually love and like each other and not fight? Why is it that there are always dreamers of peace between the nations? … Don’t’ you get tired of fighting? The prophet Isaiah was tired of forty years of fighting, tired of four decades of fighting, and therefore he dreamed dreams of peace.

Isaiah knew how to get peace. He knew how to create it. Isaiah knew the recipe, the secret code, the hidden formula that unlocked the peace of God so that people could live at peace with each other. So Isaiah gave them the recipe, but they didn’t have eyes that could see or ears that could hear or minds that could understand, so for 700 years the people continued to fight with each other until the Prince of Peace came. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, came to earth and actually walked in the paths of peace.  Jesus was a peacemaker. So today, we can either hear the words of Isaiah or listen to the words of Jesus and learn what it means to walk in the paths of peace.

The purpose of the sermon today is state clearly the recipe for peace, the hidden formula for peace. We joke at our house; that is, my wife has a recipe for salmon sauce and she shares it with no one. If you have ever asked my wife for the recipe for her salmon sauce, you have discovered that she gives it to no one. At all the church potlucks, she wants to bring something that no other woman will bring and that is her salmon sauce. She knows the secret recipe, and the sauce is great. Everyone says so.  … I would like to share with you the secret recipe for peace.

The first part of this secret recipe is this: a person needs to be filled with the Spirit of the Prince of Peace. This means to have the very Spirit of God come into you, alive, full, and vibrant. The prophet Isaiah said that during the Messianic Age, there would be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of God would rest upon the Messiah. Isaiah says that Messiah would be given a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of insight and inner strength, a spirit of wisdom and the fear of the Lord. The very Spirit and compassion of God will live inside of us, and this is the most important ingredient in becoming a peaceful person.  The prophet Isaiah said, “They will not hurt anymore, neither will they destroy anymore, because the whole earth has become full of the knowledge of God.” You say, “Poppycock. Bullroar! Fantasies! Religious fantasies and religious rhetoric!” Not understanding that the peace of God always begins with the Spirit of the Prince of Peace living inside of you. There is no replacement for that. When the Spirit of the Prince of Peace begins to live inside of you, you start becoming a peaceful person. You can’t skip that ingredient in the not-so-secret recipe.

Second, anytime the Spirit of the Prince of Peace lives inside of you, it results in righteousness. Righteousness. Right relationships between two people or nations. Righteousness is to treat other with gentleness, kindness and forgiveness. I am going to treat you right and you are going to be right with me. Righteousness always consists of a healthy dose of forgiveness. You can’t have peace in any family without forgiveness. You just can’t. The Spirit of the Prince of Peace inevitably motivates us to work towards righteousness in all relationships. You cannot have peace without righteousness. You just can’t. In a home. In a school. In an office. In a factory. In a nation. Between the nations. It is the same: you CAN NOT have peace without righteousness, right relationships among people who live in families, schools, offices, factories, nations, and on earth.

Third, anytime the Spirit of the Prince of Peace lives inside of you, it results in justice. You cannot have peace without justice. Fairness. Equity. When the Prince of Peace is inside of you, you work for justice for the poor, the oppressed, and the millions or billions on earth who are hungry and starving and don’t have clean water or gainful employment. If there is no justice, there is no peace. Justice is always involves work; you work for justice. Justice doesn’t naturally happen on its own. Justice does not just fall in your lap, like an apple falling from a tree. You work at planting the tree, watering the tree, pruning the tree, so that apples will fall in your lap. And so it is with God’s justice.

What is the great tragedy? People want to take shortcuts. People always want to take shortcuts to peace, and there are not shortcuts to peace in our families, and not shortcuts in peace within our inner hearts and minds, and no shortcuts to peace in the world. There are no shortcuts with having the Prince of Peace live within. There are no shortcuts with righteousness nor are there shortcuts with justice.

Let me give you an example of a shortcut that does not work.  If you are going to sew a button on your coat, there are no shortcuts. I guarantee it. I challenge any of you to sew a button on a coat without a needle and thread. You have to take the thread and put it through the eye of the needle or it won’t work. I don’t care who you are; you have to do that. There are no shortcuts. I have tried other shortcuts. I have tried to use tape. I have tried wads of tap, masking tape, two sided tape, everlasting tape and none of them have worked. I have tried the glues, even superglue that holds a hundred pounds, a thousand pounds, a million pounds. I then put my button through the buttonhole and within minutes, the button fell off. We all know that there are no shortcuts when sewing on a button. I don’t have to persuade you of the truth of that. That’s the way it is.

Likewise, there are no shortcuts to God’s peace.  All three steps are needed; all three ingredients are absolutely essential:  the Prince of Peace inside, righteousness, and justice. To be honest, my wife’s recipe for salmon sauce isn’t that complicated either. In fact, her recipe for salmon sauce is rather simple, but you need all the ingredients. If you leave out just one ingredient from her simple recipe, it won’t taste like it should. It won’t be Jan’s yummy Salmon Sauce Recipe. … And so it is with God’s peace. The recipe isn’t that complicated, but we need all three ingredients or it won’t work. It won’t be God’s Recipe for Peace.

The angels in the Christmas story were singing high above the shepherds and they sang, “Peace on earth, good will towards all people, with whom God is well pleased.” The angels did not sing, “Peace on earth for all people. … Peace on earth carte blanche. Anyone with a credit card can charge it.” Rather, the song of peace adds a crucial ingredient, “with whom God is well pleased;’ that is, people who do the will of God will find peace. Many people want the shortcut and omit the phrase, “with whom God is well pleased.”

Do you long for peace? Do you long for peace in your marriage? Do you long for peace in your family? Do you long for peace in yourself? Do you long for peace among the nations? Yes, we all do.

Peace can become an actuality in our lives. Some cynics don’t believe it, but peace can actually happen.  The years have passed, and miraculously, there is more peace between certain nations.  From centuries ago, the Germans and the French and the English were ferocious enemies and now they are using a common currency and are most important trading partners and military partners through NATO.  Yet in the history of things, it wasn’t that many years ago that they were ferocious enemies. The Americans and the Japanese are now crucial trading partners, but it wasn’t that many years ago our nations were dropping bombs and locked in hand to hand combat on islands in the Pacific.  And, yes, there are no more death squads in El Salvador.

You see, given time, and these other factors that I mentioned, peace can and does happen, even to all of you cynics here that don’t believe in God’s peace. Peace can happen in your stomach and inner feelings. Peace can happen in your marriage. Peace can happen in your children.  Peace can happen all over the place because we are made in the image of God.  We are made for peace and we long for peace and we then work for peace. We know that there are no shortcuts to peace, although some people foolishly try them. There is a recipe for peace: The Prince of Peace inside our hearts and motivations who then works for righteousness and justice. When it is all done, many individuals, families and nations find peace and live in peace.

Isaiah was our dreamer of peace. How we love his visions. How we love his divine possibilities for our lives. Isaiah’s chapter eleven may be the most beautiful dream of peace in the whole Bible. Amen.

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