Blessed are the peacemakers
Part seven of the series on the beatitudes.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will called children of God.
Matthew 5 verse 9 (NRSV).
This talk was given by Paul Wintle on .
The total length of the recording is .
The talk was in two parts, either side of a communion service. In the audio the communion service is replaced by ten seconds of silence at about 15 minutes 55 seconds.
Play in browser
MP3 (17.0MB) (96kb/s constant rate)
We are in the penultimate, the last but one, beatitude, which is Matthew 5:9. Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Blessed are the peacemakers. I don’t want to be political but I’m going to be just for one minute. I never want to use my preaches to suggest that as Christians we should support one political party or another. That said, I don’t know how many read this week that President Donald Trump has been officially nominated for next year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
I know. I checked it wasn’t April the 1st either. Many of us are thinking, “Where did that come from? Where did that come from?” Can the man who calls the president of North Korea a Rocket Man or the man who continually writes potentially divisive things on Twitter be put forward for a peace prize? How can it be that the administration of a country that wants to make itself great again by drawing up its drawbridges and closing itself off from the rest of the world, be making peace with its neighbours?
It just confuses me. An American commentator, when she heard this, decided to write a fake acceptance speech. “I was like really smart when I made peace with Rocket Man.” said Donald Trump. “By calling him short and fat and saying I would totally destroy him with fire and fury from my big and powerful nuclear button, I got him to negotiate.” I hope you’ll forgive that little outburst.
Perhaps I’m being too judgemental. Perhaps I’m listening too much to our media. Perhaps I’m listening to what they want me to hear about politics or to think about politics in this world. Yet this example serves well for me to introduce the seventh of the eight Beatitudes of Jesus. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Today, we need to know what it is to be peacemakers. Today, each one of us is invited and called to this noble and difficult task. Today, we will be looking at what Jesus means when he says that peacemakers are blessed and what it means for them to be called children of God.
Jean, please come forward and tell us about your husband John, who was known as the peacemaker.
[Jean:] Hello. In our little church in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, John was its parish warden. On one occasion he was called to help the vicar, Colin, as there was friction between two families. It was soon resolved. When the bishop came and John was introduced, he said, “John, you’re the peacemaker.” He was known as the peacemaker thereafter. Not a bad epitaph, so w e had it inscribed on his headstone with our sadness, but with our love.
[Paul:] Bless you, Jean. Thank you. Thank you. How lovely to be known as the peacemaker. What a wonderful thing to be remembered for. Because the world needs peacemakers more than anything else. More than peacekeepers, the world needs peacemakers. It’s been estimated that in the past 4,000 years, there have been less than 300 years without a major war. As we remember this year in 2018, the 100 years that have passed since the war to end all wars, World War One, we continue to pay our respects to the 30 million people who lost their lives. Yet just 21 years later, after the League of Nations, now what is the United Nations, had been set up, 90 million people were killed in six years of war during World War Two.
What is our problem with peace? What is it that makes people want to shed blood, to make conflict, to make strife and tension amongst their fellow human being? The late great Billy Graham was once quoted as saying that, “If someone was sent from the planet Mars to report on the planet Earth’s business, he would in all fairness, have to say that its chief industry is war.”
Last Friday, I looked at the global conflict tracker on the internet, because there is such a thing, and it showed that there are presently 26 major conflicts taking place around our world. Syria, North Korea, the South China Sea, escalating violence in Mexico, problems in Mali, Boko Haram in Nigeria, issues in Ukraine, ongoing violence in a number of African nations, not to mention the ongoing humanitarian issues going on in Myanmar with the Rohingya people, so many of them being displaced, and so many more.
As I was listening to the headlines on Radio 4 just driving in this morning, I heard that somebody had been stabbed and killed in Liverpool last night, and a young man had been killed, had been shot in London yesterday. Can you imagine the UK ambassador to the United Nations Karen Pierce, addressing the UN Security Council with these words, “Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours. You will risk violence to get your hands on it.” I wonder if Karen Pierce would say those words.
Warmongers, by definition, cannot be peacemakers. The words I just put into Karen Pierce’s mouth are in fact The Message translation from James 4:1-2. James is writing as a pastor confronting, diagnosing and dealing with the church which has many deep wounds. Misbehavior, misbelief and human arguments are hurting that church. He writes with some helpful advice and brave words to hopefully ensure the followers of Jesus are doing just that, following Jesus.
Can you imagine a group of Christians who want to fight to get their own way? Can you imagine brothers and sisters in Christ who don’t want to put others before themselves? Can you imagine a place where hate and not love wins? Church, in any situation where there is discord, where, whether it’s at home, in church, with friends at the pub, people at the bridge club or down the golf course or at the supermarket, wherever, we rub shoulders with anybody else. Whether we rub them up the wrong way and there’s a hint of tattle-tale-ing, snide remarks, blame or anger, it’s our duty and responsibility to make peace as soon as possible.
The writer to the letter of the Ephesians puts it this way, “In your anger, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”[Ephesians 4:26 NIVUK] Paul is calling for peace. We all know that anger, when tied up inside us, when it churns us up, makes us bitter and can end up hating the person who caused that hurt to us. Paul’s words are for us all. Not just to married couples, it’s not just to our children or grandchildren when we want them to make up and be friends with somebody that they’ve fallen out with, but to me and to you.
Because the start of peacemaking is knowing that we are built for wholeness. There’s something deeper going on here with this word ’peace’ than perhaps we first imagined. It’s not just about feeling peaceful, about and inside ourselves. It’s not only about not being angry or not being at war. The word shalom is a Hebrew word, which in church, we often translate as peace but it’s more than just being peaceful. Shalom covers well-being in its widest sense, incorporating notions of contentment and health and prosperity and justice, unity, redemption at individual, communal, national, international and creational levels; physically, socially, spiritually, educationally, emotionally, economically and environmentally.
Our thoughts, our feelings, our friendships, our skills, our learning styles, our creativity, our imagination, our work, our family, all these things are very human and, at one in the same time, spiritual. In Hebrew thought, these elements of life are no less spiritual than the prayer or the liturgy that a religious leader might offer. Shalom wholeness knows no distinction between the physical, material world and a wholly separate spiritual world, they are inextricably linked.
The Bible, the biblical version of Shalom also presumes justice and how we may notice as James Howell, a commentator, how he notices with some curiosity about how the Old Testament defines justice. He says, “The Hebrew Mishpat, justice, is not about the good being rewarded and the bad being punished, it’s not about the fairness to the individual but rather the health of the community.” He goes on to say, “Justice, Mishpat, dawns when the poorest in the community are cared for.” Then, he asks a question. Do you want to know if a community or a nation is just? Just ask if the neediest are cared for because all of us are needy in one way or another.
All of us need to be cared for. We need to be at Shalom with ourselves and with one another. This includes forgiveness and being forgiven. What better place do we receive care and wholeness and forgiveness than around the communion table? What better place or better time do we have than this moment to come to our God and ask for his mercy, his forgiveness, and his Shalom? Not because we’re sinners, although we are, but because we need his care. Yes, this may involve seeking repentance, it may involve coming with our stresses and our tensions and our doubts and our worries and our fears. It may involve coming with our joys and thanksgivings and praises, wherever we are at with God, he invites us to come, to be restored and to be whole, as whole as we possibly can be in this moment.
You know, he invites us because we’re children of God. He invites us because of the work that he has been doing. 2 Corinthians, chapter 5 and verse 19 reminds us “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.”[NIVUK] Sins for the children of God are or should be a thing of the past, not that we don’t sin any more but that God was busy putting the world back together again, just as it should be, by the resurrection power of Christ.
Even more than just that, the NRSV puts it that because God is busy putting the world back together and because he no longer counts our trespasses against us, he entrusts the message of reconciliation to us.[see 2 Corinthians 5:19 NRSV] So come, come to this table, not because you must but because you may, not because you’re strong but because you’re weak. Come not because of any goodness of our own gives us a right to come but because we need mercy and help. Come because you love the Lord a little and you’d love to know him more. Come because he loved you and gave himself for you. Come and meet the risen Christ, for we are his body.
As we receive the elements, we’ll stay where we are this week. As we receive the elements, we will sing number, I think it’s number 750, How Deep The Father’s Love For Us. 780, sorry. How Deep The Father’s Love For Us.
[Communion was shared.]
Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are those who make the world a more wholesome place. Blessed are those who live in Shalom and strive to bring Shalom into every bit of the life in the world that they inhabit. Blessed are those peacemakers because they see people through God’s eyes. We know that there will never be total peace, total Shalom unless there is forgiveness, something which we have, in this sacrament, received. It’s something that we still seek and perhaps want to continue to receive. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
Be blessed when you seek Shalom, when you seek utter wholeness in every part. This includes making peace with ourselves, forgiving ourselves, being honest with ourselves, not beating ourselves up over what we are not because there are lots of things that we are not. I’m not a runner or a jumper. I’m not even a tip-toer. These things I’m unable to physically do. But I hope I am a listener. I hope I am diplomatic. I hope that I’m someone who puts others before himself. And you, there are many things that you are not and that’s okay because you are made in the image of God. You are created to be just like Jesus. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, created to mirror Jesus in your life, and so there are lots of things that you are not.
There are so many people that you are not like. There are so many people in this world that you’d perhaps like to be. God has created you perfectly to be you, because nobody else has the features, the personality, the skill-set, the patience, the body, the skin tone, the fingerprints or the hairline of any other person in this whole created order. Peacemaker Christian, you are a child of God and that is who you are created to be.
To all who received him, to all those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. That’s what John chapter 1 and verse 12 says. If you believe in him, you have the right to be called a child of God. This is your status. Romans 8 says, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God” – those of you who are led by the Spirit of God – “are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather the spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship” – to childship. – And “… we cry Abba, Father”, daddy. “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now, if we are children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” [Romans 8:14–17 NIVUK]
One John, chapter 3, verses 1 and 2 reminds us again of the special relationship that God bestows upon us and others who know him. “See what great love the Father has lavished upon us” – what a great word, lavished upon us – “that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God and what we will be has not yet been made known.” [NIVUK]
Because we share and seek the shalom holiness, because we seek to bring God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, we are children of God. Peacemaker, child of God, you reflect God’s peacemaking character. This is both a fact and an instruction. Be at peace with God. Show that you are truly God’s child by using every opportunity to be reconciled and to reconcile and to bring the kingdom of God to your part of the world. That will mean different things to each one of us, each one of our circumstances and our situations.
As we close, a couple of questions, where do you need God to bring his peace, his shalom? To you, or to your circumstance or to your situation? As our Father God, he wants to bring us his wholeness and his peace, his mercy, and his grace. As the old hymn says, “Take it to the Lord in prayer.” Perhaps you are being asked to be a peacemaker in a certain situation, that you have all the skills and the tools necessary to be God’s Ambassador right there. May you receive all you need in this instance to be the peacemaker.
Maybe you need to receive that promise of being God’s child because that is who you are. You don’t need to be perfect, you don’t need to be trying, you just need to come because God gives you the right to be called and to be known as a lavishly loved child of the living God. You have permission to receive this by declaration of the one who loves you, the one who created you, and the one who lives in you by his Holy Spirit.
“Now may the peace of God, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ,” … “equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” [Hebrews 13:20, 21 NIVUK]
Should we take a moment?
This talk is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Scripture passages marked NIVUK are from the Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture passages marked The Message are taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.