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The Content of Peace in the Heart Propels Goodwill Towards All People

A Message delivered on January 19th, 2009
At the Wyben Union Congregational Church, 678 Montgomery Road, Westfield, MA  01085-1073

Sermon in a Sentence:  The content of the character of the kingdom of heaven on earth is one of trusting the wind of God’s Spirit. It includes the discipline of love, the experience of hope and the constancy of peace.        

Text: John 3:1-8,16-17, Genesis 2:1-2, Ephesians 4:24-32

Today is the Sunday before Martin Luther King Day and the Sunday before the Inauguration of the first Black President of these United States.  It is a momentous day in the life of our nation and all its citizens.  

I want to speak in peace, of peace and for peace to the Press, the President and all those Present.  We live in a world of conflicts of ideology, race, ethnicity, bureaucracy, economy, social, governmental, and religious orientations that are both internal and global in origin and in experience.  Conflicts polarize and paralyze us as a global community because we believe that they cannot be resolved, that they have always been with us and they always will be with us.

The God who is still speaking has a news bulletin for the world:  “Peace on Earth Good will toward all humanity”.  When there is peace in our hearts we will live in peace and of peace and for peace with all our earth family.  We will only have good will in all of our hearts toward all people when we have peace in our hearts about and for all people.

G.Campbell Morgan wrote years ago:  “We cannot control or manipulate the Holy Spirit, the wind blows where it wills, but we can lift our sails to catch the mighty wind from th eternal hill”  To that end I offer these words:

Two great forces come together to create a “perfect calm” for our nation at the time of some of its greatest crises!  They are assisted by one gentle breeze.

1st Great Force:  The Heart of Martin Luther King, Jr.  The man, who had a dream, of a dream.  Whose dream was about a world free of prejudice, hatred, violence (things we still see too much of today and things that some try to justify in one way or another).  It was a dream not just of the removal of hatred whatever its trigger but also the infusion of love and grace toward all people. Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream was a dream like God’s as it was from God. The God who is at peace so sees everything He has created as good and sends good will toward all creation. It is a dream not just of people not judging others by the color of their skin, it was about silencing judgment of all kinds.  It was a dream that looked into and acted out of a heart of love. It is a dream that sees “peace” as the fundamental content of the character of humanity that would allow this dream to become a reality.  

After God created the world and all the things in the world, He looked at all that He had made and said “It is all good”.  He took the posture of peace toward all that was made.  Peace is not the absence of conflict but the abstaining from worry.  As in the natural world for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, so too the solution is not to eliminate reactions but to be understanding toward all reactions.  When at peace we stop working against each other but become united our resolve to dissolve the tension through love and care, hope and peace.

How shall this dream become a reality?  We would all have to surrender our fears and our prejudices toward others who we do not understand to a “Peace of Heart”.  This peace will surrender all right to control other people to the responsibility to be loving and respectful toward all people.  This peace would move our nation and its people, our church and its people, our community and its people and our world and its people to a new place.  All prejudging just because of something about the way people look or act will end and truth and grace will flow.  This is our dream.

This new place of peace will promote general welfare, assist domestic tranquility provide for a common defense, and assure certain inalienable rights like the pursuit of happiness and liberty.

John the Gospel writer reminds us (John 3:8)  that this place of new birth is a place that trust the “wind of Spirit”.  The Wind of God’s Spirit blows where it wills, you never know exactly where it will come from or where it will lead you but you do know that you can hoist your sail to catch its wind.  With the wind of peace and hope we will boldly go where no one has gone before.  Into a world that condemns no person for their way of thinking, living or believing but is compassionate toward all humanity as they live in peace and good will toward all.

This is a dream.  It is what we need as we are living in a nightmare.

Check inside of your self.  Is there anyone who stirs up human judgment, condemnation.  Ask that part of you to receive the calm peace of love and grace.  Let the healing start inside your prejudiced heart and let it spill out to the world.

The word that the God who is still speaking is speaking to all of us this day is

2nd Great Force:  The Hope of A New Era:  President-Elect Barak Obama.  It is not a hope in a man but it is hope of, by and for a man who is of, for, and by the people.  It is a man who invokes in the content of his character the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr and of Abraham Lincoln.  He will take the oath of office on the Bible of Lincoln, he comes from the state of Lincoln, and he is inspired by Lincoln.  In him is the content of the character of Lincoln and before him are similar challenges of a divided nation.  Hear the words of Lincoln’s character as he delivered his second inauguration address:

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray that this mighty scourge of war may speedily  pass away.  Yet if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash be paid by another drawn sword, as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said, “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

With Malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up our nations wounds, to care for him who has borne the battle and for his widow and orphans, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

-March 4, 1865

To hope that this nation that was begun as a free nation to promote liberty and justice for all, that had been ravaged by a civil war of weapons of mass destruction could now turn to their creator and find a way to change, what is, into what can be…..

Today, we are a nation in crisis at many levels: economic, political, social, governmental, etc.  While there is no civil war, we are in a fight for civil liberties, rights and responsibilities.  We need to look to our creator and find a way to change:  what is, into what can be.  We can.

This is the goal of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Nicodemus thought of it as going inside his mother’s womb and being born again.  Symbolically and in reality, we need a rebirth of hope.  We need the content and the contentment of peace inside.  Into the womb of our suffering we bring hope and grace for a new birthing. Consider all that is as just part of the womb of our past and all that can be the hope of future as we are born into it.  Our goal is to bring grace into the internal womb of every person and invite every person to see the world as the place out of which they are to be born into the world with a clear vision and vitality in peace, of hope, and by love. The sufferings of life can be transformed by the power of hope and change into a new experience.  V 17 “He came not to condemn the world by some external code of behavior but to transform the world by some out of this world idea, “to save the world” from itself.

In the world for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  For every bail out there is someone who is going to feel dumped on.  For every terrorist there is a person terrified.  For every one who had someone has lost.  We live in a world that is prejudiced toward winning and losing, to love and hate, to right and wrong as I define right and wrong.  This promotes the conflicts that paralyze the world and promotes strategies to control through manipulation and mandates. This is the way of earth.

The way of heaven is to be at peace and offer love to all who have been hurt and who hurt.  In heaven the three persons of the Trinity exists as one.  They see the core love and peace in each other more than their differences and different roles.  They embrace each other in loving care.  The Father does not say to the Son and The Spirit, “I am the boss.  I am in charge.  You are responsible and accountable to me.”.  The Son does not say to the Father and Spirit, “Listen, guys, I want some credit. I did the real work here.  I suffered bled and died. I became a man to redeem mankind.”  The Spirit does not say, “You may have thought al this into existence (Father), and you may have (Son) did the work on earth, but without me nothing that happens in the world would happen in the world.  The three members of the Trinity do not debate who is the greatest, represent why they are important, demand allegiance, etc.  All three of them look at and value each other as equal members of the Godhead.  Amen.

The word that the God who is still speaking is speaking to all of us this day is

The One Gentle Breeze is that of “Compassionate care and love toward all people”

We live in a world that seeks to win battles by dominance and control strategies.  From Wall Street to Main Street, From the wars in our streets to the wars in Baghdad, power control dominance is the theme. We use overt and covert forces to get want we want.  We  do not concern ourselves with the effect on our fellow humans. The hurt and hurting people who innocently suffer and are involuntarily used for other’s selfish gain.  It is a win lose world. It is a winner take all.  The wind blows where someone wills it to blow to get what they want.

Power and control matrix directs us to do all with in our power to win any battle at any cost even if the cost is our own integrity and conscience.   The theory of dominance and control endorses the use of power to intimidate and manipulate people and nations into submission.  It rationalizes that “our cause is just” when we are deceiving ourselves and believing a lie.  The wind of war blows with power as does the wind of the power of affluence, or the wind of the power of words blows from every quarter of life.

The gentle wind of heaven blows differently. Heaven’s wind is based on the theory of deliberation and compassion. Not dominance and control.  Jesus is love. He walks gently into the kingdom of earth from the kingdom of heaven.  He marches to a different drum and is a different drummer.  He announces that God so loves that nothing matters but being loving toward all. No matter what people do to him, no matter how misinterpreted, he would remain in peace never lifting the sword to win a battle. He never condemned anyone.  He loved everyone.  To those who wronged him, used him and abused him, he offered loved and understanding. Wait, the mighty God the Everlasting Father the Prince of Peace let the world kill him.

Yes and the gentle breeze of compassion and care or love and grace, blows a gentle wind that transforms people.

For God, it is about “smart power”.  It is not about wielding the sword it is about being open to all, charitable to all.  It is not about agreeing with everyone, it is about allowing everyone to be who they are and being who I am in respectfulness.  It embraces my rights and responsibilities.  It is my right to live in peace.  It is my responsibility to be in peace toward all peoples.  It is not my responsibility to be the moral guardian of right behavior.  It is my responsibility to guard my heart from judging my neighbor so I can excuse my mistreatment of my neighbor.  If by “smart power” we mean that we will never use the power of mastery or manipulation to win a war or words, we will never use the sword of war to win a battle that we have created by the war of words, and that we will never use our vast power to intimidate or control but rather to lay down the sword of power and take up the chalice of a humble servant.

The chalice of surrender is shaped like an inverted arrow of adversity.  When we invert malice, we love from the chalice of our own surrender.  This is the way of Jesus.   

Our greatest national resource is not be the mountains or valleys of our own homeland nor our place of power in the world.  Our greatest national resource is to let the content of our peace, the character of our hope, and the compassion of our care be extended to our world, our neighbors, our global village.  “Compassionate understanding” toward all people regardless of anything: their political ideals, their social or economic strata, their religious beliefs, their racial or ethnic origin, their sexual orientation, their behavioral choices, etc.

Power that controls others is power that is not at peace.  Power that needs to control others is power that has no hope except in itself.  Power that controls others puts itself above the welfare of people.

Lord Byron spoke well: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.  On earth both statements are true. In Heaven neither is true. Both are true unless we can take all of our self-ordained power and surrender it to the principle of “with malice toward none (person place or thing), and Love toward all (persons, in all places, doing and believing all things).  God who has absolute power never uses that power for selfish gain or to create peace through strength.  God is peace. God is love. God is Hope

The word that the God who is still speaking is speaking to all of us this day is
“Love one another as I have loved you”

This is the Key to Living on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Love not out of power, but in power.  The couplet of Dominance and control is replaced by the couplet of open-minded deliberation and compassionate openness.  It is our hope, in peace, that promotes our loving in truth.  Hope Peace and Love to you all!

As we begin a new era in our nation. May the content of our character be one of peace, of hope and of love toward all. The covenant is to:  Live out of peace into actions and attitudes of good will toward all people.  Amen!


And now may the eternal peace, hope and love of God rest upon you and flow out from you to the good of humanity and the glory of God!  Amen

Delivered by:

Rev. Dr. Donald Lincoln Paine
2 Swamp Road, Box 186
West Stockbridge, MA 01266-0186
413-23-26144  Home  518-452-9919 Office
NB: Litany of peace followed the message and is attached as an addendum to this sermon

Content of Peace, Hope and Love by Rev. Dr. Donald Lincoln Paine, Pastor ©January 19, 2009

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