Sermon on What A Lousy Idea It Is For Other People to be the Source of Our Peace

Click here 2013-07-07<——- to listen along.

Jesus said, See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you”

For Open Space today I considered dumping a large sack of live snakes and scorpions on the floor so that as a test of our faith in Jesus we could all have a go at walking on them and see who gets bitten.

As weird as that verse is, it’s not the one that caught my attention this week. What kind of killed me was when Jesus said these 2 things 1) Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you and 2) whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.

To put this passage in the context, and look, I know all of you totally went to church last week AND totally remember the text we read but just in case I’m wrong I’ll remind you that in the previous chapter Jesus called the 12 and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases.  And when they were sent ahead to a village and the village rejected them,

those guys were so totally full of themselves that they came back and literally asked Jesus if in response to being rejected by those villages they should just rain down fire and destroy them. Um, yeah…at what point did that become an option? Jesus must have given them the head thump that rang through eternity because I can almost still hear that now.

But to be honest, I can also kind of relate to the disciples. Because to put this in the context of my week, I have to admit that when some jackass posts comments to my blog that say: Nadia, the only righteous thing you’ve ever done was get married and have children. Your husband should be commended for tolerating such a heretic”…I too want to say “hey Jesus, should I rain down a fire of counter comments and burn this idiot?” since that kind of thing feels totally justified to me.

And when I have a relationship that is broken and I have tried to do what was mine to do, apologize for my part, try and keep an open heart and they won’t go for it.  When I offer them my peace and they do not receive it…I don’t then tend to just peacefully walk away certain the kingdom of God has still come near to them.

Usually what I do with the hurt from that is alternate between wanting to rain down fire on them and wanting to rain down fire on myself.  I either become obsessed with all the ways they are wrong or all the ways I am wrong, neither of which feels too great.  And when I have a conflicted relationship I tend to think about all of it WAAAY too much.

It’s like I rent out free space in my head to them. Free rent for a hostile tenant. As though over thinking something can restore a relationship or make sense of myself or human behavior in general.

So what really killed me this week was thinking about how in our Gospel reading for today that Jesus had some crazy things to say about all of that: like if someone does not share in peace that our peace actually returns to us, and how Jesus said that if we are rejected we should just kick the dirt from our shoes and know that the kingdom of God is still near to those who reject us and that we have been given authority over the powers of the enemy and nothing shall harm us.

I was kind of floored by that and started to wonder: man, how much do we allow other people to be the source of our peace? You have peace when your boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t in “one of those moods” You have peace when your boss gives you enough praise. You have peace when you are sure that none of your friends are unhappy with you. You have peace when your teenager or young adult child is making all the right decisions. You have peace when you just completely isolate yourself from others that way they can never hurt you.

But it’s not helpful to make other people the source of our peace when, as our text says,  not everyone shares in peace.  Not everyone is up for this, maybe not your boss or your friends or your parents and if you extend peace to them and they do not take it, that peace is not wasted – Jesus says it returns to you  - and you know why? because they were not really the source of your peace to begin.

If they reject you, don’t rent out free space in your head to them, kick off the dust.  They are no longer your business.  They are God’s business.  But, just to be clear, that doesn’t mean we get to take some kind of spiritual high ground in the matter either –because if Jesus said kick off the dust and say to them “The Kingdom of God has come near you”.  That means they get the same promise from the same God that you get even if you are a person of peace and they are not. That’s grace and no, it’s not fair. But it also means that when we are the ones rejecting others and not receiving their peace that the kingdom of God is still near to us.

Which basically means that God will do God’s thing whether we get this stuff right or not. Because it is finally grace and not retribution, grace and not being right, grace and not smack-talking idiots that will redeem you and me and this whole beautiful broken mess of a world.

Because Jesus ushered in a different kind of kingdom than I would usher in. And in Jesus’ kingdom, there is a source of peace that is not other people. But to be clear,  the source Peace of in the kingdom of God is also not ourselves and our spiritual practices. Peace in the kingdom of God does not come from achieving a personal feeling of total well-being…I mean that feels awesome and there is nothing wrong with it, but when troubles come, when relationships are fractured, then no matter what I can’t manage to maintain that peaceful “feeling”. So I really hope that’s not what Jesus is talking about here.

Peace is that place where everything is generous and open; where the virtues of the gospel – mercy and forgiveness and love and justice – are the core and guide for living life. And if this peace is offered and not accepted that is never a waste. For this peace returns to you because it is a gift; it is a grace, and it is something that God desires before we do, and longs to give to us.

So maybe peace is less of a feeling and more a way of being and doing that originates from God.

Because God and God alone is our real source. That’s not just religious jargon…I mean it quite literally. You came from the very breath of God. There is that within you, the imago dei, the very image of God that can not be hurt by rejection. Which means that when Jesus says he has given us authority over the powers of evil and nothing will harm us, it does not mean that the rejection that happens in our lives won’t hurt. It means it cannot hurt what matters. Genesis tells us that God breathed into dust to create humanity.  So it is not your boss, your lover, your friends, your parents or the United States Supreme Court – but the animating breath of God that is the source of your life and your peace.

So go in peace. Because Christ is with you and within you.

Amen.

 

About Nadia Bolz Weber

I am the founding Pastor at House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. We are an urban liturgical community with a progressive yet deeply rooted theological imagination. Learn more at www.houseforall.org

  • Pug Mahm

    Dearest God, I do love this sermon! I shall read more…and more…and more. Count on it.

    My life has fallen into an extremely frustrating time of spiritual desert and searching for a variety of reasons. But I needed so badly to read this.
    Thank you.

    • K. C. Sunbeam

      Reply to everyone: Very interesting sermons.
      And yes, other people are totally unreliable to be our source of peace. However, that shouldn’t be. The Father through the Lord Jesus Christ set up the Church to work in conjunction with faith in God.
      For in depth discussions on the interplay between faith and social interactions, see my website http://shockedbytruth.jimdo.com
      Thanks

  • hillmad

    Love your sermons! Grace and peace to you from a Lutheran New Yorker! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Our-Saviours-Atonement-Lutheran-Church/175249255891587?ref=hl

  • JaxTaylor

    Yet Another great sermon. Time to kick out all of the “hostile tenants” to make more room for what matters most, God. A challenge, yes, but one of the most important challenges to overcome yet. I can dig it. Thanks for always putting things into perspective :)

  • Alethea Eason

    Thank you. Just what I needed to read, especially the part about peace within myself, accepting forgiveness is for me too.

  • Susan_G1

    This is a great message, one that is at odds with others we hear.

    A while ago, I seized upon a way do deal with crazies. I remembered the time Jesus heals the ten lepers, and changes their lives dramatically, more so than I will ever have the power to do, and only one comes back to thank Him. It helps me to remember that Jesus was disappointed but that did not reflect on Him. His source of self-worth was untouchable.

    I hope this makes sense.

  • Dav2013

    This is a great message! You have a talent with words and perspective and, for the first time, I feel like I kinda-sorta get what the Bible verses mean. It’s time for an eviction. Thank you!

  • Lindsey

    This is such a great post. I feel like so often I depend on other people to define my happiness or my peace. I was definitely born a people-pleaser. This article reminded me that people are fickle, so keeping your heart fixed on God is the only way to ensure peace.

    http://moreawesomer.wordpress.com/

  • Gerardo Noriega

    Thank you, Nadia, I was anguished because of so many human rejections and struggles. This scriptural interpretetion of yours has been such a relief! Greetings from a Mexican raised as a Catholic but converted to the Lutheran faith.

  • Emma Douglas

    Oh Nadia, I needed this one today… I just moved to Indianapolis to be
    with my partner, which has been both fabulous and shocking. After a
    pit bull attacked my little dog (he’s ok now!) and doors to employment
    seemed to be sealed shut, and money was running out I turned my
    attention to thinking about my partner and my wedding ceremony (if
    nothing else to think about love and joy and family and good food)…
    then I found out that in Indiana it is a class B misdemeanor for anyone -
    clergy, justice of the peace, ship captain… anyone – to perform a
    same sex union. Even if it has nothing to do with civil marriage and is just about two people standing up in front of God and each other and their families and committing to one another.
    It’s also a class 6 Felony for a same sex couple to apply for a
    marriage license in IN, which has doubly outlawed gay marriage and is
    about to present a bill in the state house to amend the constitution
    banning it in a third way. Kick off the dust. We’ll have a beautiful
    ceremony wherever it happens, with food and love and joy and peace (and
    red velvet cake). Thank you.

  • http://www.twitter.com/tchambers TimmyC

    Thank you, nadia, this helps pull down peace and make it feel more within my reach…

  • isaacplautus

    “I have to admit that when some jackass posts comments to my blog that
    say: Nadia, the only righteous thing you’ve ever done was get married
    and have children. Your husband should be commended for tolerating such a
    heretic”…I too want to say “hey Jesus, should I rain down a fire of
    counter comments and burn this idiot?” since that kind of thing feels
    totally justified to me.”

    To be fair, it isn’t just conservatives who have mastered the art of trolling. Check out the comments on religious articles in the Guardian and you’ll always find the Richard Dawkins army heaping scorn on any religious idea in language eerily similar to the exclusionary and demeaning language employed by conservative Christians.

  • Natalie Moon-Wainwright

    Brilliiant, Nadia. I love your take on this passage and on peace. Different from my take last week, yet so appropriate. ;-)

  • marty_jones

    I’m reading/listening to this message AFTER your next one [chronologically]–that puts another layer on its meaning…
    ” if you extend peace to them and they do not take it, that peace is not
    wasted – Jesus says it returns to you – and you know why? because they
    were not really the source of your peace to begin.”
    Thank you, dear sister.
    Blessings, Marty

  • lauren

    Thank you for this. I’m going through a breakup and I’ve come to realize just how much I don’t want to lose him as a friend. Broken relationships and losing people has always been my biggest fear. And while I desperately want to keep in touch at some point after we have both healed from the initial brokenness, he is trying to put permanent distance between us. I’ve taken to pray for his ultimate happiness, peace and a wonderful life, mainly in an attempt to keep from developing a deep bitterness toward him. How can you hate the people you are praying peace for?

    “So maybe peace is less of a feeling and more a way of being and doing that originates from God.” I think this line will help me in moving on. I have had to keep reminding myself that feelings are fickle. And to say that the Kingdom of God is near to even those that reject our offers of peace and reconciliation has helped as well. Although this rejection hurts, I want nothing less than the best for him. The hope for all things being restored to God keeps me going. Because if all things will first be brought back to God, then after we can all be restored back to each other as well.

  • ElisabethThunderberr

    Hey Nadia, beware of false prophets who say” peace peace” not calling you a false prophet by no means…but this can be another subject for another post on your blog.
    the world is owned by God, and we are to thank God everyday for this wonderful gift of sharing in the universe with humans… thank God for JESUS who died on the cross for your sins! Jesus said I am the way the truth and the life! Jesus is our peace! Jesus is the author of peace for our souls even when we are rejected over and over again. He died for you Nadia!
    Saturdaynext~

  • Helen Gierke

    I’m reading this late, catching up on your blog. It resonated with me: I’ve learned to practice what I call “intentional obliviousness” when encountering people who either are looking for trouble, are trouble, or just aren’t bringing peace. I smile, change the subject, and/or walk away, letting God take care of it. Shaking the dust doesn’t have to be vindictive or overly demonstrative to be effective. Anyway, I really like your stuff and am looking forward to reading your book.

  • Cullen Covington-Hicks

    Nadia, I wanted so much to come and hear you speak at WildGoose. I live in Asheville but had family in, which was also a great blessing. Anyway, the part of this clarifying that peace is not a feeling and that is it is from God within us, helps me. My husband and I are still stinging over a broken relationship several years hence.
    Thank you!

  • tao

    This was just what I needed tonight. Thank you!


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