‘Christ’s Peace’ – 22nd May 2022 – 6th Sunday of Easter

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22 05 22 Sixth Sunday of Easter Eucharist

The Readings

Acts 16.1-10

Paul went on also to Derbe and to Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and had him circumcised because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they went from town to town, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily.

They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.

John 14.23-29

Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By Rev Allan Billings

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.’

Words of Jesus Christ to his disciples; and so to us from today’s gospel.

Peace. People speak about peace in many different ways, in many different contexts and mean many different things by it.

There have been times in my life when peace meant having a few precious minutes to myself after the children were in bed. This was literally a time when there was little or no sound. When the chattering and noisy voices of excitable infants had fallen silent. Peace.

But others can find peace amid chattering and noisy voices. Once when I was a vicar there was a woman who lived near my church who very kindly unlocked and locked the building every day when she took her dog for a walk.

But she lived in a house with a husband and other relatives who fell out and rowed all the time. So each evening she retreated to a local pub, which was very small and extremely busy, in order to get what she called ‘a bit of peace and quiet’.

And if you are in Ukraine right now, sheltering in the basement of your ruined apartment block, peace for you is an end to Russian bombing. And for frightened children in those cellars peace would be the cessation of the noise of war.

So what is the peace that Christ promises?

Well, it’s none of the things I mentioned. Christian faith doesn’t change our external circumstances. Christ is not saying, trust in me and all will be sweetness and light in your life and war will be no more.

I think we can begin to understand what he is saying in this way.

Last year I met a woman whose brother had been murdered. They had been very close. The killing had been a random and apparently motiveless attack by a man on drugs. Although this was now some years ago, it had continued to haunt her. Questions kept going round and round in her head. What made the killer do this? Why did he pick on her brother? And so on. It blighted her life.

Then she heard about something called Restorative Justice – the chance for victims of crime to be put in touch with the offenders, where the offenders are willing to take part.

To cut a long story short, she had written to the killer, he had replied, and eventually, in carefully managed circumstances, they had met in person in a Doncaster prison.

She had asked all her questions and many more besides.

I asked her how that had made her feel. She paused for a moment and then said, ‘I felt a wonderful sense of peace’.

A wonderful sense of peace. In one sense nothing had changed. Nothing had changed in all the external circumstances of her life. Her brother was still dead, never coming home again. The murderer was in prison where he would spend most of the rest of his life. She was back to work on Monday morning.

Nothing had changed. And yet everything had changed. She felt a wonderful sense of peace.

I think the peace that Christ brings is something like that. It is not a promise to change our external circumstances. The children will still run us ragged and make a noise. The family will still have its quarrels. There will still be wars and rumours of wars. All the things that bring disruption, sickness, and death into our lives will still be there.

No, the peace Christ promises is something internal.

Let’s just remind ourselves what he said:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.’

The peace Christ gives is not the kind of peace the world gives. It’s not a change in those external circumstances. It’s not about no more struggles in life or disrupted lives, it’s not about no more death or war. It’s something internal, a matter of the heart. The promise is that those who put their trust in Christ can find an untroubled and fearless heart in the middle of all these occasions of human stress and suffering.

The untroubled heart is the heart that puts its trust in Christ by always seeking to do the right thing. To be the Good Samaritan when people are in trouble, even if that inconveniences us. The untroubled heart is the heart that puts its trust in Christ when he says that God is the God of the Living, who will take us to himself beyond the grave, even when death has been brutal and seems so final. The untroubled heart is the heart that puts its trust in Christ, believing Him when He says he will always stand beside us, even in the darkest times, even when we do not feel his presence.

External circumstances will not overwhelm us because our security lies within.

As Christians, we put our trust in Christ. And we will not let our hearts be troubled or afraid whatever life may bring.

The Prayers
Prepared by Shirley Moore

With thankful hearts we bring our prayers to our heavenly Father

We pray for the Church of Christ, for Bishop Pete and Bishop Sophie, our Archbishops Justin and Stephen, all here who lead us in worship and prayer, and all those whose time and talents are given to St Mary’s, St John’s and St Mark’s.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

We pray for all those in authority, and those who have influence in the world, that their power and influence be used compassionately for the good of all.  Bring clarity of thought and vision to those who make and implement policy.  We pray that all world leaders think carefully about what they do and say, and are aware of the power of their words.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

We pray for the people of Ukraine that the war may soon come to an end and that normal relations can once again exist between the countries of Europe.  We pray for all those affected by this and other conflicts; civilians, soldiers, those trapped in war-zones and those who are refugees.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

We pray for our community here in Walkley, and for the city of Sheffield, and for our neighbours and friends.  We pray for those involved in helping alleviate poverty in our communities, through community work and food banks. We pray for those who have taken in refugees, and those who have found refuge in this city, and for our sister city of Donetsk.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

We pray for the aged and infirm, and those sick in mind, body or spirit, and those who life has proven difficult for. We pray that God’s power and grace will strengthen them and bring them the healing and peace that belong to Christ’s kingdom.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

We pray for those currently close to death, and those accompanying them on this final part of their Earthly journey.  We pray for those who have died, recently and in the past, and those who mourn.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Finally, Lord, we silently bring before you those special to us, and also those issues and concerns that we have in our own lives.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Rejoicing in the communion of Mary, Mark, John and of all the Saints, let us commend ourselves, and one another, and all our life, to God.

Merciful Father
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour,
Jesus Christ.