“Lord! It seems so easy for you to talk about love and peace tonight, but it is hatred that fills the streets tonight! Don’t you feel it? Hasn’t it touched you?” These are the words of Simon the Zealot spoken to Jesus on the night he was betrayed. I played the part of Simon the Zealot in the first play in which I ever acted. It was scary and fun and totally changed my life. The most uncomfortable part was when the person portraying Jesus washed my feet. It was Rev. Randy Innes who I adore.
We could almost say these words today. Perhaps it would be good for us to portray Simon the Zealot at the Last Supper table with Jesus. Truly, as the election approaches, we are a divided people. It is more than hatred that fills our streets. Violence, random and senseless, as well as calculated and well planned, fills our streets and spills into our houses of worship. The shooting at The Tree of Life Jewish Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA is just the latest atrocity perpetrated by the hate filled against people they don’t even know. I think we need more people to be like Jesus and talk about love and peace. Moreover, we need the peacemakers to begin waging peace even more effectively than those waging violence. Too many of us are more Don Quixote jousting with statues and sparring with perceived political rivals than Simon the Zealot asking how Jesus can talk about love and peace.
Into this climate of burbling animosity and burgeoning hatred, Asbury Church stands as an alternative. Filled with love, we are seeking peace because we follow the Prince of Peace, who told us we’d be blessed if we were peacemakers. Moreover, he told us we would be called children of God as we are able to wage peace. Peace is not an accident, and is much more than simply the absence of conflict. Peace is a connection of heart and soul even where our opinions differ. Peace allows us to hold in creative tension our differences and embrace each other as equally loved children of the Most High. Peace is creative and holy and hope filled. Peace is a thing of God that we are empowered to wage with more cunning and clever ambition than those filled with the evil one can wage with their bent to destruction.
Now is the time…now more than ever! Divisions are deepened and fear increased for no good reason other than our mutually assured destruction from the foe of darkness who seeks only our demise. But how shall we wage this peace Jesus spoke so resolutely about? What will be our plan and deliberately chosen path of light and life?
Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is our way. We call our holiest act The Eucharist, which is Greek for The Great Thanksgiving. Like Simon the Zealot, we join Jesus and other disciples at the table and receive grace and much more. He promised we would receive his Holy Spirit as we eat his body and drink his blood. It is a holy communion and we give thanks for the holy privilege this holy mystery remains in our lives. I come hungry and world-weary from political attack ads and reports of fresh violence inflicting hell on earth by intent of the deranged and criminally insane. Maybe you’re hungry too…for something more than just gluten free bread and juice. Can we be hungry for Jesus and his way of peace? Might that be our first step that we take together this Sunday?
Our series for the month of November is called “Because of You!” It is a series about thanksgiving. Each week we will celebrate what God is doing in and through Asbury Church. While the world chooses to focus only on evil and destruction, we are focusing on Jesus and God’s construction and recreation of creation. The first week, we’ll celebrate those on whose shoulders we stand as we name saints, both recent and long passed. Then, we’ll celebrate the disciples who love Jesus and each other and thereby change lives by being disciples. The third week, we’ll focus on giving thanks for hope and those who create hope in Jesus’ name, especially when all seems hopeless. Finally, the last week, we’ll conclude our series on thanksgiving with a message giving thanks for those who continue to pass on the faith. This is a mark of a true disciple…one who makes other disciples by sharing the good news. Along the way, we’ll have a holiday also called Thanksgiving, and we’ll eat good food with some of our favorite people. There is much about which to give thanks. This is our job. This is our privilege. This is how we’ll together wage peace in Jesus’ name this month!
I invite you to join me and the rest of our Asbury Church family. I hope you’ll come each and every Sunday but, if you can’t, please tune in to our services on the web or our live-stream on Facebook which can be viewed any time during or after the service. With enough practice, maybe we can move from portraying Simon the Zealot and acting more like Jesus. With enough practice, we won’t just talk about love and peace in the midst of hatred. We will become love and peace and drive out the darkness of hate with the love and peace which flows from Jesus. I am more than just eager to begin…I am hungry to begin! Might we start with a prayer together?
Come Moving God of endless possibilities and fill us with your Holy Spirit. In the midst of all that is wrong help us to be something that is right. Where others sow discord may we cultivate love and peace. Where hatred and violence have been sown, may we supplant them with a new crop of hope and partnership. Help us to wage your peace effectively with the instruments of hope and creativity. Help us to be your chosen people, set apart for the salvation of the whole world. Let peace begin with me. Let peace begin here as I seek you in Jesus’ name…
Peace & Partnership,
Tom Newman, Lead Pastor