Pastor Chris Tweitmann
I like going for long drives. For me, there’s something relaxing – centering – about being on the open road and just moving forward towards a destination. Part of my enjoyment derives from the various sights I get to take in while on the road. In particular, I am fond of bumper stickers. With one catchy sentence and sometimes an interesting graphic, you immediately learn something about the person you’re driving behind – for good or ill.
One bumper sticker I’ll always remember seeing for the first time was “No Jesus, No Peace; Know Jesus, Know peace.” It immediately caught my attention and made me think about Jesus in a different way. Up until that moment I realized I never really associated the person of Christ with the idea of peace.
Forgiveness, yes. Salvation, of course. Healing, certainly. But peace? Not so much.
It’s not like I didn’t associate Jesus with the concept of peace. It just wasn’t one of the main things I thought about when I reflected on Christ. Maybe it was just me, but ever since that moment – seeing that bumper sticker – the Bible’s repeated association between Jesus and peace has become a personal fixation.
As we turn to Micah, chapter 5, this Sunday, we will come to one such scriptural example. In the prophet Micah’s time, there was little peace to be had in either the Northern Kingdom of Israel or the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Both nations had rejected the way, truth and life of the Lord God. In the first three chapters of his writings, Micah records acts of unspeakable violence and injustice borne out of decades of idolatry practiced by the people. God’s judgment – allowing the consequences of such actions to play out, Micah warns, is coming. But all is not lost.
Beginning with chapter 4, Micah then proceeds to cast a vision of the promise of better days ahead. The word used to describe those better days – what we translate into English as “peace” – in Hebrew is “shalom.” Shalom is a rich and deep word expressing more than simply the absence of chaos, war and violence. Bigger and broader in its’ meaning, shalom communicates wholeness, connectedness and flourishing. It not only invokes inner, spiritual or personal peace but the balance, integration and harmony of all creation and humanity – including plants, animals and the earth itself. Shalom is life and the world the way God intended it to be.
As Micah chapter 5 begins, this vision, this promise of shalom is further developed. Even as Micah acknowledges the coming sieges of first the Assyrian and then the Babylonian empire, he outlines the blueprint for hope. The promise of shalom will be wrapped up in a person. A Savior will be born in Bethlehem. This coming ruler will shepherd His flock by the strength of God. His reign will be everlasting. In fact, Micah declares, “He will be our peace.” The question was who.
700 years later after Micah shared this vision, a child was born in Bethlehem that many believed to be the One about whom he prophesied. As this child grew into an adult, through what He taught, how He lived and all He accomplished, even more came to believe He was the long awaited Messiah. Today, we recognize this promised Savior as Jesus Christ.
What does it mean to perceive Jesus as our peace? What is it about Jesus that not only fulfills the promise of shalom but also extends and enables such peace into our lives and our world? We talk of, we even practice on Sunday mornings, sharing Christ’s peace with each other. But what does that actually involve? Is it more than a gracious handshake or a warm hug?
“No Jesus, no peace … Know Jesus, know peace. ” It’s a clever play on words that fits nicely on a bumper sticker. Unfortunately, that’s all most people think it is. Join us this Sunday to discover how, in the midst of these tumultuous times, this pithy saying is actually true. Together let us realize the elusive peace we long for is within our grasp. In the outstretched arms of the One who was nailed to a Cross, through the nail perceived hands of He who is risen from the dead, and by the life of the Spirit breathed upon us, God’s promised shalom is eternally offered to us.
Grace to you!