The Root of Peace
Rev. Tony Romaine
One of the great questions we struggle with as humans is purpose. For what reason were we created? Why were we even born? And as we journey through Advent and this season of waiting, it gives us momentary pause top ask the same about Jesus. I mean I know my family has its skeletons and secrets, but look at Jesus’ lineage from our Gospel reading today.
Here are just a few eyebrow raising ancestors:
Tamar who had two husbands die on her, was shunned by Judah, pretended to be a prostitute so she could bear a son for Judah, was almost burned to death before Judah recognized that she was carrying his son.
Rahab, who was a woman of the night, who hid two Israelis and saved them from certain death, was saved when the city of Jericho was destroyed because of her loyalty and righteousness.
David, said to be the greatest king in all of Judaism, author of many of the Psalms, still sent his best friend and best general to the front lines of a war to be killed so he could have Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, to himself.
Ruth, a Moabite widow, a foreigner from another land, stays with her mother-in-law Naomi and although not originally a follower of God, becomes one through family loyalty and dedication to Naomi.
This less-than stellar lineage makes us think about why Jesus has this family history. Absolutely it is important to connect things back to the line of Jesse which our prophets speak of and of which Jesus is a part, but more importantly, it is to demonstrate that out of the brokenness of our humanity comes peace, out of the destruction we cause ourselves comes healing, and out of the despair and loneliness comes love.
This line of Jesus is one filled with sinners ranging from murderers to adulterers to the greedy and the list goes on. And yet, this is Jesus’ lineage, heritage, and this is the line through which God chose to become incarnate. So, why do you think Jesus was ever born at all? I mean really think about it. Why would God even need to come in the form of a baby to save our world, grow into a wise adolescent, and then seemingly at the apex of his ministry; be cut down and crucified?
Sure, we can respond about the resurrection and eternal life and the forgiveness of sins; all good things and true. But there is one important reason we are forgetting that is key to our message today: God became incarnate through Jesus Christ to demonstrate and teach us that the way we are supposed to be living is part of our history and inside us already.
Yes, we are sinners, all of us in one way or another, have sinned. Perhaps some are murderers or adulterers or criminals or gluttons or greedy or you name the sin and I guarantee it is here in one form or another. And yet, we are here in this church which God longs to be in this community, we are here to worship and bring ourselves to Jesus, we are here to repent and ask forgiveness so that we can be saved and we are here because the peace we long for in the world can only be found through Jesus Christ.
But what we often forget is that that peace also has to come through us. If the Israelite soldiers had not kept their promise to Rahab and saved her life, this line would be broken. If David had not repented and confessed his sins, atoned for them and been forgiven, the line would be broken. If Ruth had not stayed with her mother-in-law and travelled to a land where people hated her, where people despised her, if she had not taken another people’s God and been loyal to Naomi and her house, the line would be broken.
At any point along this lineage, Jesus’ heritage could have been broken by one act of unkindness, rage, hatred, or selfishness. And yet, this is the lineage that survives, and this is the line of Jesus, the tree that sprouted from the root of Jesse, the tree that was born to be the root of peace.
Our world is spinning out of control right now. There are people who spout hatred and bigotry in all corners of the world, there are people who are lost and feel there is no way out, there are others who are lonely because they feel abandoned by the world and their God, and there are others who use every part of their power and privilege to keep people down just because they can.
That is why Jesus was born people. God became incarnate to show us that we have the power to bring about peace on earth, we have the hands that can offer hope, and we have the abilities to make life better for other people. And when we do, whether it is through small acts or grand gestures, we cannot possibly understand the impact we might have on someone.
If we want the world to be at peace, we have to work for it. The powers of evil and greed and gluttony and murder and destruction and all those bad things are seemingly always going to be there. But that is why you were born. You were born to fight the evil in the world. Not with guns or bullets or missiles or bombs.
But with wisdom beyond your years or knowledge you have obtained over the years. With courage to defy the powers that be and to be a broadcaster of peace, not hate. With a repentant heart that is not too proud to ask for forgiveness and to recognize your own failings, because with a repentant heart all can be forgiven. And you were born to bring peace about in this world with the greatest weapon of all; God’s love. God’s love which resides in you through the Holy Spirit and was set free and directed by our Great Teacher, Jesus Christ, who lives and breathes, and offers this world peace through your hands and feet.
And so I say to you, so what if you are old, young, rich, poor, married, single, divorced, widow, gay, straight, white, black, Republican, Democrat, hawk, dove, believer, questioning, or non-believer, long-time member, new member, or not a member. God loves you and has given you everything you need to make an impact on your world. God sent Jesus to save you from your sins so that nothing can hold you back from loving others as God has loved you. And God created you just the way you are so that in your own special way, you can bring peace to whatever part of the world you affect.
It will not be easy. Our world wants to make you afraid that different is wrong, that other is evil, that stranger is violent and going to harm you. And that is why this lineage of Jesus is so important. Because it demonstrates that foreigner is sometimes savior, that stranger is sometimes protector, that different is not dangerous, and that peace can be found even amongst the most chaotic of histories.
What will your root be remembered as? Will people look back on your life and remember you as a peaceful person, who brought love to other people, who helped out the needy and who sacrificed so others could find peace? And when people reflect about why you were born, what might they say?
I know for me; my life has been one of ups and downs. Perfection is hard to find, self-doubt a constant battle, fear and anger a daily battleground. But that is why finding peace and offering peace and love and hope is so important. See, peace is not the absence of conflict, peace is being able to offer others love regardless of conflict. Peace is not the absence of violence; peace is being able to not respond with violence. Peace is not the absence of fear; peace is being able to be present despite my fears. And peace is not the absence of death; but peace is being able to trust that Jesus has conquered death, so nothing in this world can scare me so much as to not offer love.
Honestly, saying these things brings fear to the forefront of my brain and hearing them trickle out of my mouth makes my heart tremble. But that is why amidst the question of why we were born, it makes sense to remember why Jesus was born. For His Hope, His Joy, His Love and His Peace is the only thing that sees us through. And that message is one that I hope this world never forgets, Amen