A Peaceful Life in an Unpeaceful World Sept 18, 2016

Text: 1 Timothy 2:

Prayer:           O Lord, help us to hear these word of life and take them to heart. May they speak to our lives today and give us insight for living our faith in these days. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

I’m tempted to ask for a show of hands. How many people here have passed on an email making fun of a politician or political leader? It can be fun to do that. Passing on a cartoon about a politician helps us vent our frustrations at the foibles of our government. We sometimes feel helpless in the face of all of the corruption, bickering, pandering, false promises, and just general buffoonery that go on in our government. We feel a bit better if we can poke fun at our leaders. If we are not careful, however, we can slide into cynicism. We can give up and stop caring.

We read today of an antidote for cynicism. First Timothy calls us to pray for kings and all who are in high positions. In the United States, we don’t have kings to pray for, so we pray for the president and our elected officials. The first thing we can say to this call is that they need our prayers.

The world is a scary place. If our prayers have any influence on their decisions, if it grants them any additional wisdom, if it moves their character up even one notch, then our prayers have done some good. Even if we do not see any immediate benefit from our prayers, let us continue to pray for them.

They may continue to make mistakes, even big mistakes, but let us pray for them. Even if they act in despicable ways, let us pray for them. Let us pray for them because we believe in prayer. Let us pray for them because we never know what our prayers accomplish. It may be that our prayers keep things from becoming even worse. And let us pray for our leaders because of what it does for us if we pray for them. If we pray for them, we might be less cynical. If we pray for our president and our leaders, we will remain engaged in current events.

If we pray, we may be less likely to throw up our hands and give up. If Christians everywhere pray for our leaders and our elected officials, maybe we can keep the animosity and bickering to a minimum. Above all, it is hard entirely to dislike and trash someone you pray for.

The author of 1 Timothy wanted his first readers to pray for kings and leaders for a specific reason. He says that his Christian community should pray for leaders so that church can lead a quiet and peaceable life. At the time that 1 Timothy was written, the church was a tiny minority in a vast pagan empire. People outside the church were suspicious of new religions. They were as suspicious of the church as we are of a celebrity who joins a new cult.

The author of 1 Timothy wants the church to pray for political leaders so that everyone will see that the church is no threat to anyone. The author is asking everyone to pray for a pagan king, who, even though he is not a Christian, might still be God’s instrument for order in society. If Christians pray for the king, then maybe the state will leave the church alone so that it can go about its ministry.

The church would be free to bear witness to God, to Christ, to the resurrection, and the coming dominion of God. That reason for praying for our rulers joins the other reasons for doing so, the wisdom, the guidance, and the sense of duty of a Christian to the world.

As we consider the phrase that the author uses “a quiet and peaceful life” we hear many things in it. We might long for a quiet and peaceable life. When we hear quiet and peaceable, we might long for an end to the turmoil in our family. We might wish for fewer slammed doors and shouting matches. When we hear quiet and peaceable, we might wish that all of the bickering in our country would calm down. We might long for some things we can agree on. When we hear quiet and peaceable, we might wish that our own emotions would settle down within us. Sometimes, it seems as if a full‑scale war rages inside us. We would give anything for some peace and quiet inside our own skins.

Before we talk about the ways this passage offers us quiet and peace, we need to clarify what quiet and peace do not mean.

We are not offered a peace and quiet that detaches from the world. We can’t go off on our own, ignoring the suffering of the world, just because we want a quiet and peaceful life. We cannot look at starving children and go off by ourselves to be peaceful. We can’t look at war, torture, or poverty and seal ourselves off so that we can be quiet and peaceful. We cannot look at all of the sexual exploitation of children and turn a blind eye, because seeing such things disturbs our peacefulness. We must be engaged in the world, opening ourselves to the world’s suffering, doing what we can to bring relief.

The quiet and peaceable life 1 Timothy promises us does not mean that the church should never be a place of controversy. From its earliest days, the church has had to think through and even argue about theology and ethical issues. We should love each other as we are arguing, but argue we must. A peaceable life for the church does not mean we will never face controversy.

If we look at the ministry of the Old Testament prophets, they did not appear on the surface to live quiet and peaceable lives. Amos was told to go back where he came from (Amos 7:12). Jeremiah was accused of being unpatriotic (Jeremiah 37:13) and of demoralizing the troops (38:4). Elijah was called a “troubler of Israel” (1 Kings 18:17). The Old Testament prophets made outrageous statements.

If you don’t believe me, read Isaiah 1:21, and see what the prophet called Jerusalem. I won’t quote it; I’ll let you read it for yourself. The Old Testament prophets did their ministry on the edge. They came just this close to going too far. On the surface, their ministry did not appear to be quiet and peaceable.

Being in ministry is not what we usually think of as quiet and peaceable. If we speak out against injustice, the result might not seem at first like quiet and peace. If we expose corruption in business or unfairness in the court system, the result might not be quiet and peace. Yet, how can we not speak out? It may seem more peaceful to look the other way, but the end result is not true peace.

Even our work within the church on various committees is not outwardly peaceful. It can lead to long meetings and even some disagreements. If we are to be in ministry, we must understand peace and quiet in another way.

On a deeper level, we can claim the promise from this passage about quiet and peace. We cannot turn away from the world’s suffering, but we take comfort in the assurance that God is at work in our world. However dangerous the world seems, however violent, however hopeless it all appears, God is at work in the world. God holds the future.

We draw peace from that assurance. The more involved we become in the world’s suffering, the more we stand up against injustice, the more we will experience true peace. The kind of peace that such ministry grants is the peace of knowing we did something, we made a difference. The kind of peace that such ministry gives is the kind of peace that depends on God to see us through. If we are involved in real ministry, we must depend on the kind of peace that only God can provide.

That kind of peace rests in the assurance that God will win the victory in the end. Our peace comes from the trust, faith, and hope that God will heal the creation and usher in the true peace of a world existing in harmony and justice. That kind of peace is the calm in the midst of a storm. It is the peace that allows inner city pastors to work in the midst of violence but trust in God. It is the kind of peace that enables the church to keep going even if the world considers it irrelevant. It is the kind of peace that continues to trust even in the face of setbacks and seeming defeats. It is the kind of peace that transcends disagreements and differences. Let us claim that peace for the church

For our family squabbles and even shouting matches, God offers us peace. For our swirling emotions, God offers us peace. For our anxiety over the troubles of the world, God offers us peace. God does not offer the peace of being protected from the world’s danger, but peace as God’s strength and assurance in the midst of the craziness, violence, and turmoil of the world.

No matter what political troubles our leaders face, no matter how frightening our problems, no matter how hopeless it may seem, God is still at work. We should not minimize the problems of the world. Life can hurt. If we trust in God, we can find peace in a world that seems bereft of peace. Amen.

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Prayer:

O Lord, you spoke truth to power, you spoke justice in the face of injustice, you brought peace of mind to the weary and calm to the troubled soul. Bring peace to our hearts in the midst of the chaos of the world. Help us to trust you and seek in you the source of true peace in a non-peaceful world. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.