Sermon: Simple Gifts: Peace

28 November 2010


Rev. Jennifer Whipple
Congregational Church of Brookfield (UCC)

Sunday, November 28, 2010
First Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 2:1-5

Simple Gifts: Peace

Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our minds and hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer.  Amen.

            Today is either the oddest time or the most appropriate time to be thinking about peace.  With more of our own friends and family members going to fight in wars overseas, the conflict growing between North and South Korea, and the threat of nuclear war always present.  With young people dying because they are being bullied in school, increasing numbers of tags on our Giving Tree because there are so many who will go without this holiday season otherwise, people being trampled on to get the perfect gift, and with a knitting frenzy going on in order to provide blankets for people who will freeze if they do not receive that simple gift.  Today is either the oddest time or the most appropriate time to be thinking about peace.

            Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the New Year celebration of the church year.  We have just stuffed ourselves with turkey and pie, or whatever might be your tradition.  We have had a chance to celebrate our blessings and now God calls us back to work.  Advent is a time of preparation – a time for taking time, for repenting and turning back toward God, for working to make real the four key words of this season, hope, joy, love, and, yes, even peace.  This year we have chosen the theme “Simple Gifts” for Advent – with the notion that sometimes the simplest gifts that we are able to give to others are the ones that make the most impact.  And sometimes the smallest actions that we take, or the simplest words we share with others, are the ones that actually get us on the road toward a true celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace who we look forward to coming into our world once again. 

            In order to think a bit more about where we have come from, where we are going, and what God is asking of us, I wanted to share with you a story today.  Perhaps some of you have heard of it or know it by heart.  It is called Old Turtle, and it says this…***  

In thinking about this story in light of today’s scripture reading from the prophet Isaiah, we have to wonder what the world would look like if we remember that we are “a message of love from God to the earth, and a prayer from the earth back to God.”  Perhaps if we were to see ourselves and others in that light we would work a bit harder to turn our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks – to turn our weapons of destruction, whether they are actual physical tools, hurtful words, or otherwise, into tools that work to till the soil of God’s garden – to bring about fullness of life not just for ourselves but for others as well…and maybe even to reverse some of the damage that has already been done to God’s people and God’s world. 

On the one hand it may seem silly that we have titled today as “Simple Gifts: Peace” because if peace were that simple then we could presume that we would have it in our world.  On the other hand, though, small acts of peace – the ones that we are truly capable of -- have large ripples out in the world.  Perhaps it is in offering a helping hand to someone in need, making a donation at the Alternative Gifts Fair, learning more about another culture or lending an ear to someone who we have not always seen eye to eye with in order to learn something new.  Or perhaps it is in stopping an act of bullying when we see it, in supporting a person who doesn’t have anyone in their corner, or by helping with the “In Our Shoes” program we mentioned during announcements.  Mother Theresa once said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to one another.”  Through small acts of peacemaking like these we are reminded that we do belong to one another and the world.   

            Today, throughout this Advent season and beyond, may we be people who remember whose we are as children of God and that we do indeed belong to one another, with all our similarities and differences that make us unique as well.  May we be people who strive to bring peace to our homes, our neighborhoods, our communities, and to the ends of the earth – starting with small steps – dreaming of a God who smiles at our work toward bringing about the Kingdom.  And let us pray in this season of hope and joy and wonder that those dreams come true.  Amen. 

***Old Turtle is a story by Douglas Wood, illustrated by Cheng-Khee Chee.


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