20181230 Sunday Worship Sermon
“Life to make Peace” (Hebrews 12:14-17)
Time is like a river.
This has two meanings.
First, time flies like how a river flows.
Second, we cannot touch the same water twice because the flow that has passed will never pass again.
Today is last day of the year.
I can’t believe how time flew by this year.
As we spend this precious time together, I hope all of us look back at our own life, giving thanks to God, and have learned more about God’s will.
A long time ago, I watched a very touching play, titled “Construction.”
I’d like to share briefly the story with you.
A group of people arrived on an island.
It looked like a desert island.
They did not know where they were or how they got there.
So, they started discussing with one another.
“Where are we right now? / Why are we here? / Who made us come here? / What should we do from now on?”
During the discussion, one person found out that there was a pile of building materials near them.
So, they thought they should start to build something with the materials.
But though they had building materials, they did not know what to build.
One person suggested building a swimming pool since it was very hot, another suggested building a storage for food, and the other suggested building a house.
At the moment, someone pointed out to a neighbor island and said, “There must be people on that island. I heard something.”
People got nervous and started pouring out their opinions.
“Who are those people living on the neighbor island? / Why are they there? / What if they attack us?”
They had an endless list of questions and doubts.
Being scared, some people insisted to build a wall.
As others agreed, they started building a wall.
All of a sudden, a young man from nowhere approached them.
They asked him, “Who are you?”
He said, “I’m a constructor. A person who sent you here sent me here so that I can help you. But, you are building something that is not what he wanted you to build.”
They asked him, “What should we build then?”
The young man replied, “He wanted you to build a bridge that connects this island to the neighbor island so that people from both of the islands can meet each other. But, you are building a wall.”
People thought the young man was suspicious.
Someone said that he might be a spy sent from the neighbor island.
At the moment, one person stood up and shouted, “Kill him! Let’s kill him!”
People started to throw stones at him.
All of a sudden, there was a roll of thunder, the power was out, and it became all dark.
After a while, light was turned on.
And the young man was crucified on a cross.
And the play was ended.
It was a very short play, but the message was very powerful and inspiring to me.
Today is the last Sunday of the year.
During this meaningful time, I would like to ask you to think what God wants us to do before we finish this year.
Perhaps it is peace.
We spent Christmas last week.
Jesus came to us to give peace.
He came to build the bridge of reconciliation, to make peace.
Angels spread the good news of the birth of Jesus.
They praised, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Yes, the good news of the birth of Jesus is glory to God and peace was made and brought by Him.
We first have to remember the fact that a wall between God and us was completely broken by Jesus who came to this world to make peace.
Jesus came to this world for reconciliation between God and us.
Think about it.
How is our reality like without Jesus?
Colossians 1:21 says, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.”
That is, we were the enemies of God.
We don’t think we were, but the Bible says we were the enemies of God.
And that makes sense because we were all sinners.
According to the Bible, a sin is turning away from God.
We like doing things that God told us “not to do,” rather than things that He told us “to do.”
That is our reality.
We are all sinners.
We turned away from God.
So we were the enemy of God.
When we turn away from God, we think we will be free from Him and everything will be alright.
However, like a train that derailed, we encounter difficulties if we turn away from God.
God who knew all of these tried to reconcile with us.
God provided opportunities to those who turned away.
Unfortunately, there was no one who were interested in God’s gesture of reconciliation.
So, God made a decision.
“I will go down and see.”
So, God sent Jesus to the world.
He sent his Son embodied in flesh.
He came with the most humble appearance.
He came to reconcile with us.
Yes, this is what Christmas means.
Like the story of the play I mentioned in the beginning, Jesus came to this world to build a bridge of reconciliation between God and us.
He was crucified for peace and reconciliation.
But then, how is our life?
Are we building a wall or a bridge?
Aren’t we building a wall of prejudice, a wall of hatred, a wall of distrust, or a wall of doubt?
Aren’t we more interested in causing dispute and conflicts than reconciliation?
Let’s look at ourselves.
If Jesus came to this world to break the wall, build a bridge, and reconcile with us, we also need to pursue what Jesus did.
Book of Hebrews 12: 14 says,
“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy.”
What does this mean?
Live in peace with everyone.
Live in peace with not only the ones we like, the ones we love, the ones who make us happy, but also the ones whom I hate, the ones who make us uncomfortable.
This is the mission we have in this world.
But, according to today’s text, there is a wall between people.
There is a thick wall between parents and their children, between a husband and a wife, between neighbors, between friends, and between church families.
Hebrews calls it “bitter root.”
Verse 15 says,
“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
Bitter roots cause troubles and defile us.
This bitter root could be from others or from our own self.
We can call the bitter roof hatred, jealousy, and prejudice towards other.
How would this bitter root affect our life?
First, it affects the relationship between God and us.
It becomes a wall between God and us, making us not be able to reach or experience the grace of God.
When we try to turn to God, it is important to trust Him.
Without trusting God, we cannot really go toward Him.
But, there are things that interrupt us when we try to trust God.
We cannot trust God because of this.
We cannot love God because of this.
We cannot feel deeply moved by God because of this.
What causes all of this?
That is the bitter root.
If bitter roots are still in us, we cannot be touched during the worship, we cannot feel joyful during the praises, and we cannot be thankful.
When there are still hatred, jealousy, prejudice, and doubts towards others in us, it is difficult that we turn and go toward God
It becomes a wall between God and us.
Also, this bitter root can destroy one’s life.
In verse 15, it says “no bitter root grows up to cause trouble.”
Bitter roots can cause troubles within us.
It is us who suffer from hatred, jealousy, and prejudice towards others.
Paul hated Christians before he became an apostle.
But, he met Jesus on the way to Damascus and was changed.
Later, he gives a testimony of his change of heart.
He describes the voice of Jesus like this “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 23:14)
Persecuting and hating others, in fact, makes him suffer from it.
Have you watched a movie, “Amadeus”?
It is an old movie about Mozart.
In the movie, there was another main character, named Antonio Salieri.
Antonio Salieri was a great musician.
He composed many beautiful songs.
He was also in charge of music in the Royal Palace.
He thought of himself as the best musician.
One day, he listened to a music composed by Mozart and it was shocking to him.
Something started to arise from his mind.
It was a feeling of jealousy.
After this, he could not happy about his own life and his life became miserable.
Bitter roots in his mind destroyed his life.
Yes, bitter roots destroy not only the relationship with God, but also our own self and life.
And, bitter roots also defile others.
Verse 15 says “no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
Who are defiled? Many...
Yes, bitter roots in us negatively affects others’ life.
Those who give others a hard time, teasing and picking on others, usually have many wounds in them.
Those who with wounds are usually aggressive, destructive, and critical towards others.
Bitter roots not only destroy oneself, but also make others suffer.
We should break the wall of bitter roots, which destroys ourselves, make other people suffer, and make us not to be able to reach the grace of God.
And we should live pleasing God and building a bridge of peace.
In order to do that, we first have to try to find the causes of the bitter roots we have.
Those who have a deep wound usually find the causes of the wound from others.
However, many times, the wounds are from ourselves, not from others.
In verse 16 it says,
“See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.”
It is the story of Jacob and Esau.
Jacob, of course, deceived his brother Esau.
Approaching to a starving brother, with food in order to get the inheritance rights is deceiving.
But, Esau also did a wrong thing.
He lost the inheritance right, the special right as the oldest son, in order to fill up his stomach at the moment.
And then, he hates his brother.
Esau does not see what he did wrong, but thinks that all these were caused by his brother.
So, he becomes aggressive.
Before finding causes of the wounds from others, we have to be responsible for our own wounds.
No one wants to admit one’s own wrongdoings.
Christians are the same.
But, we need to learn how to admit our own wrongdoings.
Then, we can live in peace.
After admitting our own faults, we have to be able to forgive ourselves.
We should break free from them.
God loves us.
And God wants us to love ourselves as well.
So, we have to love and forgive ourselves.
Brothers and sisters, forgive yourself.
And then love your family, friends, and neighbors.
Forgive all, even the ones who deeply hurt you.
That’s how you can break the wall of bitter roots in your mind.
And that’s how you can live in peace and reconcile with others.
I hope we all live making peace.
Be an instrument of peace.
In Romans 12: 18, Paul says,
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Jesus gave us this mission.
To make us break the wall and live at peace with everyone…
We have to pull out all the bitter roots of hatred, jealousy, frustration, and anger from the deepest bottom of our hearts.
We have to break the wall of prejudice and misunderstanding.
And as Jesus showed us, we should live making peace with everyone.
Are you building a wall or a bridge?
As a follower of Jesus, we should build a bridge of reconciliation.
We should be the instrument of peace so we can make our community be in peace.
In the early 12th, wars were going on in Europe.
When the Crusades were about to occur, people were all angry at the Muslims and they wanted to kill them.
And their feeling of hatred caused the war to happen.
Crusaders were recruited and they were deployed.
Looking at crusaders marching the street, a young monk said, “We will lose. God cannot bless us on this because this all started from hostility and anger.”
And he started recruiting his own crusaders, “Crusaders of peace.”
They went to the war with Bibles in their hands instead of sward.
And they begged for forgiveness.
This monk, the leader of the crusaders of peace, was Saint Francis.
He prayed before going to the war.
“Lord, make me an instrument of peace. / Where there is hatred, let me sow love; / Where there is injury, pardon; / Where there is doubt, faith; / Where there is despair, hope; / Where there is darkness, light; / Where there is sadness, joy. / Let me console than to be consoled. / Let me understand than to be understood. / Let me love than to be loved.”
Brothers and sisters, let us all be the instrument of peace.
In this meaningful time, wrapping up the year of 2018, I hope our life be filled with works of peace and reconciliation. Amen.