Sunday, December 3

sermon: heaven on earth

Sermon: First Advent, 2006
Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler

Peace on Earth
- U2

Heaven on Earth, we need it now
I'm sick of all of this hanging around
Sick of sorrow, sick of the pain
I'm sick of hearing again and again
That there's gonna be peace on Earth

Where I grew up there weren't many trees
Where there was we'd tear them down
And use them on our enemies
They say that what you mock
Will surely overtake you

And you become a monster
So the monster will not break you
And it's already gone too far
You say that if you go in hard
You won't get hurt

Jesus can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth

Tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth

No whos or whys
No one cries like a mother cries
For peace on Earth

She never got to say goodbye
To see the colour in his eyes
Now he's in the dirt
Peace on Earth

They're reading names out over the radio
All the folks the rest of us won't get to know
Sean and Julia, Gareth, Ann, and Breda
Their lives are bigger than any big idea

Jesus can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth

To tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth

Jesus and the song you wrote
The words are sticking in my throat
Peace on Earth

Hear it every Christmas time
But hope and history won't rhyme
So what's it worth
This peace on Earth
Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth

The song is entitled Peace on Earth and is by the rock group U2, from their 2000 album All That You Can’t Leave Behind.

Their lead singer, Bono, has become quite popular lately for his many political activities…in his work to undo systems of poverty and to bring more awareness of the effects of the AIDS pandemic on the third world and emerging nations.

For each of us there is likely something, some time, or a place that resonates with this song…with the grief expressed.

Bono has his own political agenda to be certain, but the notion he shares, the struggle he shares is common to us all. He grieves and wants to know where God is in the midst of the struggle he perceives. For each of us there is likely something, some time, or a place that resonates with this song…with the grief expressed.

It is not a question of whether his political position is correct, but whether or not he is asking the right questions in the first place…if he is asking the right questions of God. He is speaking out of that place of confusion and hurt. In scripture, the psalms and in other places, this would be called a lamentation. Bono laments. And in singing the song for you this morning, in listening to the song before, I find myself in the midst of my own lament.

I plead for understanding and justice, for God’s mercy for all. O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

For “hope and history won’t rhyme.”

Bono seems to be waiting for the Lord. He prays and begs for some sign. “Jesus, can you take the time to throw a drowning man a line?”

Peace on Earth.

Many of us, too, find difficulty in understanding the proclamations of the holiday season when they are juxtaposed with the world we live in. Some of us don’t look forward to time with family. It is stressful and difficult. Some of us find grief at Christmas and not joy. We find that we say with Bono…“Jesus in the song you wrote…these words are sticking in my throat…Peace on Earth.”

Feelings such as these don’t seem to belong to Christmas, or to Advent. But if we take a closer look at the scripture passages for this evening, we may find that such frustration does indeed have a place. Jeremiah speaks of a promise fulfilled in the midst of difficult times, earth shattering, difficult times. And he does not imagine some panacea for the people. Jeremiah is speaking of a real salvation, a political shift in the landscape. He is not speaking of something that simply resides in the imagination. He proclaims something human, something possible, and someone real.
33:14 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 33:15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 33:16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: "The LORD is our righteousness."
Jeremiah speaks of real salvation because he is speaking of real grief and real struggle.

So too does Jesus in our passage from Luke. So often, I believe, our tendency is to fall into the trap of wondering why Jesus sets up this impossible timeline and why Luke holds on to it in his retelling of the Gospel story. We start thinking in terms of hours and days and weeks. We may find ourselves reading the newspaper trying to find the signs of Christ’s coming. “Heaven on earth,” we say, “we need it now.”

The Advent of God is the preparation, the waiting for what is…The end times are at hand…they are now. They always have been. God is here. God is the Great I am, Emmanuel, the Word, the Alpha and the Omega. Whenever God appears the world collapses upon itself.

And this evening the symbols and strange language in Luke find their meaning in God’s promise of peace. With the coming of Jesus, peace is the natural order of things. Anything else is out of alignment. It is not the other way around. Thus, like Bono, we proclaim hopefully: Peace on Earth.

Brothers and sisters, we do not worship the God who is The Great I Will Be. We worship the Great I AM.

Peace on Earth!

Bono seems hesitant to me. I think he find hypocrisy in the words. But only at first. For me, in the repetition of the phrase “Peace on Earth,” it becomes a proclamation. And the proclamation becomes stronger. The song becomes something other than a lament.

It is a rally cry, a statement not simply of belief, but of a divine reality revealed. Bono proclaims its presence, not its possibility. And in doing so he indicts all who cannot live in peace, who will not live in peace, who refuse to live in peace. And he proclaims God’s enduring presence.

Bono is not the first to do this. Longfellow gifted us with a similar statement. Many of you know these words…

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

This poem was written during the American Civil War. Longfellow was responding to real grief, was seeking real political reform.

The poem concludes.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

The Great Am is coming. Emmanuel, God with us, is here.

Peace on Earth!