Sermon: Peacemakers & Children of God (Matthew 5: 8, 9)
This morning, our fifth Sunday of Lent, we study Jesus’ very beautiful beatitudes:
Vs. 8 – Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Vs. 9 – Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Pure in heart – what does it mean to be pure? It isn’t a word used very much today. Have you ever heard someone described as being “pure?” Jane is very pure. John has a very pure nature. We rarely use this word today to describe people. We may use this word to describe things. We think of purity as something unpolluted, untarnished, unblemished, free of contamination, and for people, we could think of purity as innocence, someone free from malice or falsehood. The pure in heart see God, Jesus tells us. To be pure, or to become pure, takes God’s intervention, I believe, because our human nature at its base level is not pure. We have natural tendencies to be greedy, to grab for more, to be selfish, to covet, to lust. We don’t like to admit these qualities, but I think that if you took away our laws, our boundaries, our morals, and society’s rules of conduct and expected behaviour, I think we would become citizens out to get what we could get.
Imagine, just as an example, that suddenly with the wave of a magic wand, all land boundaries were gone. No one owned their land anymore. Your little patch of earth ownership is gone. All land is up for grabs. And you want your stake in it. How would you react? Where would you go? I know exactly where I’d go. I’d head for a river or a lake because I’ve wanted water-front property for years! I’d probably hightail out of town as quick as I could get, find a favourite watering hole and put up my stake in the biggest area of land I could claim right by the water. Big enough to swim in and have a rowboat! I’d put a bright yellow rope around my property, and I’d say – this is Mary’s land. This is mine. No trespassing. And I’d probably fight tooth and nail to hold onto it! I am being absolutely honest. And you know what, you would do exactly the same! If we had no land boundaries or law enforcement, could you imagine the stampede? Everyone would be on a rampage. Every single person would be out to get what they could get. We would fiercely fight for what we thought was ours, our claim. Pure in heart? Peacemakers? Not very likely.
This is how the wild west was won. By our ancestors, the white immigrants from Europe. Our First Nations peoples had their land taken away from them. It’s not a happy story for the North American aboriginal peoples. It’s not a happy story for what they considered for centuries and generations their homeland. They are still trying to get back property which our governments in the past promised to return to them, but haven’t. The aboriginal peoples were put onto reservations, as you know, and their children forcibly taken to residential schools. If history were rewritten, how would you have liked the shoe on the other foot? How would you have liked your little children aged five or six years old, to be taken miles and miles away from you, so far away that you had no contact with them, your influence on their life was minimal, and your children were being indoctrinated into another way of life, your culture was treated as substandard, and your community ties, your religion, your language, your lands, everything you knew was being eradicated? How would you have liked that? Pure of heart? Peacemakers? Our First Nations brothers and sisters continue to live on polluted lands with polluted drinking water, they face oppression, unemployment and stigma even today. Are we Canadian citizens pure in heart? Again, if the shoe were put on the other foot, would we put up with it? Would you put up with polluted, toxic drinking water? What does it take to get us out of our comfort zone? What does it take to seek peaceful goodwill for all? What does it take to bring something as basic as the peace of a good living, a healthy living, for all?
Peacemakers are blessed, says Jesus, for peacemakers will be called the children of God. In the land of the Zulu people in South Africa, there is a small, well-kept cemetery beside a simple, white-painted church, and one of the graves has one simple word carved on its marker: “Peacemaker.” When asked, the Zulu people say that it was a white man, a missionary, who brought peace to the community over and over again. Whenever there was strife of any kind – between families, relatives, tribes or chiefs, “Peacemaker” as he was called would be in the fray, and he wouldn’t leave until peace was attained and the conflict resolved. Sometimes, the people said, Peacemaker would be hit, people would throw rocks at him and resent his interference, but Peacemaker would position himself between the fighting parties, talk to both sides, and he wouldn’t leave until a peaceful resolution was attained. The people really missed him. They missed his mediation. He was simply called Peacemaker, and that was his name on his grave marker.
What lengths would we go to bring peace? Would we stay, despite the odds, to bring peace to others? I think too often we walk away, we don’t want to get involved, we don’t like conflict, we don’t know what to do, we don’t feel comfortable, we run away from strife. But blessed are the peacemakers, says Jesus. Peace isn’t always easy to attain or keep. It too often slips through our fingers. We can lose peace by just one angry word or expression or action. We can offer peace with just one kind word or expression or action. The job of the peacemaker and the pure of heart is no easy task. But true purity desires true peace. The natural outcome from being pure in heart is the desire for peace. The Beatitudes teach that the pure in heart “see” God, and peacemakers are called the children of God.
The world can bring us strife, we know, but the peace which Jesus brings is a divine and powerful, lasting peace. John 14: Jesus says: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” Jesus speaks of God’s peace. It is through Christ’s Spirit that we receive this peace. And it is through Christ’s Spirit that we offer this peace to others. John 15: Jesus says: “I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit.” Jesus is going to equip us to do just that – through His Spirit. Jesus equips us to be pure of heart and peacemakers to work for Him – through His Spirit. It is not through our own doing. We become revitalized and energized and empowered by Christ through His Spirit to become pure-in-heart peacemakers Christ would be proud of. When we ask Christ to enable us, to equip us, he will. And when this happens, we “see” God. We are literally the children of God doing God’s work.
May we become the pure-in-heart and peacemakers which God and Jesus enable us and intend us to be. Amen.