All They Are Saying is Give Peace a Chance
"All We are Saying is Give Peace a Chance" was the antiwar song that brought the 60s to a close. The chorus is just about all that anyone remembers. That the song had a distinctive religious meaning is shown by the fact a Hindu chant "Hare, Hare, Krishna" is included in it. "All We are Saying is Give Peace a Chance" could be the theme song for many mainline churches which in Christ's name doesn't judge anything, in Christ's name welcome all Christians to their altar, in Christ's name say "peace will guide the planets/ and love will steer the stars." There is a marriage going on between the songs that made the 60s and 21st century theology. Is this a marriage made in heaven or hell?
First, don't you wish that all the enemies of God could be dealt with by just giving peace a chance? Like the war on drugs that Nancy Regan thought could be waged by just saying No,' to drugs just say love,' just say acceptance.' If the 60s taught us anything, putting on a happy face made everything better. Those of you raised in the 90s should recognize the 1963 song "Put on A Happy Face" in the Lion King's "Hakuna Matata." And O that peace in this fallen world could be established by slapping on a grin or repeating, "No worries; be happy."
Yes, if peace could be established by following the plea of Rodney King, "Can't we just all get along" or by "agreeing to disagree" I would be all for that. I'm an everyday person. You know that song. "Makes no difference what group I'm in/ I am no better and neither are you/ We are the same whatever we do." We should all be against the "blue one who can't accept the green one/ For living with a fat one trying to be a skinny one."
All they are saying is give peace a chance, and I'd be all for it if that's all it took for God to deal with His enemies. Sin, Death, and Devil are hell-bent on destroying all of His Creation. War erupted in the absolute peace of heaven started by the Devil, and then the Old Evil Foe slithered into the peace on earth that was Eden and brought Sin and Death to perfect Adam and Eve. And if I could make peace with Sin, with Death, and the Devil simply by putting on a happy face, saying no worries, or just by giving peace a chance, I would do it.
Forty 40 years ago there was an inscription beneath the sign for the U.S. Army Ranger School that read something like "These facilities are dedicated to the men who have given their lives so that lesser men could cry Peace, Peace' when there was none." I don't know if they were copying Jeremiah 6 where the Lord condemns the prophet and the priest who "healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace," but they could have been.
Do you think I would heal the war that Sin, Death, and the Devil bring by saying there is peace between those who say God says don't baptize that baby August and those who say God says baptize baby August? Would I heal the conflict between the words "this is My Body" and "this is a symbol of My Body" just by saying give peace a chance? Would I bring peace to those caught up in the Sin and Death of heterosexual or homosexual sins by saying "I accept you?" Do you think the Devil who seeks to keep people in bondage all their lives by the fear of Death that their sins stir up is willing to give peace a chance?
Remember when Paul says there is no Law that can impart righteousness, forgiveness, life? When all they are saying is give peace a chance, they are appealing for you to do something, a law. Paul says "If righteousness could be gained through a law, Christ died for nothing." For God to establish peace it took nothing less than the holy innocent living of His Son and His unholy, horrible dying on the cross.
Sin, Death, and the Devil started the war with flesh and blood people. Jesus took on flesh and blood in the Virgin's womb in order to be able to finish it in our place. What made the battle unwinnable for us, was the club which Sin, Death, and the Devil beat us over the head with which was God's holy Law. You know not even the dot of an i or the cross of a t will ever pass away from God's Word according to Jesus. That goes not only for the promises of the Gospel but the demands of God's Law.
Sin, Death, and the Devil use that Holy Law against you. Where do you think those accusations you hear ringing in your ears come from? You're not the man or woman, boy or girl God says you should be and here are the Words of God that prove it. You don't do this, and you don't do that. You set aside God's Law here, here, and here. And what does God's Law say you deserve? Even if you fail at only one point of the Law you are guilty of it all, and you deserve what anyone does who sins against the Eternal God: eternal punishment, eternal death, not just suffering today but for all the tomorrows that will ever be.
Have you ever tried to make peace with Sin, Death, and the Devil when they are plowing up your conscience by just giving peace a chance? Have you ever been able to silence the accusations of the Devil, the World, or your own Flesh by saying, "O just give peace a chance?" So if it doesn't work for you, why do you think that's all the world really needs? If you can find no peace by just giving it a chance, why do you think that will work for other poor, benighted souls caught up in their sins of living, believing, thinking?
No, in order to establish peace, the Law that Sin, Death, and Devil use had to be kept in our flesh and blood. Jesus did that. Every place you and I fail to stand, Jesus did stand. Every temptation we give into, Jesus did not. Every harsh, unbelieving word we think or utter, Jesus didn't. But there was still hell to pay.
That's what Jesus has in view when He says, "I have a baptism to undergo and how distressed I am until it is completed." All the judgment, all the pain, all the damning and dying God's Holy Law demands requires from the man who sins but once was waiting for Jesus. Every time He saw it He was distressed till in Gethsemane the holy, perfect, almighty Son of God's soul was overwhelmed to the point of death and His body was overwhelmed to the point of sweating blood.
That's what it cost for God to defeat Sin, Death, and the Devil and to establish peace between sinners and Himself. All the platitudes in eternity put on a happy face, give peace a chance, don't worry be happy don't quench the fires of judgment every sinner knows in his conscience are waiting for him; can't answer the accusations of the Law hurled at your conscience by the Devil; don't give you a moments peace. It took God the Son giving up His holy body in your place and shedding His holy blood for you. And that reconciled God; that made God the friend of sinners; Jesus' innocent life and holy death made God, according to Romans 5, the One who justifies the ungodly.
This is the fire Jesus came to bring on earth. As in the Old Testament Yahweh sent fire from heaven to kindle the Divine Service, so the resurrected Yahweh sent it from heaven on Pentecost. Remember how tongues of fire appeared and the apostles began to preach the mighty works of God? What more mighty works could there be than saving sinners from sins they can't save themselves from, than saving fallen people from a fallen world, than saving humans from superhuman devils? O there is one mightier work, and that is establishing peace between the Holy God and unholy mankind.
The fires of Pentecost, New Testament worship, are found today in the Word of God. You don't have New Testament worship apart from those Words. You don't have peace with God without those words. You don't have the forgiveness of sins, the justification of the ungodly, or life from the dead apart from those words. Those words from God not any peaceful, easy feeling welling up from within give peace to sinners.
Yet these Words also bring division. Jesus didn't come to bring peace to sinners in their sins or with their sins as the world does. The world says you establish peace by overlooking sins, by accepting sins, by saying, "Since we all are sinners, we can't be divided from each because some sinners accept their sins." No Jesus came to divide sinners from their sins, and He does this not by your feelings of acceptance but by His Word of judgment and grace. And that Word separates those who accept it and those who reject it.
Right here is the end of the world as we know it. Jesus goes to a passage in Micah to show the depth of the division His Word brings. In Micah the passage shows the impending destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus uses it to show that in Him has come the final destruction of the world. And that destruction, says Scripture is by fire. You know the only safe place to stand in a forest fire? In a place that has already been burned.
At Christ's cross, at His empty tomb is where the fires of judgment have already burned over and out. These places are brought to you in time in a Baptism that doesn't distress but forgives, in Words of Absolution that kindle not the fires of judgment but faith, in the Body and Blood of Jesus that separates you from your sins and joins you to your salvation.
It is the Devil, the World, and the Flesh that say all it takes for you to have peace is for you to give it a chance. No, that's a peace the world understands very well. That's why they sing about it so much. The peace Jesus gives is a peace He says the world cannot give, a peace that passes all human understanding. It's such a radical peace that Jesus could give it to the disciples who had betrayed Him, forsaken Him, denied Him. Every time He sees them after Easter He says, "Peace be with you." He doesn't say "give peace a chance;" He gives peace. And if He can give it to those most wretched sinners, I can give it to you. And I do. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (20160814); Luke 12: 49-53