Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
PEACE AND PERSISTENCE IN PROCLAIMING TRUTH AND JUSTICE
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
14 JANUARY 1990
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (James 1:12)
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
We were talking last Monday night at the Bible study, and it was said that this is a loving church.
But God wants us to be more than just a loving church; He also wants us to be a doing church.
We are to proclaim both peace and justice.
And even more importantly, we are to live peace and justice for the benefit of the whole of God's creation: for our fellow human beings, for the animals, and for the world we all live in.
And as we talked about last week, our actions speak louder than our words.
Most of the time, people only hear about what we are doing.
This past April, we talked about how Peter and John did just what we are talking about.
As they were entering the temple, they met a man who had been lame for 40 years, and they healed him.
As they did this, they brought peace and justice to the man; and by their action, they proclaimed it to the world.
But not everyone in the world wants to hear or see the truth; and as we look at Acts Chapter 4, beginning at verse 5, we see such a reaction:
5. And it came about on the next day, that their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem;
6. and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent.
7. And when they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, "By what power, or in what name, have you done this?"
Now these religious leaders didn't have to ask these questions, for they very well knew the answer; for Caiaphas was one of those who plotted against Jesus (Matthew 26:3-4):
3. Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas;
4. and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth, and kill Him.
So, note how Peter responds: (Acts 4:8)
8. Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers and elders of the people,
9. if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well,
10. let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by this name this man stands here before you in good health.
Do you see how God uses the good deed to bring forth the proclamation of the truth; a message of joy to those who would believe, and a message of conviction to those who fight against it?
Peter continues with his testimony of Jesus:
11. "He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the very corner stone.
Peter is reminding these leaders that they were entrusted with building the faith, but that they have rejected that responsibility; and in spite of them, God has made Jesus the very corner stone of faith for the people they failed.
12. "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved."
Peter and John brought justice to the lame man; and through that act, they brought that man, and many others, to believe in Jesus Christ and to praise God.
The religious leaders didn't want that. They wanted all the glory for themselves. But Peter and John are standing firmly against them in defense of the truth.
13. Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.
14. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply.
They and everyone with them knew that they were full of lies. And Peter's words of truth, spoken in a peaceful manner, were more powerful than anything they could conjure up from their evilness.
15. But when they had ordered them to go aside out of the Council, they began to confer with one another,
16. saying, "What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.
17. "But in order that it may not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to any man in this name."
Even after just admitting the truth, and the fact that a miracle had happened, they want to deny others of benefiting from similar events and words, in order that they not lose the limelight.
These leaders didn't want the people to look to God. They wanted the people to look to them.
18. And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
Do you think these leaders frightened Peter and John?
What would you do in a similar situation?
And how do you think that Peter and John answered them?
Do you think they answered as you would have?
19. But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge;
20. for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard."
See, they didn't give in to corruption. They stood fast to what they knew was the will of the Lord.
And they let the knowledgeable religious leaders put the nails in their own coffins.
21. And when they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which they might punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened;
22. for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.
Because Peter and John and the man who was healed stood firmly against these corrupt leaders, even to the point of possibly being put to death or severely punished, their witness to the people was even greater.
We are all to be like Peter and John.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was also one of those people who proclaimed peace and justice during his lifetime; and by his life, he showed others the love of Jesus Christ.
He was against violence, yet he didn't walk away from the oppression imposed on others.
He didn't go along with others when he knew that what was being done was against the teachings of Jesus Christ.
He confronted the evil of the world by being present and visible, and standing or peacefully marching against what was being done.
He was both hated and loved by many, just as Peter and John were, and as many true believers have been through the ages.
And their deeds and voices still cry out to us today as examples of how we should be.
I want to read to you a portion of a sermon delivered by Dr. King at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, just two months before he was assassinated.
The sermon is entitled, "The Drum Major Instinct" and speaks of what it takes to be a true leader. Even though it is from a different point of view, the message is similar to what we have talked about this morning.
As he neared the end of his sermon, Dr. King seemed to speak almost prophetically about his death and how he wanted to be remembered: as a servant of Jesus Christ.
Every now and then I guess we all think realistically about that day when we will be victimized with what is life's final common denominator – that something we call death. We all think about it. And every now and then I think about my own death, and I think about my own funeral. And I don't think of it in a morbid sense. Every now and then I ask myself, "What is it that I would want said?" and I leave the word with you this morning.
If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don't want a long funeral. And if you get someone to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. Every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize, that isn't important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards, that's not important. Tell him not to mention where I went to school.
I'd like someone to mention that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I'd like for somebody to say that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day, that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day, that I did try to feed the hungry. And I want you to be able to say that day, that I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say, on that day, that I did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.
Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind.
And that's all I want to say ... if I can help someone as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody he's traveling wrong, then my living will not be in vain. If I can do my duty as a Christian ought, if I can bring salvation to a world once wrought, if I can spread the message as the master taught, then my living will not be in vain.
What Martin Luther King, Jr. is saying is not just for the Christian leaders, as we know them, either; it is for each and every one of us.
And why do I say this?
Because Jesus Himself told us this in Revelation 20:6 as He speaks of those who rise in the first resurrection, those who are truly born again in Him:
6. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
All God wants any of us to do is to speak the truth, and do what is just, and to be so full of love that others will know that what we do and say is of God; that through our lives, we will glorify Him.
Martin Luther King, Jr. told the truth about the forces of evil that denied people of color the peace and justice that God afforded them.
And those of you who know me, know that I am constantly speaking out against these same forces of evil that deny animals the peace and justice that God afforded them, because I absolutely believe that it is the root cause of the problem.
When we deny animals their God given right to peace and justice and exploit them for human use, we harden our hearts against feeling their pain and suffering.
And it's this hardened state of being that makes it easier for humans to exploit their fellow human beings.
It's time we stop following along with what the world does.
It's time we truly begin to live completely as Christians, bringing love and peace and justice to a hurting world, just as Jesus and Peter and John and Martin did.
But let's expand this to include the animals in this life changing effort, for as we undermine the root deception of the forces of evil, and it begins to collapse, we can rebuild the unconditional love, peace, and justice that Jesus taught us to spread throughout the whole world.