Sunday, May 1, 2016
One of the most bizarre true stories to hit the news media in the 1990s was that of Tracy Lippard, a contestant destined for the Miss Virginia beauty pageant. Unfortunately, after winning the title of Miss Williamsburg, VA. Tracy never made it to the Miss Virginia pageant. Instead, Tracy got in her car and drove 275 miles to Lewisburg, W.Va. Her goal was to seek revenge against her boyfriend who had jilted her for another woman. Reportedly she carried a 9-mm semiautomatic pistol, a butcher knife, a pair of rubber gloves, a bottle of lighter fluid and a claw hammer.
When she arrived at the home of her rival, she rang the doorbell. The father answered the door. Tracy told him that her car had broken down and she asked to use the phone. It was a con of course. Once inside, she hit the father with the hammer. It stunned him, but didn’t knock him out. She then pulled the gun and attempted to shoot him. Little did she know that he was an ex-secret service agent. At this point his wife, joined the skirmish and they held Tracy until the police arrived.
After being arrested, the police questioned her as to why she would do such a terrible thing? She said that she was motivated to seek revenge because she needed “inner peace.”
I suspect that most of us long for some form of inner peace, but we don’t go to the extreme to gain it. Still, we long for it. That’s why John 14:27 is a favorite verse for so many people. Jesus says to His disciples: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. Which so similar to today’s verse, I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace.
Let me begin by asking an important question: do you have a peaceful mind? Well, of course, you answer. Really? Let me ask a second question: Is there anyone in this room who is a worrier? Is anyone in this room married to a worrier?
One woman wrote to a national magazine to say that every year her family would get on a highway and after getting a few miles out of the city her mom would wail, “Oh my goodness! I think left the iron on.” And almost every year they would turn around and go back. But as far as she could recall, not once was the iron ever plugged in. It seems her mom was dominated by the fear that all their earthly possessions would disappear in a fire caused by her forgetfulness.
That was a family ritual, she says, until she was about 14 years old. On that occasion they were headed to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and, sure enough, her mom gasped, “I just know I left the iron on.” She says this time her father didn’t say a word. He just pulled over onto the shoulder of the road, got out, opened the trunk and handed his wife her iron.
Can anyone relate to that? Worriers are amazing. Has anyone here ever worried about removing a tag from a mattress? Somewhere along the way, most of us have been told that we aren’t supposed to remove the tags from our mattresses because it violates some kind of law. In fact, many mattresses still have tags that say something like, “It is unlawful to remove this tag!”
Maybe you actually removed a tag from a mattress at some time in your life, and you live in fear that someday there will be a knock at your door. A stranger will flash a badge with a warrant to search your house, and he’ll be looking for missing mattress tags.
Let me set your mind at ease. First of all, how would anyone ever know you removed that tag? I mean anyone beside the NSA, and supposedly they’re only interested in terrorists, not missing mattress tags. And, secondly, those tags are on those mattresses for your benefit. It shows that you’re buying a new, never‑been‑used product and to inform you about the contents of the mattress. And it’s only against the law to remove the tag prior to the sale and delivery of a mattress to the consumer. Once you have purchased the mattress, you can remove it.
I hope I’ve set your mind at ease at least about one thing, those of you who go to great lengths to find something to worry about. Of course, I’m being silly, but I am always amazed at the things people can find to worry about.
We need to hear these words from our Lord, I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. Jesus was preparing His disciples for living in the world without His physical presence.
After all, these are men who are preparing to go into battle. They didn’t know it, but many of them will suffer horrible deaths because of their loyalty to Jesus. They will need to be filled with the right stuff to face the challenges they will encounter. It wouldn’t be a matter of simply remembering to unplug the iron or removing a tag from a mattress. It would be gladiator pits, lions, swords, and crosses. So Christ says to His disciples, I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace.
You and I may not be facing the challenges that the disciples of Jesus faced. Like gladiator pits, lions, swords or crosses. But we walk around burdened by many issues of life: unsure about how we’re going to pay the house payment and still save for our child’s education; concerned about the possible loss of our job or whether our children or grandchildren will even be able to find a job; anxious about how we’re going to make it without a loved one.
Whatever our issue is, life happens and when it does, it sometimes sends our world into a tail spin. It’s good to know that Jesus has already spoken peace into our situation. He has your well-being at heart. Hope, therefore, in the Lord and trust in Him. His word says that everything is working out for your wellbeing (Romans 8:28). We may not see it now but we believe that things will get better. The thing about hopelessness is that it makes us helpless because we see no way out. Abiding in Christ’s peace reminds us that there is hope, and so we can keep moving forward and refuse to give up.
Last year the city of Spencer, South Dakota was devastated by a tornado. Six people were killed. Many buildings were destroyed including St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church. The day after the tornado a group from St. Matthew’s walked with their pastor through the rubble. It was an unbelievable sight. There was a grain elevator on the ground, a water tower toppled, vehicles and other heavy items scattered around like toys. Whole buildings were gone from their foundations. When they neared the site of their church someone called out, “There’s the statue, there’s Jesus!” Sure enough, there it was, the traditional white statue of Jesus that stood on the altar of that small church, with outstretched arms. And there the statue stood, all that was left of a 100-year old Lutheran church.
The white paint on the statue was nearly gone and the arms were cracked. Someone that day said, I didn’t notice the damage, it was just so remarkable, so moving and so fitting to look up from the chaos around us and see Jesus, arms outstretched, welcoming, and loving his people.
What that group of church members learned only later was how two young girls, helping to clean up a nearby home, had taken time to come over to where the church had been to set aside a few items of church property they found scattered in the area. When they saw the statue lying in the rubble they figured everyone in Spencer needed to know that Jesus was still there, so they stood Him up for all to see. That’s our purpose today as His Church, to raise up Jesus where a fearful world can see Him.
Before He left them, Jesus gave His disciples what they needed most--peace, a peace that passes understanding. It was the peace that comes from knowing that no matter how serious the situation that they find themselves in, Christ was still there with outstretched arms. I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. Christ’s peace will always be with us. That’s the greatest good news that we’ll ever hear. No matter what our circumstances, Christ will be with us.
I know that some of you are concerned about your future. With life spans being dramatically extended, will you have enough financial resources to last to the end? Will your health hold up? Some of you are concerned about your children’s future. A few of you are concerned about your parents’ future. Someone has said the best thing about tomorrow is that tomorrow only comes one day at a time.
A scholar once scanned the Scriptures to discover the most significant words in all the Bible. He wanted to find the saddest word, the happiest word, the most emotional word and so on. When he came around to the Bible’s most dangerous word, he identified it as tomorrow. The word tomorrow is a thief, he said, that robs dreamers of their dreams and the talented of their greatest achievements. It keeps us from coming to Christ and discovering the kind of life God wants us to have.
There’s a story of a philosophical clock, one day it meditated about its future? It had just been bought and placed on a shelf in a large farmhouse. As soon as it was wound up for the first time it began to worry about all the work it had to do. It had to tick twice every second. That meant 120 ticks every minute, or 7,200 ticks every hour, or 172,800 every day. Each year it would have to tick 63,072,000 times, and in ten years it would have to tick 630,720,000 times. Those kinds of numbers were just too much for the clock’s nervous system, and it “passed out.”
But when it came to again, it had a flashing insight: it realized that it only had to tick one tick at a time. Not 630 million, or even 63 times. Just once! And anyone can tick once. This insight gave the clock a powerful shot of courage, and it went about its duty of ticking, which it has been doing for twenty-five years now.
Just one tick at a time. Sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? Someone else put it this way:
By the yard, life is hard;
By the inch, it’s a cinch.
All too often we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by our problems, and we lose our perspective. We think to ourselves that it’s the end of the world. But I can assure you that it’s not. Tomorrow the sun is going to rise again. Birds will be singing and flowers will be blooming. You’ll still have food to eat and clothes to wear, and you’ll be able continue with your life.
I know that some of you this message will go in one ear and out the other. I sometimes wonder if the need to worry is in our genes. I read something recently about our Jewish friends. One of the stereotypes about Jews is that they worry a lot. I didn’t think much about that until I read about a book titled, 14,000 Things for Jews to be Happy About. This amazing list of things for Jews to be happy about in order to brighten the mood of worry‑prone people. The book, was a commercial failure, but later achieved success under a new title: 14,000 Things That Could Go Wrong.
It appears that many Jews would rather worry than find reasons to be happy. Go figure. But, many Christians are like that as well. We need to hear Jesus speak a good Jewish word to our hearts, shalom, peace. He’s always there for you with His arms open wide. Cast your cares on Him. I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace.