Friday, October 7, 2016

Shalom (Psalm 122:8-9) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

Here are some of the most expensive meals in the world:

  • At the Fijimake restaurant in Tokyo you can get a bowl of Ramen for $110.
  • The Capital Dawg restaurant in Sacramento, California serves up "The Ultra-Dog," the world's most expensive hot dog at $145.99.
  • The Westin Hotel in New York City offers a white truffle bagel that sells for $1,000.
  • You can enjoy Britain's Wagyu Meat Pie and its savory combination of six pounds of Kobe beef and matsutake mushrooms which sells for $16,000 per pie.
  • And in Italy, Chef Viola's "Louis XIII" pizza, loaded with lobster, caviar, eight different types of cheese, and seasoned with hand-picked pink Australian river salt, sells for $12,000. 

Are you ready to make a reservation and invite someone to dinner?   It makes the hot dogs at Petco park seem inexpensive.

And yet, there is meal far costlier than these!   Today is World Communion Sunday and God offers Salvation and Holy Communion or The Lord's Supper, the most expensive meal in the world.  What is the price; free of charge.  This supper is an expression of salvation by grace, because Jesus paid the ultimate price on the cross, that we could never have paid, no one can pay it, not even Donald trump, in order to forgive our sin, heal us, make us right with God and restore our relationship with God.

World Communion Sunday was established by the Protestant Church in 1936 and this year marks its 80th anniversary.    I believe the day has taken on new relevancy and depth of meaning in a world often divided by fear, hatred, violence and ideology, exemplified by our war with radical extremist Islam.   On this day we believers celebrate our oneness in Christ, the Prince of Peace, in the midst of a world we are called to love in the name of Christ, a world in need of unity and harmony and justice.

This table to which the Lord invites you this morning is God's table - not ours.  It’s an open table, not a closed one.  It is a table which welcomes repentant sinners and forgiven sinners, flawed men, women, and children of every culture, language, age, racial/ethnic group, social/economic level, and nationality.  We are invited by our Lord to enter into spiritual communion with Him and one another, together with those who have died and are now members of the Communion of Saints in glory.

We come to the table united with our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, reminded that while being fully aware of our differences, while we are cognizant of the things we don’t have in common, we also celebrate all that we have in common – one Lord, one baptism, one faith, one gospel, one church, one message and one mission.

Today is represented by the Hebrew word for peace, shalom.   Shalom is a Jewish greeting – it means “hello or good-bye.”  We say: “Have a nice day” or “How are you” or “How’s your day going” or “later.”  Young people say – “Yo dude” or “Hey” or “Wass Up.”  They are simple greetings and don’t have any hidden or deep meanings or connotations.  Shalom is very different.  It is also a spiritual reality.  And it’s a prayer.  I don’t think “later dude” is a prayer.  I pray that you might experience God’s shalom.

God sent His Son Jesus as the Messiah to bring shalom to the world.  God desires for us to experience life as shalom, life in its fullness, in its completeness, in its wholeness.    We say: “Wow, today was a great day.”  A Jew says: “Today I experienced Shalom.”  And when we look at our lives and life with eyes of faith, we will discover that shalom is a reality in life.

So Shalom is a comprehensive Hebrew word containing many layers and facets of meaning.  It means to experience God’s wide range of blessings: like a spiritual encounter, a divine human encounter, where you know, in your heart of hearts, that you just had an encounter with God or you experienced God’s grace.  You know beyond a doubt that it could only have been God acting in your life.  Shalom includes God’s blessing of material prosperity, where God makes provision for your material needs; it includes a sense of satisfaction,  fulfillment, of feeling whole and complete, rather than broken or fragmented;  it includes the blessing of health or recovery from illness;  it includes spiritual well-being or inner-peace in your relationship with God; it includes receiving courage from God to face the unknown or something that frightens you; it includes experiencing righteousness and justice where there has been injustice in your life; it includes experiencing the blessing of harmony in your relationships, where before there had been discord; it includes the blessing of peace, where before there was conflict and hostility; it includes the blessing of true joy, enjoyment, and it includes the blessing of rest.  So you see the depth and the many layers of God’s shalom.  The Bible is not speaking about some fantasy or pie in the sky, but a reality in life today.

Hebrew wraps all that into a single word.  It is one of the most important words or concepts or realities in the Bible and in our Judeo/Christian tradition.  There is no word in the English language which even comes close to it.

The psalmist says:  “Pray for the Shalom of Jerusalem.  May they who love you prosper.  Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.  I will say peace be within you.  For the sake of the House of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.”  Another psalmist writes:  “May the Lord give strength to His people.  May the Lord bless His people with peace.”  Jesus says: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”  Hear the many layers of God’s Shalom in the psalmist’s prayers.

But Shalom is even more: it’s a calling, a divine commission, to God’s people and to you and me.  God calls us to bring shalom wherever we are, in whatever we do, and to whomever we are with.  Shalom also means to work for the highest good for others.   We are to seek good for others.  We are to bring people into God’s kingdom so that they might experience communion with God.

I think of homeless people, families, men, women, and children living on the streets of our city.  We know there is a human personality, a human story, behind each face.  It is a tragic reality of life.  God calls us, the church, the synagogue, the government, the Veteran’s Administration, non-profit organizations, to bring Shalom to these people.  To not be stopped by negative or pessimistic or prejudicial feelings, but to let our faith and values move us to bring a word of God, a word of love, a word of Shalom.

And so we here at PBPC offer our Sunday Night Ministry, meals and hospitality, to homeless people, and our partnership with CCSA and our mail service to hundreds of homeless people in our city.  We are not alone, but in partnership in God’s work of shalom.

God also calls us to look at our family, our friends, our relatives, colleagues, people close to us, and further ask the question, how does God want me to work in partnership with him in bringing Shalom to these people.

One writer put it this way: “Unless I'm at peace with God, I'm not part of the solution; I'm still part of the problem.  But in Jesus I can be an instrument of God's peace.  Following Jesus is not only a matter of enjoying peace in my heart or in my relationship with God.  Jesus calls us to join his movement of bringing shalom to a broken world.”

The Bible reminds us that God has a plan to one day fully bring his shalom to the world.  We pray for God’s peace and pray that God will use us in His great work. Shalom is here in this world now. Where God’s will is being done, wherever the Kingdom reigns, wherever people experience salvation, we see Shalom.  But Shalom is also coming. We look to the future.  It’s a guaranteed hope which God is bringing to this world.  Here is the vision in book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible.

See, the home of God is among mortals.  God will dwell with them as their God and they will be his peoples, God will be with them and will wipe every tear from their eyes, death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain will cease.”

I close with the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the 12th century Franciscan order of monks: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith in you; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.  O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”   Shalom!

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