Rector's Sermon
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Rector's Sermon

Matthew 5:9-10, Peacemakers and Persecution
Lent 5 – March 13, 2005
Rev’d Dr. Mike Michielin

Today I finish my series of sermons on the Sermon on the Mount. It is appropriate today that we celebrate the baptism of Grace Russell. Our baptism is the starting point of a life shaped by this teaching of Jesus. For Dawn and Richard, along with the God-parents, this is what you want to pass on to Grace by word and example. We’ve learned what it means to be ‘poor in spirit’, mourn, meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness, merciful, and pure in heart. Each of these beatitudes is building block for the last two:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Notice how the first and last beatitude end with kingdom of heaven? This phrase, kingdom of heaven, which acts as bookends in the Sermon on the Mount, reminds us that the beatitudes of Jesus describe an altogether and entirely different perspective and way of life from that of the world. This is the life we enter in our baptism. The Christian, although he must live in the world, may not live of the world. We must live alongside and with others in our world, yet we must do so with a Christian mindset that examines everything that happens in the world and how we react to what happens in light of the teachings of Jesus.

For example, a Christian peacemaker understands the world’s calamities and wars in light of the fact that we are all poor in spirit. Why is there war and human discord? The answer for the Christian is simply, sin. As Christians, we accept that our hearts are not always pure. Instead, lust, greed, selfishness, and self-centeredness darken our hearts. The Sermon on the Mount altogether condemns different forms of humanism and idealism that elevate our self-made human potential. We know, according to what Jesus teaches us in the beatitudes, that only God’s mercy and grace can transform our heats so we can be merciful, meek and thus, peaceable. This is what fuels Christian mission. We want all to come to know and follow Jesus because only in and through Him can we experience, not only reconciliation with God, but also with each other.

The one way to point others to Christ is to be a peacemaker. Let me again begin by saying what it is not. A peacemaker is not someone who is easy-going and seeks peace at any price. He is not an appeaser. Appeasement did not stop the Nazis from invading countries in Europe. Peacemakers do not accept evil because there can be no peace if people do not abide by Truth, in particular, God’s Truth. Thus, peacemakers are not content with the status quo or let sleeping dogs lie. They seek peace actively. How do we do this?

It begins with a pure heart. Notice how this beatitude naturally builds on the previous. No action on our part must come from a heart filled with jealousy, envy or a heart that is overly sensitive and defensive. When our heart is not pure, we cannot be meek a prerequisite for peace. A person who is not meek seeks to defend his own interests. There can be no peace if we are primarily concerned to defend our own interests.


Think about what happens in your mind when someone raises some concerns or criticizes you? The first thing that comes into your mind is thoughts such as, “This is not fair. What about my rights, my dues?” Immediately, we go on the defensive and defend ourselves first to ourselves and then to other person. Then we go on the offensive and bring charges against the other person. I was watching a re-run of “Everybody Loves Raymond” last night …
A pure heart does not seek to defend itself but it seeks God’s glory, and thus what is best for the other person. How does this work itself out in practice? Our first reaction to someone who offends us is to do nothing. We need to learn not to speak and listen. At the moment that someone first offends us; our emotions tend to be raw, mixed and overrule our common sense. Our initial reaction often misleads us and gets us into trouble when we act on them. Trish often tells me, it is OK to have emotions, but we are responsible for how we express our emotions, especially if we want to be peacemakers. I think she has a good point. By learning to not speak and listen to what is going on inside us when we are offended, we can let the Spirit guides us towards a healthier state of mind and response.

Once we’ve taken a step back from our initial emotional reactions, we can then be in a position, with God’s help, to seek peace. If someone’s comments ring true, then we can help the person in a calm manner to articulate what they are feeling and apologize for causing harm to this person. Nothing can deflate a tense situation more than saying, “I am sorry.” Sometimes, just saying sorry will not immediately deflate the situation. A person may need time for their anger to subside – husbands, I am sure you’ve experienced this numerous times! So, we need to allow for this.

Remember though what I said before: There can be no true peace apart from truth. Sometimes, people will treat you unjustly, which is what Jesus is talking about in the next beatitude: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. When we seek to be poor in spirit, merciful, pure in heart etc., there will be those who persecute us. This indeed is what happened to Jesus. He was persecuted because he was all these things; no less by the religious types of His day. Why did they persecute and eventually kill Him? Because He was different! He did not abide by their rules and understanding of the world. Christians who seek to be like Christ, which is what the Sermon on the Mount is telling us, will also be persecuted for being different. In countries such as Africa, persecution is much more noticeable. There, the lives of Christian are actually in danger for being Christ-like. Here, we do not need to worry about such a threat. Yet we do need to consider the judgment of those who do not consider themselves poor in spirit as we do.

When we forgot that we are all poor in spirit, we think we can be free to say negative things about someone else. This manifests itself in many ways. For instance, we do this by talking about someone to someone else instead of dealing with the person directly. This can be quite hurtful to the person who is being talked about. Or, when we forget to stand back and first examine our emotions before we speak, and thus, express our selves with uncontrolled anger, we can hurt the other person. In both situations, discord, not peace is the result. A Christian peacemaker will respond to these situations not in kind, but with patience and objectivity. Hard to do, isn’t it. But, keep this in mind. What is expressed outwardly often reveals what is going on in a person’s heart.

Therefore, should we not feel sorry for someone whose heart is full of anger, insecurity or jealousy? Should we not feel sorry for someone whose heart is so intend on defending its own interests, that it cannot let the forgiving mercy of Jesus relieve them? Although in outwardly appearances you may be unjustly treated, have mercy on your offender for the sake of his impure heart.

Lastly, I want to remind you that a Christian peacemaker is not always likeable. This was certainly not the case with Jesus. We often portray in movies and in our minds that clergy should be like this, although there is no such portrayal of leaders in the Scriptures. Moses, David, Paul and even Jesus were not only disliked by those who were not Jews and Christians, but also by their own people. Again, this is because peace does not come at any price. Peace without truth is not peace. Therefore, it is quite normal to have quarrels and divisions in the Church. In fact, it can be a sign that a church is struggling to be faithful. There is nothing worse in a church then malaise. I’d much rather have you get angry with what I say from the pulpit then my sermons put you to sleep. Of course, we cannot be satisfied with quarrels and division. With God’s help we seek resolution and a way forward. Yet the only way forward is to take to heart what it means to be a peacemaker and persecuted for truth’s sake. So I leave you with the question, “Are you willing?” Amen.


March 1305

RECTOR’S REPORT TO ANNUAL VESTRY
Rev’d Dr. Mike Michielin
February 2005Matthew 5:9-10, Peacemakers and Persecution
Lent 5 – March 13, 2005
Rev’d Dr. Mike Michielin

Today I finish my series of sermons on the Sermon on the Mount. It is appropriate today that we celebrate the baptism of Grace Russell. Our baptism is the starting point of a life shaped by this teaching of Jesus. For Dawn and Richard, along with the God-parents, this is what you want to pass on to Grace by word and example. We’ve learned what it means to be ‘poor in spirit’, mourn, meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness, merciful, and pure in heart. Each of these beatitudes is building block for the last two:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Notice how the first and last beatitude end with kingdom of heaven? This phrase, kingdom of heaven, which act as bookends in the Sermon on the Mount, remind us that the beatitudes of Jesus describe an altogether and entirely different perspective and way of life from that of the world. This is the life we enter in our baptism. The Christian, although he must live in the world, may not live of the world. We must live alongside and with others in our world, yet we must do so with a Christian mindset that examines everything that happens in the world and how we react to what happens in light of the teachings of Jesus.

For example, a Christian peacemaker understands the world’s calamities and wars in light of the fact that we are all poor in spirit. Why is there war and human discord? The answer for the Christian is simply, sin. As Christians, we accept that our hearts are not always pure. Instead, lust, greed, selfishness, and self-centeredness darken our hearts. The Sermon on the Mount altogether condemns different forms of humanism and idealism that elevate our self-made human potential. We know, according to what Jesus teaches us in the beatitudes, that only God’s mercy and grace can transform our heats so we can be merciful, meek and thus, peaceable. This is what fuels Christian mission. We want all to come to know and follow Jesus because only in and through Him can we experience, not only reconciliation with God, but also with each other.

The one way to point others to Christ is to be a peacemaker. Let me again begin by saying what it is not. A peacemaker is not someone who is easy-going and seeks peace at any price. He is not an appeaser. Appeasement did not stop the Nazis from invading countries in Europe. Peacemakers do not accept evil because there can be no peace if people do not abide by Truth, in particular, God’s Truth. Thus, peacemakers are not content with the status quo or let sleeping dogs lie. They seek peace actively. How do we do this?

It begins with a pure heart. Notice how this beatitude naturally builds on the previous. No action on our part must come from a heart filled with jealousy, envy or a heart that is overly sensitive and defensive. When our heart is not pure, we cannot be meek a prerequisite for peace. A person who is not meek seeks to defend his own interests. There can be no peace if we are primarily concerned to defend our own interests.


Think about what happens in your mind when someone raises some concerns or criticizes you? The first thing that comes into your mind are thoughts such as, “This is not fair. What about my rights, my dues?” Immediately, we go on the defensive and defend ourselves first to ourselves and then to other person. Then we go on the offensive and bring charges against the other person. I was watching a re-run of “Everybody Loves Raymond” last night …
A pure heart does not seek to defend itself but it seeks God’s glory, and thus what is best for the other person. How does this work itself out in practice? Our first reaction to someone who offends us is to do nothing. We need to learn not to speak and listen. At the moment that someone first offends us, our emotions tend to be raw, mixed and overrules our common sense. Our initial reaction often misleads us and gets us into trouble when we act on them. Trish often tells me, it is OK to have emotions, but we are responsible for how we express our emotions, especially if we want to be peacemakers. I think she has a good point. By learning to not speak and listen to what is going on inside us when we are offended, we can let the Spirit guides us towards a healthier state of mind and response.

Once we’ve taken a step back from our initial emotional reactions, we can then be in a position, with God’s help, to seek peace. If someone’s comments ring true, then we can help the person in a calm manner to articulate what they are feeling and apologize for causing harm to this person. Nothing can deflate a tense situation more than saying, “I am sorry.” Sometimes, just saying sorry will not immediately deflate the situation. A person may need time for their anger to subside – husbands, I am sure you’ve experienced this numerous times! So, we need to allow for this.

Remember though what I said before: There can be no true peace apart from truth. Sometimes, people will treat you unjustly, which is what Jesus is talking about in the next beatitude: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. When we seek to be poor in spirit, merciful, pure in heart etc., there will be those who persecute us. This indeed is what happened to Jesus. He was persecuted because he was all these things; no less by the religious types of His day. Why did they persecute and eventually kill Him? Because He was different! He did not abide by their rules and understanding of the world. Christians who seek to be like Christ, which is what the Sermon on the Mount is telling us, will also be persecuted for being different. In countries such as Africa, persecution is much more noticeable. There, the lives of Christian are actually in danger for being Christ-like. Here, we do not need to worry about such a threat. Yet we do need to consider the judgment of those who do not consider themselves poor in spirit as we do.

When we forgot that we are all poor in spirit, we think we can be free to say negative things about someone else. This manifests itself in many ways. For instance, we do this by talking about someone to someone else instead of dealing with the person directly. This can be quite hurtful to the person who is being talked about. Or, when we forget to stand back and first examine our emotions before we speak, and thus, express our selves with uncontrolled anger, we can hurt the other person. In both situations, discord, not peace is the result. A Christian peacemaker will respond to these situations not in kind, but with patience and objectivity. Hard to do, isn’t it. But, keep this in mind. What is expressed outwardly often reveals what is going on in a person’s heart.

Therefore, should we not feel sorry for someone whose heart is full of anger, insecurity or jealousy? Should we not feel sorry for someone whose heart is so intend on defending its own interests, that it cannot let the forgiving mercy of Jesus relieve them? Although in outwardly appearances you may be unjustly treated, have mercy on your offender for the sake of his impure heart.

Lastly, I want to remind you that a Christian peacemaker is not always likeable. This was certainly not the case with Jesus. We often portray in movies and in our minds that clergy should be like this, although there is no such portrayal of leaders in the Scriptures. Moses, David, Paul and even Jesus were not only disliked by those who were not Jews and Christians, but also by their own people. Again, this is because peace does not come at any price. Peace without truth is not peace. Therefore, it is quite normal to have quarrels and divisions in the Church. In fact, it can be a sign that a church is struggling to be faithful. There is nothing worse in a church then malaise. I’d much rather have you get angry with what I say from the pulpit then my sermons put you to sleep. Of course, we cannot be satisfied with quarrels and division. With God’s help we seek resolution and a way forward. Yet the only way forward is to take to heart what it means to be a peacemaker and persecuted for truth’s sake. So I leave you with the question, “Are you willing?” Amen.



Paul begins his letter to the Philippians with these words “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel …”. I too thank God every time I remember you in my prayers. In particular, I thank God because of your partnership in the gospel. I am encouraged by your common commitment with me to seek God’s direction for Christ Church in 2004. Together we worked hard to develop a Long Range Plan for the parish. I wish to thank our parish council and Angela Fitzhugh for the long hours they put in, taking your ideas and creating a mission statement, set of goals, objectives and strategies.

I also thank God that together we are implementing our Long Range Plan. Let me review what we have done. Our first goal is to create an active discipleship community of faith by helping parishioners know, understand, and believe what it means to follow Jesus Christ. I have offered a sermon series on ‘Discipleship’ and a children’s series on ‘Stewardship’. Books studies have and continue to take place to educate us about discipleship and the Christian Life. Guest speakers have been invited to address specific issues such as Prayer. To improve communication in the parish, a summary of parish council’s minutes is now included in the bulletin, wardens report our financial situation on a quarterly basis, the parish list has been updated and presently, email addresses are being gathered. To help develop a stronger sense of community, name tags have been introduced in our services, we had our first parish retreat at Camp Hyanto and our Stewardship coordinators sponsored the first ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?’ event.

There is much more we can do in this area. Lenten series will address ‘What it means to be an Anglican?’ and study the Apostles Creed. The present Lenten sermon series on the Beatitudes addresses Christian Character. It is my hope that in 2005 a network of small groups will develop where members of our parish can gather together to learn from Scripture or books, pray and support one another. A course will be offered to train anyone interested in leading a group.

Our second goal seeks to provide a worship experience that is spiritually uplifting, addresses present-day concerns, offers different styles of music, facilitates the inclusions of newcomers, and yet is sensitive to our Anglican tradition. We are well under way to achieving this goal. I am working hard to orient my sermons to be both challenging, and relevant. We have more people involved in the liturgy. The introduction of name tags and your willingness to express yourself more freely during the peace has changed the atmosphere of our service, I believe, for the better. As a result, newcomers have told me how friendly we are. We are directing our music ministry towards a blend of traditional organ and contemporary styles of music. I thank Barry Lloyd for his years of service to this parish and now to our interim music leaders, Carolyn Dowling and Caroline Pratt along with the Choir for their excellent work and cooperation.

Again, there is more that needs be done. I am hopeful to see more of you involved in the liturgy – as readers, chalice bearers, leaders of the prayers, lay readers, greeters, or in the choir. As our music ministry continues to evolve, I hope to see more leadership from our choir – singing of anthems, the psalms, and others parts of the liturgy. Also, while holding onto our rich traditional styles of music, let us not fear experimenting with others styles of music and instruments so that our music ministry is accessible and uplifting for all.
Our third goal seeks to encourage and equip laity to exercise their god-given gifts to forward the ministry and outreach of Christ Church. Many of you have taken steps of faith and offered the gifts God has given you. I thank God for your step of faith. As God’s stewards, He has given all of us gifts for ministry. No gift is more or less important. For some of you it may be hard to discern your gifts. To help you, the Stewardship committee plans to offer a workshop, ‘What are my gifts?’ to help you discern what gifts God has given you. I am excited by some of our outreach initiatives - the youth group food bank drive, our continued ministry to the elderly and shut-ins, and our participation in the local Santa Clause parade. Yet, our overall support of the Food Bank is wanting. We still have not set our minds to supporting any specific foreign or local mission project. Let us prayerfully consider supporting both local and foreign missions in 2005.

Our fourth goal plans to expand and develop a sense in the parish that we are all called to take care – i.e., be Stewards – of everything we have for the purpose of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the World. As disciples of Jesus we are called to give of our time, talents and money. This is not something we do grudgingly but joyfully because God has given so much to us. During the month of February and March, our Stewardship Coordinator, along with Parish Council will be organizing House Group meetings similar to ones we had when we first engaged in the development of our Long Range Plan. At these House Group meetings you will be given an opportunity to reflect on our LRP and consider ways you can offer of your time, talent and money to support our plan.

As you will see, the wardens are proposing yet another deficit budget. To help meet this shortfall, parish council has voted Lloyd Dunham to the position of Fundraiser Coordinator. His job will be to coordinate present fund raising initiatives and encourage new initiates as well. Please speak to Lloyd if you have any ideas and are willing to help. We can personally help meet our shortfall by increasing our giving for 2005 if we are able. I challenge everyone to join me in increasing your giving by 1% this year. Also, if you do not give on a regular weekly or monthly basis, please consider doing so. You can use envelopes or sign up with our preauthorized giving program. Don’t give what is left over, but as Scripture teaches us, give first to God. When we take this step of faith, trust that God blesses us in ways unimaginable.

Our last goal seeks to create a loving, caring and open-minded community of faith in Jesus Christ that encourages people to join the parish and learn about and follow Jesus Christ. Notice that our goal is not to fill the pews so we can fill our coffers. We want people to come to Christ Church so they can know and follow Jesus. The best way to encourage people to come to Christ Church is to be a community of learners and followers of Jesus. This is the direction of our first four goals and our mission statement. You have chosen to be students and followers of Jesus Christ. You have chosen as our mission statement says,

To Grow in love and understanding of Jesus Christ and to share this openly as a community and in our world

Let us re-commit ourselves together in 2005 to grow in love and understanding of Jesus Christ and to share this openly as a community and in our world.


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