In a few minutes we will sing together: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” As you sing those familiar lyrics this morning I want you to consider that the peace this world needs, that it hungers for, the peace that just might be our only hope, begins, yes, with you and you and you, with each and every one of us.
You may be tempted to think: “Now, Bob, I’m just one person—surely the peace of God does not depend on me. I’m too young—I’m too old—I’m too shy—I’m not well—I’m pretty busy—I’m a-political. Truth be told, the words and deeds of every person, young or old, Democrat or Republican, outgoing or shy, are vitally important to the arrival of the Kingdom of peace and justice that Jesus sought to build in this world.
If you are tempted to doubt the vital role you have to play in making peace a reality in this world—because you’re just one solitary person—consider the following words by the Rev. Dr. James Allen Francis in a sermon he gave in 1926 about the difference just one person made in this world centuries ago. Dr. Francis, speaking of this person writes: "Here [was] a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman…
“He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty and then for three years was an itinerant preacher.
“He never owned a home.
“He never wrote a book.
“He never held an office.
“He never traveled more than two hundred miles from the place where He was born.
"While still a young man, [he captured the imagination of people with his healing love and commitment to peace and justice--then] the tide of popular opinion turned against him.
“His friends ran away. One of them denied ever knowing Him. [Another betrayed him with a kiss.]
“He was turned over to His enemies. He went through a mockery of a trial.
“[Ultimately] He was nailed on a cross between two thieves.
“While he was dying his executors gambled for the only piece of property he had on earth--His [clothing].
“When he was dead, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.”
Dr. Allen concluded by saying to his congregation in 1926: "Nineteen long centuries have come and gone and today He is [for millions the] centerpiece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever were built, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of [humanity] upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life."
Friends, that one solitary life, the life of Jesus of Nazareth, continues to have a profound impact on this 21st century world. And, indeed, Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, on this World Communion Sunday, has gathered us together into a family of faith to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and to reach out to each other and the world with his peace, his love.
Jesus, the Prince of Peace, didn’t give his disciples the bread and the cup just so that they would feel comforted and uplifted. Although that was a part of what he wanted them to receive from his gift, comfort and uplift. At the Last Supper, Jesus was inviting them, and he invite us this morning, to follow him in the courage and trust that he will be with us always. To follow him as instruments of God’s peace. To follow him, as Amelia read a few minutes ago, in “doing justice, loving kindness, and walking in a spirit of humility.” To follow him in faith so that his prayer: “Thy Kingdom come” will be a reality in our lives. To follow Jesus, who once said to Thomas and Philip: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.”
Friends, alone, we may not be able to accomplish much. Walking, praying, singing, and working together in the Spirit of Christ we can change the world. As men and women and children whose hearts are full of the love of Christ—we can make peace. Indeed, we can live in a way that shows honor and respect to the Prince of Peace who lived and died while seeking to be faithful to God.
As I close with a few lyrics from a song by John Denver entitled: “What One Man Can Do” please consider this very morning, Christ’s call to you to manifest God’s peace and justice in your life. Remembering, that the important things we do in life are rarely easy—especially in being faithful to God’s call to make peace. John Denver, with lyrics that describe Jesus’ life, as well as the life of all who have the courage to follow him, declares, poetically:
“It's hard to tell the truth when no one wants to listen When no one really cares what's going on
“And it's hard to stand alone When you need someone beside you Your spirit and your faith They must be strong
“What one [person] can do is dream What one [person] can do is love
“What one [person] can do is change the world And make it young again"
Friends, in Jesus of Nazareth, we see “what one [person] devoted to God can do.”