Calm and Bright: Peace – Luke 1:57-80 Pastor Trudy Franzen
If you are very, very fortunate, you are at peace this day. If you want to be employed, you are in a job you love. If you don’t want to be employed, you are doing exactly what you want to be doing day by day.
Your family relationships are all life-giving and good. Your community is harmonious. You have all the resources you need and you never have to worry about running out. You are quite pleased with the political situation, and of course, your church. IF you are very, very fortunate, you are at peace this day.
Most of us, though, have some unrest in our lives. Some aspect of our lives worries us, frustrates us, disturbs our peace. Keeps us up at night. Most people have things in their lives they wish they could just wave their magic wand to fix.
It is easy to see that the singing soldiers on the battlefield during WW1 were yearning for peace. They were worn and traumatized, and probably didn’t even care who won. They just wanted to go home to their loved ones and pick up their lives again.
But they were in a situation over which they had no control. Well, very little control.
On Christmas Day, common faith in Jesus afforded them just a moment of peace. They couldn’t stop the whole war. They couldn’t make the “higher ups” decide to call it quits. They did what they could in the moment. What they could do was stop for a moment and remember Jesus. Not only that, they could remember that they were all human beings, after all. If nothing else, stop and remember Jesus. Stop and remember that we’re all human beings.
Thankfully, none of us is at war, worrying about whether or not we will die today or this week. There are too many in this world that are surely wondering those things.
But there are things in our lives that are completely out of our control. One of the hardest things about life is that we cannot control what other people do. We can exert a lot of energy in trying to get them to do what they should, but in the end, we have no control over other people. A few of us are just fine with that, but most of us struggle to some degree.
The harder we try to convince others, to guide them or teach them
or challenge them or even threaten them, the less peace we have.
The less serenity.
Does anyone here know the serenity prayer? It was widely used in the 1930s and 40s, and not published until 1951, so our WW1 soldiers would not have known it. But they did live it.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Letting go of changing other people and impossible situations is hard. To stop advocating for your position and your preferences, and even your truth is tremendously hard. Because it is the truth to you. It is SO for you. But to convince another to adopt your truth, now, that’s going to cause suffering if you grip it too hard and too long.
It doesn’t mean that you abandon your ideals. It doesn’t mean that you adopt the other person’s point of view or say that they are right. It doesn’t mean that you stop working for what you know in your heart God has asked you to do. It doesn’t mean that you acquiesce to someone else’s preference.
But it does mean that at some point, you turn the outcome over to God.
There is this wonderful word in Spanish, the word “entregar.” “Entregar.” It means, to “turn in, or relinquish.” It is commonly used when a teacher asks for students to “turn in their papers.” Time to“entregar,” time to turn in your assignments to be graded.
Somehow, “entregar,” is more than just “turn in.” It carries that “relinquish” piece. Relinquish this work that you have done to the professor. The professor will review your work and give you feedback about how you are doing. Perhaps you might have to re-do a section. You turn it in. You release your hold on it, your claim to it. What’s done is done. No more refining. Gotta just turn it in.
Anyone who has ever had to write a final essay, a dissertation, or master’s thesis knows what it is like to do the best you can, then turn it in. Turn it over. Entregar. Give it to the panel and let it go.
Yesterday, this room was full of volunteers scurrying around to make Advent a special time for us. In the midst of all the busy-ness, a woman about my age came in. At the moment, I was busy with something, but invited her in, saying, “Come on in! We’re just setting things up for worship tomorrow.”
The woman slipped into one of the back pews, sad down, and began to cry.
I quickly finished what I was doing and went to sit by her. As it turns out, she is one of our neighbors, just moved here about 2 months ago. She doesn’t speak much English and I don’t speak any Farsi. But she was clearly seeking God and very, very sad. Her son lives in Singapore and she cannot go see him. He cannot come here to see her. She misses him terribly. She hasn’t seen him in over three years and has no idea when they will be able to see each other again.
We talked for a bit. I used my phone to translate words of comfort for her. She is one who is seeking peace for her heart today. She misses her son and there’s nothing she can do about it. It is all out of her control. She, too, has to “entregar.” To give it back to God. And we were there to offer spiritual support and comfort. We cannot fix her dilemma, but we can be her friend.
This woman just wants to see her son again. She’s invested in his life and wants a good outcome. When we are committed to vital things like this in life, and passionate about them, we are really invested in the outcome.
We really want it to turn out a certain way. We may even pray for it to turn out a certain way. Waiting for God to answer those prayers is really, really hard.
We want that thesis to come back right back, right away with gold stars on it! We want to be affirmed and honored for all our hard work. We want God to make things happen for us that we desperately want.
When we “entregar,” turn over to God the work we’ve completed and the deep desires of our hearts, we acknowledge God as professor and sovereign, the wise one, who sees the whole picture of which we only get to see glimpses. God sees the whole. We only see in part.
We acknowledge that in the school of faith we are always students and God is always refining our souls, until we take our last breaths on earth and our first breath of everlasting, heavenly peace.
Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, had a hard time with this notion of “entregar,” giving over his desires. He wanted to control the outcome, or at least to get all the details because trusting God with outcome was too challenging. That’s why the angel silenced him.
The moment Zechariah says, “His name is John,” he signals that he accepts the angel’s words. He has turned it over to God.
Zechariah accepts that John will be filled with the Holy Spirit and will make the people ready for Jesus. Zechariah praises God, who will guide the people to peace. He still has no idea how it is going to happen. He still probably has very strong feelings about how it should happen, but he’s taken a crucial step toward giving it over to God.
Today in 2018, you might search your heart and find that there is something has seized it. You might be gripping too hard, You might be getting tired, weary of that gripping. You know, when you grip something hard and long, your hand begins to weaken and cramp? Maybe you are getting ready to turn it in. To “entregar.” To release. Maybe the pain of grasping has become too much to bear.
Do the very best you can with the tools you have. Do due diligence. Be thorough. But in the end turn that thesis over to your Creator.
Trust that God is indeed good and wants something far better for you than you might think up yourself. Perhaps God even wants something far better for you than the outcome you’ve been gripping so hard and so long.
Without “entregar,” there can be no peace. Trust God to loosen the hold so that your can carry your burdens a little more lightly. Ask God for peace. Amen.