Dear friends in Christ,
While out at the Alexandria Presbyterian Church Cemetery this past week, I was moved at the number of American Flags on the graves of the various veterans interred on that hill. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #520 place those flags there just before Memorial Day every year after the Alexandria Church has at least two cemetery clean up days. These flags have now experienced almost a year of wear. They are torn and tattered. The wooden rods that these flags are attached to are warped and the anchors that hold the flags and the medallions signifying what war these men and women served in are bent, scratched, and tarnished. With the unusually pleasant weather we had the flags were in stark contrast with the bright sunlight and the blue sky. The flowers on the graves have nearly rotted away and the artificial flowers have been sun bleached and tattered by the wind. The rhododendron and other plants are beginning to wake up, thanks to the warm weather, but the once young and strong still sleep and wait for that great day. The gentle flapping of the worn and torn little American flags all provided for a very tranquil sight. It was truly a peaceful scene. But, as I began to reflect on the various wars and battles the veterans buried there had seen, I felt a sense of awe at all we had been given through the sacrifice of all those who preceded us. We are truly a blessed people: blessed even though we are not yet at peace.
According to the Moscow Gazette, Gustave Valbert calculated in 1861 that, “From the year 1496 B.C. to A.D. 1861 in 3358 years there were 227 years of peace and 3,130 years of war, or 13 years of war to every year of peace. Within the last three centuries, there have been 286 wars in Europe. He added that from the year 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1860 more than 8000 treaties of peace, meant to remain in force forever, were concluded. The average time they remained in force was two years.” So, in the over 3100 years of recorded world history, the world has only been at peace 8% of the time or a total of 286 years with over 8000 treaties having been made and broken. (J. L. Sanders, D. Min, AMOS, “Prepare to meet thy God”, © 2005) Today, as we have begun a new year we can look around the world and see wars and rumors of wars all around us. In Israel, we have the Jews and the Palestinians fighting one another and on the Korean peninsula there will be a little over 10,000 American military personnel away from home this summer. In Iraq and in Afghanistan we have American fighters still actively engaging the enemy every day. We have US Special Forces in every country on the continent of Africa. Where is peace to be found? Hear the Word of the Lord as he speaks through the voice of the prophet, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” Jeremiah 6:14 and 8:11 (NIV)
Matthew 8:24-27 Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (NIV)
Jesus Christ promises peace to believers. The following story, that I cannot appropriately reference but only tell you that it is not mine and that I have used once before in a sermon in November of 1985, serves as an illustration of how this peace works in part. Many years ago, a submarine was being tested and had to remain submerged for several days. When it returned to the harbor, the captain was asked, “How did the terrible storm last night affect you?” The officer looked at him in surprise and exclaimed, “Storm? We didn’t even know there was one!” The sub had been so far beneath the surface that it had reached the area known to sailors as “the cushion of the sea.” Even though the ocean may be in the hands of a violent storm and being whipped into frothing waves by high winds, the waters below are silent and never stirred.
Even though the world may be in the hands of violent people from time to time causing life to be whipped into seeming chaos riddled with hurt and pain, God gives refuge from the ravages of life. The Christian’s mind will be at peace and protected against the distracting waves of worry, heart ache, and sin if it is resting completely in the providence of God. Enveloped there, sheltered by his mercy, wrapped in his grace, and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, the believer, the chosen of God, can find the peace and the perfect tranquility that only Christ can provide.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NIV)
Yours in Christ,
Ernie Walls (Pastor)