Sermon delivered about Zechariah 9:9-10 in an International Worship Service, Bad Oeynhausen Parish, Evangelical Church of Westphalia with the Rev. Dr. Christian Hohmann and wife Rev. Joy dela Cruz.
It is a great opportunity for me to be participating in this International Worship and thanks to Joy and Christian for making this possible. I was told that the theme for this worship is peace which is yet the theme of the 4th Sunday of Advent right before Christmas celebration. Anyway, all of the advent season is an anticipation of Christmas, the coming of the messiah – the Prince of peace.
In the prophecy of Zechariah (9:9-10, NRSV) which is our reading for this worship, it says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. He[a] will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war-horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”
This portion of the book is one of Zechariah’s visions to foster hope in the future promise of the messianic kingdom, and challenge Israel after the exile to remain faithful to God. This is after the almost 70 years in the exile, the Israelites were experiencing hardships and wondered if prophetic promises of a New Jerusalem would ever be fulfilled.
In another but similar prophecy, Isaiah (9:6NRSV) says, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
In the Gospel according to John, (1:1-2 & 14) we found, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, [d] full of grace and truth.”
From the prophecies until the incarnation of God through and in Jesus the Christ we are assured of peace to reign in the land. Why were there assurances and prophecies? Obviously, it is because there was no peace in the land experienced by God’s people.
But what is peace in the Bible? Following through all the pronouncement about peace in the Bible responding to the situations and context of people and communities, peace in the Bible is SHALOM. Shalom is a Hebrew word meaning peace which is the absence of war, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, success, fulfillment, welfare, security which is not forced, well-being and tranquility. Shalom was the cry of the people, the Israelites – the Jews (but not the ones we have today) because of many wars, famines, imperial powers, subjugation of nations by another, slavery and crimes against persons and humanity. Thus, God the Lord of lords shall come to command peace to all nations and will have dominion overall.
Now, how about us? Is there peace in our days? Is it SHALOM? My sisters and brothers, God’s plan and vision of peace is still going on. It is not yet achieved. Shalom has not yet come. Even during the time of Jesus, there was no peace. In fact, it was the reason of His birth in the manger. Jesus had just started to let the people know and understand shalom. But when He taught about it and identified the reasons for un-peace a plot to kill him was planned and was executed by the powers that be which ended upon the cross. His apostles, disciples and followers lived out His teachings and they were also killed.
Let us not be deceived by the comforts that we might have now to be convinced that there is peace. No there is none yet. Today, Christians should not be comfortable with what is happening around the world. We must be disturbed by the on-going wars of aggression and killings of innocent people including children in many parts of the world especially in the Third countries, the poor countries which have become colonies and subjugation of the superpowers. In the countries which are supposed to be rich in mineral resources but are trampled upon by the imperialist and capitalist nations with their local cohorts – the business tycoons and political leaders who enriched themselves at the expense of the poor.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9, NRSV). We claimed that we are the children of God. Then we must live it out. Jesus himself is our model. The late Bishop Tomas Millamena puts it that “Jesus emptied himself. He became a servant and immersed with the poor, deprived and oppressed by the wicked spiritual forces, by the rulers, authorities and cosmic powers. He immersed as human being with God’s people, his own people. He lived with them, prayed and worked with them with joyful and painful experiences.” This is what our faith demands of us. This is how Jesus modeled on how to get to peace.
Of course, it is not easy to do. But we can always try and start doing it. By God’s grace and being convicted by our faith we can do it.
Here in Europe we can start with our fellow human being and to the foreigners, the refugees, and the needy. Let us be guided by the Holy Scriptures which we can find the following admonitions – Exodus 12:49 49 “The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.” Deuteronomy 24: 14 “Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns.” Leviticus 25: 35 “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.” Galatians 3: 28 “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Interestingly, the said Biblical passages talk about God’s commands on how to treat the foreigners and refugees by people of the host countries, by themselves to each other – to help and support each other. And this commands brings peace. But of course we in the church, as always, are not only hoping but are challenge to putting our faith into actions as Apostle James declared that faith without work is dead.
Before I end, I would like to include a particular case of conflict. As Christians, how do we see and what do we say about the on-going conflict between the Israel of today and the Palestine? Officially, the European as a whole, except Sweden, does not recognize Palestine as a state. But Pope Francis and the Vatican and 135 countries of the 193 member countries of the United Nations recognize Palestine as a state. Indeed, this is also a challenge for us as peacemakers.
Sisters and brothers, as the song of peace articulates it, let there be peace on earth and let this peace begins in us and God will make us one among the saints marching with our Lord Jesus when He triumphs in His Kingdom to come. Now I happily greet you, Shalom! Amen.
Happy 11th day of Christmas!