Sermon: Peace to this House

A line drawing from a page of a book depicting a standing figure, bearded, addressing a group of men.

July 7, 2019
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

by Eric Anderson

What is the core mission of the Church of Jesus Christ?

It’s one of those questions we get to ask, and that we must ask, over and over again. We even wrote it into the Constitution of the United Church of Christ: “[The UCC] affirms the responsibility of the Church in each generation to make this faith its own in reality of worship, in honesty of thought and expression, and in purity of heart before God.”

So, in all honesty of thought and expression, what is the core mission of the Church of Jesus Christ?

I think this text suggests that a substantial element of that core mission is: “Peace to this house.”

Jesus gathered seventy of his followers and told them to become teachers and healers out of his own mold. That’s how movements grow and endure: through the willingness of leaders to nurture and empower new leaders, to share responsibility and authority, to trust a new generation to learn and share as much as the previous one.

It’s a trick that Jesus mastered without a lot of trouble, and that no other human being seems to have found quite so easy ever since.

Jesus says a lot about the required equipment for this task, which is nothing more than the disciple his- or herself, before giving the primary instruction: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’”

“Peace to this house.”

That’s it. That’s everything.

Peace to this house.

At its root, at its heart, at its core, at its soul: the Christian mission is to bring peace.

Looking objectively at our history, we’re not so good at that, either.

It started early. Our Sunday morning study group has been reading First Corinthians, finding quickly not the traces but the explicit references to competition, even conflict, among members of that church over whose leadership and teachings to prefer. Paul’s letters frequently reflect on peace, suggesting that peace was something hard to find.

It’s still hard to find. Churches continue to throw the words “heretic” and “infidel” around (I know because I’ve done it myself). Nations suppress dissent with violence. They abandon agreements. They start firing shells or dropping bombs. The Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists now stands at two minutes to midnight, reflecting growing concern about the possibilities of nuclear war since 2010.

Peace to this house.

Well, if this is our calling, and this is how difficult it is, where do we start?

First, let’s recognize that peace is greater than the absence of conflict. The silence of oppressed people is not peace. Their cries for justice are not violence.

I’ve been listening to a podcast called “White Lies,” an investigation into the 1965 murder of the Rev. James Reeb. He was killed when four white men attacked him and two other ministers in Selma, Alabama. They were there in response to a summons of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for ministers of good conscience to come south as witnesses in the wake of Bloody Sunday, when marchers were beaten by police at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Though three men were charged in the attack, they were acquitted by an all white jury. All three have since died.

The daughter of a fourth man, clearly identified by a witness as a participant but now also deceased, said something deeply troubling in an interview. Rev. Reeb and his companions, she said, were just there to make trouble. Everything would have been fine if they, and others working for civil rights for Selma’s African American population, hadn’t been there to make trouble. There would have been peace.

Well, no. There would have been silence. But that is the silence of suffering, not the silence of peace.

Bernice King, head of the King Center, wrote this week: “I’m pro civility, BUT civility does not = true peace. I believe in kindness, BUT kindness does not = justice. Be careful not to try to substitute civility and kindness for true peace and justice. Or to try to hinder true peace and justice with calls for civility and kindness.”

Peace to this house.

That assumes, of course, that you and I have some peace within ourselves to offer. I grant you that that is as hard to find as peace between nations, or peace among theologians. My soul gets stirred, and riled, and hurt, and disappointed pretty much every day – and that’s before I start interacting with people. Jesus did not tell his disciples to find that peace, however. He told them that the kingdom of God had come near. That peace is already at hand, to be treasured and grasped, to be believed in and lived from.

Peace does not happen, however, when we hold to our own peace and do not extend it to others. Seven years ago, New York Times columnist Charles Blow wrote: “One doesn’t have to operate with great malice to do great harm. The absence of empathy and understanding are sufficient.”

Peace to this house. Peace comes to this house when I acknowledge your full humanity, and offer to share mine.

When I offer to share.

JesusofNaz316 – that’s a Twitter account of a coffee-loving, rather snarky contemporary Jesus – blew my mind this morning. He quoted these words from this text: “Whatever town they do not receive you, go into the streets and say, ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’ Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand. I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.”

And then linked it to a New York Times story on the detention center for migrant children in Clint, Texas, where deplorable conditions have made it to the public eye.

Peace comes to this house when I offer to share.

Peace. Not silence, peace. Not quiet, peace. Not servility, peace. Not security, peace. Not privilege, peace. Not conformity, peace.

That is our core mission.

Peace to me. Peace to you. Peace to this house.



Listen to the Recorded Sermon

Peace to this House

Preaching is not an exact activity, so the recording does not exactly match the prepared text.

The illustration comes from an 1803 book The New and Complete Life of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Paul Wright. The engraver and artist are not credited. Source book page:, No restrictions,

Categories Sermons | Tags: | Posted on July 7, 2019

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