“Peace Like a River”
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Prayer is the foundation of our life
and worship. It is our conversation with God. It is that time when we lift our
petitions and supplications up to God, and when we open our hearts and souls to
listen for God’s Voice, God’s Word.
When I was in seminary, one of our
worship professors taught us how we are to pray. Of course, that is somewhat
tricky. Prayer is our personal conversation. When people have come to me asking
how they are to pray, I tell them to pray in whatever way is meaningful for you
in your relationship with God. I tell them to use whatever language feels
right, you do not need to use “seminary” words when you pray. Use your words.
I should point out that my professor
was not actually speaking with us about the words that we use, or the posture
that we assume, or the time of day or frequency of our prayers. Rather, he was
speaking in terms of content of those prayers. He pointed out that often times
our prayers are ME-centric, they center around us … ourselves. Therefore, he
gave us a pattern to follow.
He said, begin by giving thanks to
God. All prayer should begin with our praise and thanksgiving to God for all
that God has given us and done for us. Begin by giving thanks.
Then, he said, we move on to asking
for prayers for others. This takes the focus off of me and directs it toward
Thou … you … others.
Once we have lifted up the prayer
needs and petitions of others, we then lift up our own personal prayers and
God … Others … Me or Us. That is the
pattern that I use nearly every Sunday when I lift up our pastoral prayer. God
… Thou … Us.
In our passage from First Timothy
this morning, Paul offers us instruction regarding the content of the “Thou”
portion of the prayer. He said that we are to pray for ALL people. The Gospel
message is for ALL, therefore, we should pray for all.
We have confronted this theme
before, and we have struggled with it. Jesus tells us to love all people, even
our enemies. He reminds us that anyone can love the people that are easy to
love. Our call is to love everyone … even those who are difficult to love. He
would even say ESPECIALLY those who are difficult to love. If we are not
to love them, then who will?
The same goes for our prayers. We
pray for all people. We pray for those whom we love, and those with whom we
struggle. We pray for those with whom we agree, and those with whom we
God desires peace in the world … the
WHOLE world, not just our corner of it. God sent Jesus to the world. His birth
was Good News for ALL people. The Gospel includes the high and the low, the
wealthy landowner and the slave. The Gospel includes the good and the bad, the
saint and the sinner. There are not tiers of people within the Kingdom of God.
When I lived in Worcester, I had a
friend named Jim. He told me that he did not go to church because he was not
good enough to go to church. I told him that there was not such thing as ‘not
good enough’ when it comes to having a relationship with God. Jesus would love
to see churches packed to the rafters with “sinners,” especially those that
know that they are sinners.
As I have reflected on it over the
years, I have realized that Jim may not have been talking about not being good
enough for God. Perhaps he was talking about not being good enough for those
who profess to know and love God, but then shower judgement upon others.
First Century Christian author,
Tertullian, wrote: “The Christian is the enemy of no one.” (Ad Scapulam 2)
Let us pause for a moment and take a
brief look at the historical context from which this letter was derived.
The Jewish people had suffered under
oppression and persecution for generations … centuries. Their homeland was a
perpetual battlefield. They had been conquered, occupied, and hauled off into exile.
Their communities had been destroyed, they had been enslaved and crushed under
taxation and tributes. They had no love for foreign, occupying rules, or their
own corrupt leaders for that matter.
When this letter was written, the
Judeo-Christian community lived under the rule of some of the most cruel and
despicable Roman emperors. The emperor was a self-proclaimed god that wielded
the power of the most powerful army in the world, and demanded to be
However, the Jewish people had learned
how to wait. They knew that God’s plan was much bigger than they could see or
understand. They knew about God’s “long game,” and that deliverance would come
to them. They knew that peace and freedom would one day be theirs. God would
Paul was offering his young protégé
the same lesson. God is the God of all. God’s world view is much larger than
ours. God’s purposes and plan are much more complex that we can possibly comprehend,
but we do know this … it is for ALL people. God’s care and concern is for all
people. God’s salvation is for all people.
Therefore, in our prayers, we pray
for all people. We honor all people. We respect all people. We do not wish harm
Paul and Tertullian both go on to
say, “And pray for our leaders. Pray for the kings and those in high
positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and
Pray for them. Even if you do not
like them or agree with them … pray for them. Even if they are pagans who do
not know God, or honor God … pray for them. Even if they are horrible and
despicable leaders who inflict pain and suffering on their own people … pray
God desires peace in the world, and
peace requires stability. God can use the sinner and the saint to achieve God’s
purposes. The Gospel message can be shared more easily where there is peace, as
opposed to places of conflict and turmoil.
Paul was writing this letter to
Timothy during a difficult socio-political era. It was also a difficult period
for the fledgling Christian movement. There were divergent branches of
Christianity that were fracturing the young community. The Christian movement
was also causing distress among the Roman rulers. Christians were perceived as
being anarchists and disruptive. All of the teaching about a ‘new kingdom’ and
overturning the status quo led people to believe that they were trying to tear
Paul was addressing the importance,
the primacy of inclusivity. Again, God’s plan is for all people. There is no exclusivity
Paul addressed the need for peace,
God’s desire for peace. God desires a peaceful society, a society in which all
people are happy.
Good governance is good for all
people. Good order in the society enables good order in the household.
Yes … pray for Babylon. Babylon’s
peace is our peace.
Yes … pray for Rome. Rome’s peace is
This letter recognizes that there
were many segments of the population that had no knowledge of God. The vast
majority of the population had no relationship with Jesus Christ. They had a
plethora of pagan idols, a pantheon of gods and goddesses, and other deities.
It shares to core Christian belief
that there is One true God, and that there is One true Mediator … Jesus Christ.
And it also teaches us that the best way to show the nature of our One True God
is to practice the Way of the Mediator. The best way to show the nature of God
to embody the teaching of Jesus Christ. The best way to show the nature of God
… is to love.
And here is where that struggle
enters into our hearts and minds. Does that not mean that we have to compromise
our beliefs, our faith? Do we not have to compromise to “fit in” with the wider
community? How do we pray for those who we believe are bad? How do we pray for
those who commit atrocities?
We pray FOR them; we do not pray to
We are called to be IN the world,
not OF the world. We desire a better world. We desire a godly, faithful
community. We desire the completion of God’s Kingdom here on earth. So, we pray
for peace. We acknowledge that we ALL are a part of God’s plan, and only God
knows how we all fit in.
But that does not mean that it will
be easy. Just like Paul, we too live in a very complicated socio-political era.
We live in the era of the perpetual
We live in an era in which people
prop up themselves, or their community, by demonizing the other.
We rally support by implying that
the “other” is a threat.
We consolidate power using the fear.
Yes, I am speaking of some political
campaigns, but sadly the same can be said of some churches. They garner support
and raise money by creating fear in the hearts of their members or followers.
Those “others” are going to take
away something precious from you.
Those “others” are going to harm our
Those “others’ are going to threaten
our way of life.
But the lesson that we hear in the
Gospel, the message that we hear from God is that the “other” is our brother.”
That “other” is our sister.
That “other’ is our neighbor.
There can be no peace as long as we
continue to divide ourselves into “us” and “them.”
We cannot enjoy true community if we
see ourselves as the preferred and diminish those who we perceive as NOT.
We will not achieve true unity as
long as we believe that we know better than God.
God’s love, God’s desire, God’s
salvation is for ALL people.
May our prayer flow forth like a
river that will comfort and nourish all people, rather than like a lawn
sprinkler that only cares for a few select people.
May our prayers carry God’s
wonderful peace throughout the land that it may reach all people.
May our lives emulate and embody the
One True Mediator, Jesus Christ.
May we love as he loved. Amen.
Congregational ChurchUCC, SACO MAINE12 BEACH STREET | SACO, ME 04072207-283-3771