"Sometimes There Is No Peace"

Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - 8/13/2000

II Samuel 18:1-15, 31-33; 19:1-8

     Most of us have experienced moments when we have found ourselves in trouble with life, i.e., we have not known what to do in circumstances that were causing us pain. Such episodes are very challenging. Our faith tells us, "If we trust God with the outcome of all things, our lives will be filled with joy." There are times, however, when our sadness is so profound that neither God's closeness nor our faith seems to help us. Our role as parents seems to produce many such moments.

     Being the son of a minister can have its challenges. People expect certain behavior from such children, and they also expect that the children know more about life, the Bible, and God than they do. There is an expectation of them that other children may not have. And not all the siblings of a minister do well while trying to negotiate these years.

     James was such a child. In high school he met a charismatic, gregarious student-teacher who exhibited all the qualities that made him appear "cool." The future teacher was a senior in college and was obviously still on the growth path himself. But Tom was not aware that he lacked the skills of leadership. He was more into being a friend than a teacher. James and Tom hung out together and through that relationship, James was introduced to beer, cigarettes, and self-assertiveness. He began to stay out late on school nights because he felt like it.

     His parents felt they had exhausted their alternatives. Obviously their son was very impressionable, and he was learning many attitudes that were sabotaging his grades and his opportunity to enter college. James did not care. Having fun and being his own man were his priorities at this stage of his spiritual infancy. And his parents were nearly powerless to turn the tide on their son's surging energy to be this "new adult." He was clearly "right." His parents were "simply out of touch" with what he needed to do. It is interesting how old this story is. He had become a classical prodigal son.

     One evening the minister sat in the living room with his head in his hands. He prayed for wisdom and understanding but none came. His heart was extremely sad. Here sat a man who had helped direct the lives of countless people and now he realized that he had no influence over his son. It was past midnight. Filled with self-doubt, he decided to make one more attempt to talk to a young man who had strayed into areas of life that could not produce what they promised.

     He opened the door to his son's bedroom. The air was filled with the stench of over- indulgence. And to his surprise he found his wife kneeling beside their son's bed. She was stroking his hair and kissing his face while he slept. She looked up at her husband and said, "He will not let me love him while he is awake."

     Parents often have a challenging time as they experience the many changes in their children's growth. Some children have trouble leaving the nest. Some of them select partners where red flag warning signs of future trouble are obvious to everyone but their son or daughter. Parents legitimately hurt for their children who are going through the struggles that most maturing adults experience.


     How grateful we are, O God, for the moments in life when truth triumphs. We enjoy storybook endings . We delight when we receive hope that inspires and motivates us. Yet we know that every healing has followed a period of illness. Every great mountain summit has been reached by struggle, detours and exhaustion. Every end of a journey has been an adventure filled with many unknowns. We thank you for letting us crawl before we walk and for allowing us to walk before we sprint. We thank you for filling our spirits with resources that strengthen us during uncertain times. We thank you for your divine presence that comforts us, even when we fear we have lost our way. Help us understand that your Son's empty tomb is the happy ending for all of us. With such confidence, lead us to excel at revealing our faith. Amen.


     Loving God, all of us can remember moments when life impacted us with the unexpected. Sometimes the news was not good. Sometimes a joyful event we greatly anticipated did not happen. Sometimes someone in whom we believed and trusted completely betrayed us. Sometimes our lives went in a direction that was frightening. Sometimes we failed to live the truth that we know.

     Yet today we thank you for creating us as you have. You have made us so that all healing begins from the inside. You made us into social beings so that friendship and companionship allows us to support one another during many of life's fragile moments. You have placed in us the capacity to hold on to hope, when despair tries to convince us that there is none. You have placed yourself in our midst so that we know that in all circumstances, we are never alone.

     While we are not living with a sense of doom, most of us know that life requires us to make a series of adjustments, that all of us will experience hills and valleys, joy and sadness, frustration and peace. What makes these experiences unique is that we have each other with whom to share our lives. Thank you for St. Matthew's. Thank you for the healing that we frequently find here. Thank you for giving us vision to become a safe harbor for people who want to learn how to become more loving and peaceful men and women. We pray these thoughts through the loving spirit of Jesus, who taught us to say when we pray . . . .