October 11, 2020, 2020 Hindsight, Pastor David Tatgenhorst
Phillipians 4: 1-10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.
Let’s rest our minds into this moment of reflection and appreciation of a beautiful day and of the Word of God in our midst, inspiring us to rejoice and let go of all anxiety.
October 11, 2020 2020 Hindsight St. Luke UMC
Remember when we could get together every Sunday, inside, without masks? And hug each other? I remember when it was easier to hear, and everybody could sing together, and the children were involved, and guests would come in the front door and we could greet them. We didn’t know how good it was! Hindsight is 20-20, as they say.
As I get older there are more and more things that I have 2020 hindsight about - partly because I have so much more experience with things. Also because more things are starting to give out. So I appreciate looking back on the time when this or that part of my body didn’t ache or get injured quite so easily, when I could hear better, this and that and the other thing. Knowing that parts of my body are a little fragile and are getting more-so, makes me appreciate the present moment, while I am still healthy and get around easily and can do everything I want to do - almost.
These are the kinds of things that the pandemic has made me think about. I am bringing these thoughts, questions, and feelings to my reading of scripture this month. How did Paul and other early Jewish/Christians- even as they went to jail and faced persecution and serious trials - how did they manage to grow their communities during times like that. How did they stay encouraged even as they lived in a world that must have been discouraging and wearing? They were dealing with a lot. And so are we right now.
What can they teach us about living in a healthy religious community? What can they teach us about living in a growing, deepening relationship with the Living God? These are the questions we will be asking of the letters of Paul and the gospels in coming weeks.
I will not be trying to tell you who to vote for. Though I will be asking you to make a plan to vote, mostly we will be talking about how to get through this time of divisiveness and stress. I am so proud that we manage to have a vibrant, loving community with a fairly wide diversity of thinking and opinion. These days that is not easy to maintain, especially not easy when a community is taking active stands on social issues.
The present culture of angry partisan politics that exists on both the Left and the Right is far more effective at making us feel morally superior than it is at changing anyone’s mind. I really appreciate those of you who are challenged, stretched, or even angered by some of the things we talk about. And I appreciate the patience of those of you who feel like I am not addressing your concerns enough. We need to work on ourselves first, work on our own understanding, our own peace of mind, our own shortcomings. That’s what I see Paul saying here. And that’s why we try to maintain some kind of balance, knowing that all of us will be challenged by the power of the Gospel to grow and care for each other and our community.
Paul challenges the ecclesial community toward that kind of growth in letters that he wrote to them. Today Cayla read the end of Paul’s letter to the people of Philippi. We call the letter Philippians. The interesting thing about these letters is that they were written even before the gospels. So these are some of the earliest writings we have about Jesus and the early church. Philippians and Thessalonians that we are going to read next week were written in the 50’s, just 20+years after Jesus died. Thessalonians was written even before Philippians.
Paul wrote to the Philippians from jail in about 55 AD. He loved these people in his church and was sorry he couldn’t be there with them, sorry as we have been that they couldn’t be together. He was in prison, so communicating with the people was very important to him. He thought it might be the last letter he would ever write, so he poured his heart into it. You might think of it as his last will and testament.
Listen again to the words and see if you don’t think they sound like a father giving his children the last words of advice that he can give, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Even though he’s in prison he assures them that he will be fine and encourages them not to be anxious about anything but to give everything to God in prayer. The ‘anythings’ and ‘everythings’ of life can be the source of endless worry, or they can be the stuff of prayer. That’s how we deal with our anxieties in difficult times. Breathe in the love of God, the beauty of the earth, the forgiveness of the Risen One. Breathe out love for your neighbor. Sit in silence and expectation.
And peace, mysterious peaceful tranquility may be yours, even when everyone around you is yelling at each other. Shut that out. Turn off the ads. Mute the TV or turn it off, especially during the advertisements, so you can have some time of peace. Peace that transcends all understanding. It is a gift from God.
You see, “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.” [Richard Rohr] Telling someone else what to think or feel never works. All we can do is keep working to know God ourselves, and live into God’s loving presence. People feel criticized enough when you aren’t even trying to criticize believe me. Other people are not the source of your misery, or your self doubt. We all have to work on that for ourselves and not try to blame it on someone else.
Paul is always telling us to rejoice, rejoice always, again I say rejoice. Remember, he’s saying this from prison. Note that he’s not saying that he is the source of the their joy. Pastors are not the source of your joy. Musicians aren’t the source of your joy. Even your family is not the source of your joy. They can all help, but we know that God is the source of our joy, and that’s why Paul can encourage his congregation to rejoice even while he’s in prison. Because there is something deeper than any of our current trouble that can bring us peace and joy that surpasses all understanding.
We in our community call that deeper peace, that deeper source of tranquility, the Living God, a connection with our very Creator. We can tap into the source of beauty, renewal, care for each other and for ourselves. We can tap into the silent peace anytime and be energized for the work ahead. It’s better than a cup of coffee.
So, “come away with me, Jesus says, to a quiet place, apart from the world with its frantic pace, to pray, reflect, and seek God’s grace. Come away with me. Come away.”
this is God’s good news.
Responsive Hymn: 2202 Come Away with Me