The Educational Support Organization, Inc.
The Nourishing Place
We are a 501-c-3, Not-for-Profit Charitable Organization
Tax ID # 72-1246735
Sermon, March 29, 2020
The scripture today is from Philippians 4: 6-7. Paul wrote this letter to the people in Philippi while he was in prison...the prison was dark, damp, rat-infested, and dangerous. The letter Paul wrote in this hideous circumstance is all about joy and thanksgiving to a God of love. Sounds strange, doesn’t it...how can he rejoice while living in this horror of a prison? Perhaps the lesson here for us is we can rejoice in whatever circumstance we are in, because we are a reflection and representative of our God-given role-model for life, Jesus our Christ. So here are the scriptures for today: “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 everything, by prayer and asking with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace that passes all human understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Thursday morning I was on my porch, swinging, meditating, and fretting about the sermon for today. I had outlined two or three and none seemed appropriate. So I just sat. Close to noon my phone rang. When I answered it, dear, sweet, loving Mrs. Ruth Irby began singing to me in a beautiful voice. The words she sang were, “The Lord knows his way through the wilderness. All we have to do is follow him! A cloud by the day, a light that lights our way, all you have to do is follow him.” What a blessing that was to me. Ruth ministers to me, as so many of you do, and I am grateful. All ministers need the loving spiritual support from their congregations. I certainly receive these blessings from our church family. Thank you to all of you.
No one can deny these days are full of irritation, inconvenience, fear, and anxiety. We are living in a wilderness because there is very little that is familiar in these days of separation and confusion. But, Ruth is right. The Lord knows his way through the wilderness and all we need to do is follow him. He has even sent to us and the world a role-model who shows us the correct, right, blessed way to live. And that is Jesus.
Yet who knows more about frustration and unfairness than Jesus himself? Jesus, the one who shows the rest of us how to love and forgive, how to be patient, how to care for one another, how to be joyous in all ways, was murdered for a crime he did not commit! Every day he preached and offered love to all people, even the worst of us, but he was cursed, beaten, spat on, and eventually killed. He was able to endure his misery because he had faith, he was willing to be patient, and he knew his mission of love was of vital importance to the entire human race. But most importantly he experienced a moment by moment, loving, grace-filled relationship with is Father, his God. Because of that relationship, he was able to rejoice with his family and friends in spite of every day’s hardships, losses, inconveniences, and a ruling class that wanted him dead! How did he live each day while he was here? He rejoiced. He followed his God. He found joy in the simplest of ideas, of experiences, of interactions with others. He knew joy as the road to peace. God never promised Jesus or us that we would have a life without burdens and difficulty. But God did promise to see us through what ever was dealt to us...if we followed his path of love. God knows his way through the wilderness and he will lead us through ours...if we allow him to do so.
It’s ok for us to have frustration, anger, anxiety...it is how we deal with those feelings that is important. Do you let these feelings linger and simmer into something stronger, like hate? Do they cause you to judge, to belittle, to speak ill of the people or events that create these situations causing grief? Do you harbor grudges? When we choose hurtful words and vengeful thoughts and actions we are harming ourselves not the people or situations that have caused our great inconveniences.
Each one of us can learn to rejoice in all things and praise life and love and hope and faith instead of moping, wailing, complaining, and grieving? Can you find someone to laugh with you? Can you find humor in odd and unexpected situations? Can you manage to see light even in times of darkness? You can do these things when you do them through the Spirit within you...the one God himself places into you...His Spirit. Rely on the God within you rather than on what is outside of you.
This time when thousands are ill, out of work, losing what little savings they may have, rejoice that you have a place to stay, food to eat, clean water to drink, and a God who encourages you to live the better part of who you are every day...but especially during these difficult days of this deadly virus. This too shall pass. In the meantime, may we learn the difference between grace and griping, and choose grace, always. So let it be!
In the name of the Father, the son, the Holy Spirit, go into this week with enthusiasm, with love, kindness and a joyful heart. You can do it. We must do it. Sending love to each of you.