|Last Pentecost – Christ the King, Year A||November 22, 2020||Christ the King Sunday, Year A||Ephesians 1:15-23, Matthew 25:31-46|
|Pentecost 24 – Diocesan Convention (Rt. Rev. Phoebe Roaf, Bishop of the Diocese of West Tennessee)||November 15, 2020||Pentecost 24, Proper 28||Matthew 25:14-30|
|Pentecost 23, Year A||November 8, 2020||Pentecost 23, Proper 27, Year A||Matthew 25:1-13|
|All Saints, Year A||November 1, 2020||All Saints' Sunday, Year A||1 John 3:1-3, Matthew 5:1-12|
|Pentecost 21, Year A||October 25, 2020||Pentecost 21, Proper 25, Year A||Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; Psalm 1; Matthew 22:34-46|
|Pentecost 20, Year A||October 18, 2020||Pentecost 20, Proper 24, Year A||I Thessalonians 1:1-10, Psalm 96|
|➤Pentecost 19, Year A||October 11, 2020||Pentecost 19, Proper 23, Year A||Philippians 4:1-9|
|Pentecost 18, Year A||October 4, 2020||Pentecost 18, Year A||Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:7-14, Philippians 3:4b-14, Matthew 21:33-46|
|Pentecost 17, Year A – Elizabeth Heimbach||September 27, 2020||Pentecost 17, Proper 21 Year A||Matthew 21:23-32|
|Pentecost 16, Year A||September 20, 2020||Pentecost 16, Proper 20, Year A 2020 The Season of Creation||Matthew 20:1-16|
|Pentecost 15, Year A||September 13, 2020||Pentecost 15, Proper 19||Genesis 50:15-21, Matthew 18:21-35|
|Pentecost 14, Year A||September 6, 2020||Pentecost 14, Proper 18, Year A||Ezekiel 33:7-11, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20|
|Pentecost 13, Year A||August 30, 2020||Pentecost, 13, Proper 17, Year A||Romans 12:9-21, Matthew 16:21-28|
|Pentecost 12, Year A||August 23, 2020||Pentecost 12, , Proper 16, Year A||Isaiah 51:1-6, Ps 138, Romans 12:1-8, Matthew 16:13-20|
|Pentecost 11, Year A||August 16, 2020||Pentecost 11, Proper 15, Year A||Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Matthew 15:10-28|
Pentecost 19, Year A
Sermon Date:October 11, 2020
Scripture: Philippians 4:1-9
Liturgy Calendar: Pentecost 19, Proper 23, Year A
In the first and hopefully only presidential debate of this election, our current president directed as group known as the Proud Boys to “Stand back and stand by.”
The Apostle Paul directs the followers of Jesus in Philippi not to stand back and to stand by, but to stand firm in the Lord.
“Stand Firm in the Lord, in this way, my beloved,” Paul commands.
Here’s how to stand firm in the Lord, according to Paul.
Be of the same mind in the Lord.
Does being of the same mind in the Lord mean that we will be of the same mind about everything? Probably not.
Will we have disagreements? Yes.
But Paul reminds us that as we stand firm in the Lord, we are to stand firm together, instead of tearing one another down. We have work to do—to spread the good news of the gospel. This work can be hard and challenging, and at times stormy, so we must not waste time hating on one another, but when we disagree to do so in loving ways that help all of us stand firm together in the Lord.
Trees know something about standing firm together.
In a forest, or in your yard, trees that are close together have over the years intertwined their roots. When these trees are caught in a storm, they stand firm because their roots support one another. Meanwhile, that big showy specimen tree that stands alone is much more susceptible to being blown down in a storm, because it must depend only on its own root system to hold it up.
Paul’s second directive is to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice,” that is, rejoicing that the Lord gracefully works in us and through us, in spite of ourselves. When we fail at whatever we are called to do, we ask forgiveness and the make a new commitment to stand firm in the Lord. When we commit ourselves to God, God will put us to work! And the satisfaction of the Holy Spirit working in us will have us rejoicing in the Lord—every time, even in the hard times when we fail and must learn to stand firm again.
The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything. Ernest Scott, in his commentary on Philippians, points out that our temptation is to “substitute faith in the future for faith in God.” When the future looks promising, we rejoice. When the future looks bleak, we despair. And any future that we human beings make can be easily unmade by other human beings. But God cannot be unmade. God is eternal. God does not waver. The Lord is near, and the signs of the reign of God have already come on this earth. We will still have anxieties in this life, but when these anxieties are put in their place, second to our faith in God’s unchanging love, these normal anxieties will not overtake our lives and overcome us. As Scott points out, “God’s possibilities are never exhausted by any human plan.” Our call, as we face the unknown, is to be faithful, truthful and creative” in all God calls us to do and to stand firm in the Lord.
In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. Paul is not suggesting that we pray expecting that our prayers will necessarily be answered in the way that we hope that they will. Remember how Jesus prayed for the cup to pass from him in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Not my will, Father, but your will be done.” In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray for God’s will to be done. As Scott points out in his commentary, “God’s purpose is something infinitely greater and more worthy than the satisfaction of any of our selfish wants. Even our unselfish wants may be in God’s larger necessity quite impossible.” After all, God’s will stretches through infinity, and our wills are limited to our own tiny perspectives. So praying for God’s will to be done rather than for our own will to be done is the way to go.
Why should we pray about everything? In our efforts to present our best selves to the world, we tend to hide the clutter in our lives. Don’t tell my mother that I find this habit of hers entertaining. She stuffs small packages of Kleenex, her glasses case, and even the newspaper into the sofa cushions if someone rings the doorbell –because she doesn’t want the visitor to see any clutter. My mother recently told me that my grandmother used to justify hiding any visible clutter in the house with this statement, “You never know when the doctor might need to visit.” The problem with this, though, is that with the clutter stuffed away, it’s easy to forget what you’ve hidden not only from others but from yourself until that knitting needle you shoved down in the sofa cushions one day and then forgot works its way to the surface and stabs you or some unsuspecting visitor in the backside.
Praying about everything helps us not to hide the clutter in our lives, but to lay out all our messes before God. The Collect for Purity at the beginning of the celebration of Holy Eucharist puts it this way—“Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.”
Paul reminds us to pray with thanksgiving. He would approve of the fact that we end Morning Prayer with the General Thanksgiving. In this prayer we thank God for our creation, preservation and for all the blessings of this life; but above all for God’s immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory,” that is, the Holy Spirit working in us. God takes our imperfect lives and works miracles through them. Praying with thanksgiving reminds us not only of the blessing of waking up in the morning, living through the day and being blessed in the process, but also for the unknown potential that our lives hold that God can bring into reality, if only we will offer our lives up to God for God’s glory.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Each one of these phrases is worthy of several pages of commentary, but for me, Paul’s overall reminder here is that what I dwell on will ultimately influence my will and my ability to stand firm in the Lord. Trying to see the world through the eyes of my Lord and Savior helps me to discern, even if only dimly, what is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable and excellent to God—and what is worthy of praise in God’s perspective. And when I focus on these things and pray for the Holy Spirit to work in my own life so that I can these things, I don’t have time to judge and criticize others. I have more than enough work to do on myself!
We know that we are on the right track in standing firm in the Lord when God’s peace, the peace that passes all understanding, reigns in our hearts, even when the world seems to be falling apart around us.
So–stand firm in the Lord, beloved. Be of the same mind in the Lord. Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God.
Resource: Scott, Ernest F. “The Epistle to the Philippians.” In Vol XI The Interpreter’s Bible. New York: Abingdon Press, 1955.