“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 4:1-2)
“Be at peace. The Lord is near. The Lord is close by. The Lord is near at hand. The Lord is here. God is here. Jesus is here. The Spirit is here. The Lord is near. Do not worry too much about things. Sometimes we need to bring our worries and our fears and lay them down at Jesus feet. Try not to worry, but in everything in prayer and supplication (I’m a firm believer in prayer of all kinds) and in this case seeking Gods favor, seeking God’s favor for others, seeking Gods healing for those you love, those whose needs are brought to your attention, and with thanksgiving be grateful and be thankful. Let your requests, you’re asking, be made known to God” (Philippians 4:3-6).
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, (it’s beyond our figuring out, what we can comprehend and put into language) that peace will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. The battle is in the heart and the battle is in the mind. “And, finally my 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”. Fill your life and fill your mind with good thoughts, and keep on doing the things you have learned, and participate, “put into practice” the things that you have heard and seen in me. In other words practice those things that are modeled by brothers and sisters that you respect. (Philippians 4:7-8)
Sometimes we look for the bad things in other people’s lives. But begin to look for the good things, and model those things. I have models in my life. My father was a model to me. Sometimes I find myself taking counsel from my dad on a pastoral issue. I grew up as a pastor’s son, so I got to see firsthand how he handled particular situations, and that counsel still comes at times. In many respects my father was and still is a model for me. Does that mean he was a perfect model in all respects. No, he was not, but that’s what being a Christian is about. We are all trying to find our way as best we can, and a little help from others goes a long way.
Naomi is a model for me. She is not perfect and doesn’t claim to be, but in my book she’s darn near perfect. She models patience and wisdom for me in the midst of controversy. And, I have come to depend on that model. I find many characteristics that all of you model in this parish community. Our final confirmation class for our confirmation candidates is about gifts and responsibilities. That’s why it’s good to observe and appreciate the talents and admirable character traits of others. We can learn and receive encouragement from each other, and we can also give of ourselves in similar but different ways. We are all peculiar and unique. That’s one of the things I really appreciate about church.
“And the God of peace will be with you. The Lord is near even in your mind and in your heart”.
I remember once back in my young life, not sure how old I was, but somewhere in my mid to late 20’s. I was working with a heating and air conditioner contractor, working new construction sites for schools, hospitals and nursing homes. I would be out of town with a crew for maybe 4 or 5 nights of the week, and be home for a couple days on the weekend. I remember one specific time in some little town in Arkansas. I remember going out at night for long walks to pray and think. I remember this one night there was like a pond in the back of the motel, and it was more like a swampy bog with a lot of bull-frogs croaking into the night. I remember the setting just as it was that night. It sticks out in my mind. It was one of those special times. The moon was small, shaped like a canoe, and the sky was full of stars. I missed my children. I didn’t like to be away from them four or five days a week. They were too small, and I wanted to be with them. I missed Naomi, and I was at a crossroads in my life. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I definitely did not want to continue living out of motel rooms on the road for most of the week, and to be separated from my family every week.
My heart was heavy and I did not know how or where to begin, but I did my best to lay my burdens down. And, as I was praying and releasing my grief to God, I began to sing a new song. It was just a small song I made up as I went. This song comes back to me once in awhile, especially when I read passages like our reading today in Philippians. This passage reminds me that at all times in our lives, especially in difficult situations to bring our burdens and grieving hearts to the Lord and then to leave them there. “The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6)
I will close with the simple song I wrote that lonely night so many years ago.
Oh how I love your presence Lord.
I love to stand in your presence Lord.
I love to wait in your presence Lord.
I love the presence of the Lord. When in meditation and communion sweet,
I lay my burdens at my Saviors feet.
Then within the stillness of the blessed retreat,
I hear the voice of Jesus in my heart.
Oh, how I love your presence Lord.
I love to stand in your presence Lord. I love to wait in your presence Lord.
I love the presence of the Lord.
Year A 18th Sunday After Pentecost
October 12, 2014
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen