Sermon for October 15, 2017 19th after Pentecost “Rejoice”
My friends, how dear you are to me. How I rejoice when I am in your presence. How thankful I am when I recall the good work you do to promote the mission and work of Jesus. I am proud of you.
These word first penned by Paul about 2000 years ago to the community at Philippi. And to be honest I could say them no better to the people of St. Mark’s today. My friends, how dear you are to me, how I rejoice in being with you, how proud I am of you.
It takes more people than you can imagine to be about the work of Jesus as it is lived out here. Yes some do more and some do less and that is fine, it is not a contest. And I can assure you that if the small tasks are missed the whole get out of balance and it is noticed.
The letter from Paul is notable in that he names two women: Euodia and Syntyche who work tirelessly for the mission of Jesus. They do not always see eye to eye as to what is important but they do see that the work is vital and their work is vital. So Paul reminds them that all work is important and essential and that they can rejoice that they have different interests and skills.
I am thankful that there are many and differently skilled folks here. And that even from time to time we heed the call of Paul to set aside differences and work together in our common mission. But most of all rejoice. Rejoice in the work of the Gospel, rejoice in one another, rejoice in prayer and just rejoice.
For Paul there is more than just getting along and rejoicing. There is the essential need for people of faith to have a practice of prayer. ‘Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking God with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Jesus’. This prayer life is not something new, not a new and vital teaching of Jesus. It is ancient and has roots in the beginning of the Hebrew tradition, from which Christianity was born. So Paul speaks as though prayer is a natural part of the lives of the first Christians. Paul goes on to explain what we have so interestingly forgotten a practiced prayer life. For the past 100 years or so, prayer has become more of a wish list, a honey-do list for God. It has become more about me and my situation and less about time with God and Jesus. But listen again to what Paul has to say about the outcome of prayer: and God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Jesus.
It is in that relationship that we find the deepest and purest joy. And that I believe will be the first steps of the new reformation of Christianity. It is moving from a wish list mentality, beyond a ‘God bless America’ notion, beyond a God is for us and be dammed all others. A new reformation that begins with a practiced prayer that leads to joy with God and from that a joy of the gift of life blessed to us and the earth that sustains that living.
A Paul ends this portion of his letter he implores us to view the world from the inner sight of joy. Then you will see good, see possibility, see love, see humility and see God.
It starts with practiced prayer…let us pray…Amen