Pastor Sherry’s Message for October 11, 2020

Scriptures: Ex 32:1-14; Ps 106: 19-23; Phil 4:1-19; Matt 22:1-14

I just read an article by Judith Graham (in the Epoch Times Newspaper) titled, “Seniors are having Second Thoughts about Where to Live.” Generally speaking, older Americans have desired to remain in their own homes until health issues (physical & cognitive) have made it necessary to (1) downsize to smaller retirement homes;(2)or move in with adult children;(3)or move to nursing homes or assisted living facilities.  But given that some 70,000 residents and staff have died in nursing and assisted living facilities by mid-August of this year, due to the pandemic—and many others have suffered emotionally from being isolated from others—numbers of retirement aged-Americans are rethinking where to spend their “twilight years.”  Some are choosing to build homes or set up mobile homes closer to family members. Others, who have found small city apartments too lonely and confining during the quarantine, are now choosing to move to multigenerational “cohousing communities” where neighbors share dining and recreational facilities.  One of my former professors at FSU built a home in such a community in Tallahassee, Florida.  Each family had a separate home, but they all partook of meals together and they all shared a common recreational park.  Still others have decided to build bigger homes, on the premise that if they are again stuck in a lockdown, they will at least have more space (and can share their shelter with friends).

The folks Ms. Graham interviewed seemed to think the keys to peace and joy are picking a place to live that allows us independence while also providing community.  These concerns are an unexpected legacy of the Covid-19 virus among older Americans.  The writer does not distinguish between those older Americans who have a vital Christian faith and those who do not.  I think if she had, her conclusions might have been different.

No matter what our age, the Apostle Paul has some  excellent ideas for how to live out our lives—not with worry—but with peace and joy.  In Philippians 4, Paul gives us 6 ideas for how to live a joyful, peace-filled life:

  • V.1–Rather than worry about an unknown future—which could change in a New York minute–let’s set our minds on heavenly things & stand firm in the LORD.

This includes setting aside our quarrels with others. As he did with Euodia and Syntyche, Paul would have us figure out a way to forgive insults or slights from others.  He would want us to grant grace and forgiveness to others as Jesus has to us.  These are ways to keep our minds on heavenly things and to stand firm in the teachings of Jesus Christ.

  • V.–We are to rejoice!  i.e., to celebrate!

Paul didn’t have a bold feature or capital letters, exclamation points, or thumbs up “emogies” on his computer of the day.  The way he emphasized something was to repeat it.  Our joy comes from our relationship with Jesus. We need to celebrate this.  One good way to do so is to daily think of three things you can be or are grateful for and to thank God for these.  This practice will help you feel better.  When we think of what we are grateful for, we end up smiling.  Additionally, this practice will begin to retrain your brain to focus on what is positive rather than the negative.  Psychology and medical science tell us our brain’s default is to think negatively.  We tend to scan the environment for threats because attending the negative may keep us safe.  However, focusing on the negative does not lead us into peace and joy.  This practice will help you better note and remember the good things that God is doing in your life.  If those Israelites from our Old Testament lesson today had daily repeated 3 miracles God had done for them since leaving Egypt—the 10 plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, God’s daily provision of food and frequent provision of water, not to mention destroying the army of Egyptian chariots hot on their trail—they might not have fallen so quickly (40 days) into idolatry (Ex 32:1-14; Ps 106:19-23).  What were they thinking?!  Worshipping a golden calf, fashioned after a beast that eats grass on all fours.  They formed this idol and then worshipped it.  How foolish!  They worshipped a creature when they had had intimate contact with the Great Creator!  YIKES!

  •  V.6–Rather than be anxious (or rebellious), we should pray.

Those Israelites could have prayed for Moses’ safety and his quick return to them.  Instead, they abandoned their faith in God and took matters into their own hands.  The Lord wants us to bring every concern we have to Him.  No request is too small.  As Dr. J. Vernon McGee says, “If it matters to us, it matters to God.”

We want to follow up our appeals with thanksgiving.  Now we are not assuming God will do what we ask every time, so we are not thanking Him in advance for complying with our wishes.  No, this would make us God instead of Him.  Instead, we realize that sometimes God agrees with us and says “yes.”  Other times, His answer is “not yet” or even “no.”  So we are instead expressing appreciation that He always hears us and pays attention to us.

  • V.7–When we pray and leave our worries to God, His peace which transcends all understanding will descend upon us.

In the place of stress, we will feel His shalom peace.  Shalom meant more to the ancient Hebrews than a wish for peace, but instead conveyed total well-being, in mind, body, and spirit.  This deep shalom peace depends on our relationship with Jesus, not on our current circumstances.

(5)  V.8–Again, we want to focus our thoughts on the positive: …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 these things.

Our news media is likely to emphasize whatever is scary, depressing, unexpected, or horrifying. This tends to lead us to believe their reports accurately reflect the national state of affairs—that things are more awful than they are good.  We have to remember, however, that the true, the good, the noble, the right, the pure, the lovely, and the admirable are not considered newsworthy.  So, unless we listen to a compassionate newscaster or commentator with an ear to peoples’ acts of kindness, we do not often hear of these things.    

If we are to live out lives that demonstrate peace and joy, we have to discipline ourselves to look for and celebrate the good!  Paul saw the truth of this long ago.  Secular Psychology has just recognized this truth in the past 20 years.  Modeling this very concept, Paul commends the Philippian

Church for sending him money.  He writes this letter to them from jail in Ephesus.  In those days, a prisoner—not the prison—was responsible for providing his/her own food and drink.  Without support from friends or family outside, any prisoner was out of luck.  Now God had been sustaining Paul in ways he did not report; but, even though he never wrote asking them for support, he still greatly appreciated the money they had sent him via Epaphroditus.  In the final words of his letter, he thanks them for their kindness to him.  Paul knew and was modeling the fact that expressing thanks blesses those whose generosity has already blessed him.

  • Finally, he blesses them (v.19)And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. 

Paul exhibits faith and trust in God’s loving care for the Philippians.  Knowing God is able to do so, Paul prays that God will provide for them as they have for him.

Jesus offers us a 7th key in His parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14).  Special guests had been invited to the King’s Son’s wedding banquet, but they (the Jewish religious leadership) made their excuses and did not come.  These excuses were very weak.  By refusing to attend, they expressed disinterest and lack of respect.  As we saw last week, the King is enraged and punishes them by destroying them and their city—again a prophesy of the obliteration of Jerusalem in 70AD by the Romans.

Then the King dispatches His servants to bring in those the original guests would have considered undesirables (a “basket of deplorables”). He supplies wedding clothes and is angry when a guest does not come dressed appropriately.  This is not a matter of fashion; rather, it reflects God’s concern for righteousness—having a mind and a heart set on Christ; being grateful to God; trusting in Him; and praying to Him.  Without our wedding garment of Christ’s righteousness, we will be tossed out of the wedding banquet.  This is the 3rd parable of judgment on the Pharisees, elders, and Scribes of Jesus’ time, preached by Jesus two days before His arrest.  All of them—and all of us–are invited to God’s heavenly banquet, but not all will be allowed to participate.  Those who are rebellious (as the Israelites in today’s Exodus passage, and the short-sighted religious leaders in Jesus’ time) and reject Jesus will be excluded.

God has given us, in His Scriptures, a pathway or the keys to a life of peace and joy.  As we go about our daily lives this week, let’s be mindful of…

  1. Keeping a heaven-mindset, standing firm in the Lord;
  2. Rejoicing!  Celebrating our relationship with God;
  3. Praying, the small and the big things, turning them all over to Jesus.  Let’s leave our concerns in His care, resisting the impulse to worry, while also being grateful to God for His many blessings and for attending us.
  4. Seeking God’s peace and His continued blessing.
  5. Remembering, with gratitude, that we are clothed in Jesus’ righteousness.

Let’s also remember this is not our home.   Our final retirement home is in Heaven and our invitation to the banquet comes at a great price, the precious blood of Jesus Christ!

©2020 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

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