Homily - "Paul's Advice on Cultivating Peace" March 22, 2020

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Faith in Anxious Time (COVID-19)  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  21:26
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Paul gives us some pretty simple advice about how to have peace. Is it too simple? Pastor Ben explores a bit about Paul's "street cred" when it comes to facing adversity. He also looks at ways of making room for Jesus while and the importance of being socially connected to others during this time of uncertainty.

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Good morning. I'm Pastor Ben Keller senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church. This message is for Sunday, March 22nd. Let's have a brief word of prayer. Holy God in the midst of difficult and uncertain times. We ask that you would help us. that you would give us your peace. Bless my friends as we gather virtually knowing that wherever two or more are gathered even remotely you are there. Give ear to our anxieties and our worries and bless our time of virtual worship here this morning These things we pray in Jesus name. Amen. This week's believe Bible study is on peace and is very apropos for the season that were finding ourselves here with the COVID 19 out break today I'm going to be bringing you a little bit of a shorter message and explore Paul's words of cultivating peace from Philippians 4 4 through 8. Let's look at this scripture together -Rejoice in the lord always again. I say rejoice let your gentleness be knowing to everyone the Lord is near to 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. Finally beloved. Whatever is true. Whatever is Honorable, whatever is just whatever is pure whatever is pleasing. Whatever is commendable if there is any excellent at if there is anything worthy of Praise think about these things keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me and the God of Peace will be with you.

It's hard to be peaceful. Even in times when we have certainty and routine in our lives and we definitely don't have any of those now, it could be hard to trust with this message of peace. Peace God's peace when were worried about whether or not we might have a job feeling anxious about the future the stock market or health concern the economy have cabin fever if you're worried about loved ones. If we're worried about having enough toilet paper. Paul's words are difficult to swallow? They can sound a bit trace and unrealistic but beloved they are born from a lifetime of suffering.

Paul gives us a powerful promise us from the wisdom that he gained over a lifetime of uncertainty and anxiety --At this point in Paul's life he's seen a lot of challenges. He said seasons of plenty and then seasons of want, he was repeatedly jailed flogged and beaten for his beliefs. He was shipwrecked three times, spent a day and a night in the sea, was in continual danger from rivers and robbers. He was often weary and in pain, he didn't sleep well with often hungry and thirsty and sometimes he was cold and even naked. He was continually concerned about the health of all of the churches. He helped start and the early Christians and finally, he's writing these particular words from prison. Paul has what we might call street-cred in suffering in dealing with the unknown and being with situations that are far outside his control situations that would cause even the most well-adjusted of us a great deal of anxiety. Paul's words are not just words in an old book, but we learned from a lifetime in the trenches. So what can we learn from Paul's experience and suffering in having no control? Paul reminds us to bring every concern every situation, every need, every tear, every fear, every praise to God In Prayer.

He says: do not be anxious about anything but in every situation by prayer and petition with Thanksgiving present your requests to God. Why does he say these things? Well, it's submitting or presenting these requests to God then we can receive the peace of God which transcends all understanding. --That goes beyond what we can understand. That's because we're casting our burdens onto God and that peace of God will guard your heart and mind in and through Christ Jesus. This is a powerful promise from Paul. Paul really understood this he wrote these words. It was her way of dealing with overwhelming anxiety of the known and the unknown and it was to lift all these concerns To God In Prayer. Too bad we can pray from anywhere. We don't have to meet in our church building together to pray together. In fact, we're encouraging everyone to pray for a minute or two at 9 a.m. And again every morning and again on the hour if you think about it, I got to see if we might be able to gather as a group online through Zoom or Facebook a couple times a week at 9 a.m. for a time of prayer and just checking in with one another. Prayer can really help our hearts get right. I can help our anxiety. Author Jim Branch reflects on the need of getting one's heart right, about making room for Jesus. Let me read you his word here:

Jim writes: what makes you the worst version of yourself? For me, I noticed it has a lot to do with room: making room, having room, occupying room. I need room to breathe, room to move around, room to roam. I need room to think, room to reflect, room to pray room to pay attention. I need room to be with Jesus. I need room like Mary did in Mary and Martha to sit at the feet of Jesus to listen to what he says. I need room to allow His word to do its work deep within me. And when I do not have room, when I am crowded and pressured and hurried, it can get ugly inside me really fast. A constant frustration is one of the early warning signs for me. But if I follow that down a little deeper, I quickly run into those old familiar foes: anxiety and insecurity. I start to feel like life is living me rather than I am living life. Does that sound familiar to you? Distracted worried and upset. Hello, Martha. That for me. Hello my worst self. The funny thing about room, is it doesn't just happen on its own you have to be intentional. You won't just find room, you have to make room and maybe that's what Jesus is trying to teach Martha is that you have to have intentionality or there will be no room and thus no peace. I saw this pattern play out in my life. Recently, I noticed I had been living with a constant sense of frustration then came anxiety and insecurity plus a sleepless night or two. Demands and expectations began getting the best of me. It was a slow subtle thing; the kind of thing that sucks you into a way of being without you even noticing. And then it occurred to me: I need more room. I've been spending my time with Jesus, but I haven't specifically been making room to sit at his feet the way Mary did and listen to whatever he might have to say. I've been distracted like Martha. I've allowed circumstances and worries to dominate my heart. And as soon as I began making more room in my day to sit and listen to the one who calls me his "beloved", perspective began to return, frustration began to fade, and life began to come back into my soul once again driving out the fear and anxiety the insecurities and the frustration. My circumstances had not changed, but I had I had room again to hear his voice. Thanks be to God. re-read that last phrase: and soon as I began making more room in my day to sit like Mary, to listen to the one who calls me his ""beloved perspective began to return, frustration began to fade, and life began to come back into my soul once again driving out to fear, the anxiety, the insecurity and the frustration. My circumstances had not changed, but I had... I had room again to hear his voice.

As I drove into the office earlier this week. I noticed that people were taking this time of self-isolation and self-imposed distancing to make room in their lives to get rid of clutter. I saw an old toy car track, some used furniture, bags of paper, a broken snow sled. perhaps in this time in this liminal space where things are uncertain you might consider getting rid of some of the emotional clutter to make some more room, to cultivate some more opportunities to reconnect with Jesus and with each other and find this sense of peace that Paul is talking about. Friends, it's important that as we're making room in our lives. That we don't isolate ourselves. I was on a conference call with Governor polis and his team on Thursday and they reminded us that we are called to practice social distancing and that's 6 feet not social isolation. And those are two very different things.

Know that we care about you here at First Presbyterian Church this past week our staff called those who are most vulnerable we call through all of our members over the age of 70 and those who have illnesses that are particularly susceptible to complications with this virus. We tried to connect with all of our families with children and youth.

And this is the fourth message we put out online this past week. Some members in our congregation needed help getting to the store because they couldn't get out, shouldn't get out, or couldn't afford groceries and your fellow church members stepped up. One of our youth needed to borrow a computer to attend online classes, and again, you all stepped up. We're drawing together as a church family. We're stronger together. Please remain connected with one another. At present, our local restaurants are open for carry out and they could use your business if you're able to get out, or consider having a cold beverage, or a cup of coffee or tea with your neighbors while sitting on your front sidewalks. Meet up for a bike ride or walk your dogs together-- keep at least six feet away, but remain connected and practice good hand hygiene, but do not social isolate. Our church is going to do our best to help you do this. This past week. I've been working with our church leadership to create a neighborhood or cluster Shepherds as a way of providing more support for our members. And our hope is to rool this out in the next two to three days. Here you can see my neighborhood cluster and you can see the different colors on there they represent different things. The green is me the blue dots are some of our elders and deacons; the red dots that are around there are our church members so our elders and deacons and Stephen ministers and cluster Shepherds will be breaking up the list and will be calling to check on you all periodically and making sure that you're okay. And if you want to be at a cluster Shepherd to help make some phone calls and I'll check in on people in our congregation. please email the office and we're going to try to roll this out by Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning. We're likely having some virtual small groups, devotionals or Bible studies later this week and possibly by next week. We'll be building a bit of her virtual campus of sorts with an abridged live worship service if we're able to do those pieces. Friends, if you would please keep us your church family and your staff in your prayers, please consider giving online to help ensure that were able to provide for our ongoing ministry and for our staff are working hard behind the scenes for you. Paul's words to us in scripture today encourage us to have a right relationship with God and with our neighbor. I invite you to remain connected with one another. We're all in this together. And may the peace of Christ dwell in you richly during this time of uncertainty. Amen. Beloved I invite you to take a few moments and prayer with me. One of the prayer requests we've received is for Marissa. Who is Teri Hopkins daughter. She's ill, likely with COVID 19 up in Idaho.

Pray for our church family, for me and the staff as we try navigating Ministry in new contacts and amid situations we've never encountered before, we pray for our leaders and our friends and family and other people in our communities that are out of work or on the edge.

Let's pray together. Holy and gracious God, we ask that you would hear our prayer concerns today for Marissa for the vulnerable for a church family. I pray for First Presbyterian Church our leadership and our staff. I pray for all those who are ill, are vulnerable during this time: the homeless, those who are struggling. Help all of us who are trying to do ministry and lead in new contexts to do with well and with grace.

Give us wisdom to be able to utilize resources available to us.

Help us to connect with one another as we're stronger together; help us in this time of social distancing that we don't become socially isolated. Help us to have that peace Paul speaks about; help us to make room as in our in our illustration by Jim Branch

We also pray for our leaders our President, our Congress: Senate and House of Representatives, our local officials we pray for those who were on the front lines are medical teams and doctors and nurses and people who are doing grocery deliveries and people who are working in grocery stores and restuarants trying to keep society functioning. We pray for all those.

The things we pray in the mighty name of Jesus as we take a few moments of silent prayer, lifting up those whom we are most concerned about. And those areas in our life for we have the greatest anxiety.

Finally hear us Lord as we go to you in prayer saying the words that you taught us to pray: Our Father who art in heaven Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors and lead us not into temptation. But Deliver Us from Evil for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever for men. Frinds, if you have prayer request and you would like us to pray for them here virtually or with our prayer team online, you can email it to a prayer@firstprespueblo.org You can also let us know by contacting the church office or by emailing us at prayer@firstprespueblo.org that you would like to be a neighborhood Shepherd. Please sign up for our email blast. This will be sharing more ways to connect with one another and you can do that by responding to this email to buy responding at prayer@firstprespueblo.org or at office@firstprespueblo.org. If need encouragment or groceries or the like, please let us know by emailing or calling us at the office at 719-542-7322. Again, 719-542-7322 or after hours emergency line, which is 766-6226, 766-6226 and those numbers are on your screen. If I invite you to please take a few minutes after listening to these words to consider setting up an online giving or automatic deduction. We need your continued financial support during this time.

finally friends, hear these words of Paul

as we close

"Whatever is true. Whatever is Honorable. Whatever is just. Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely. Whatever is commendable, if there is any thing excellent, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. And May the peace of God dwell in you richly this week. Go in peace.

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