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Sermon for October 15, 2023 – Proper 23

Program Transcript

Speaking of Life 5047 | Acknowledging God’s Faithfulness
Cara Garrity

Last year I adopted two golden retriever puppies, Bumi and Zuko. One of the most endearing things they do is greet me with all their excitement when I return home. They’ll run up to me wagging their tails, then run around looking for toys to bring me. Sometimes I’ll even let them be a little naughty and jump on me in their excitement.

On the flip side of their warm welcomes home, they struggled for many months whenever I left. Sometimes they would bark for up to ten minutes after I left the house before they settled down. Bumi would even start whining and barking if I walked into the other room. They became anxious when they couldn’t see me. It took them some time for them to learn that I would always return – I will never abandon them.

There is a story in the book of Exodus where Moses goes up to Mt. Horeb to meet with God. It seems to the Israelites that Moses is taking his sweet time and so they start to grow restless. Perhaps, something has happened to him, they wonder.

In the 106th Psalm, the psalmist writes a song about this, highlighting the failure of the Israelites to trust God, despite all that he had previously done for them.

At Horeb they made a calf and worshipped an idol cast from metal. They exchanged their glorious God for an image of a bull, which eats grass. They forgot the God who saved them, who had done great things in Egypt, miracles in the land of Ham and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. Psalms 106:19-22

Rather than waiting for Moses to return, the Israelites decided to take matters into their own hands. They created a false image of God and his character rather than trusting in God’s unchanging continual care for them.

In times of uncertainty, we can become anxious. We may be tempted to trust in things that we find around us to give us comfort. We look to created things rather than to our Creator for hope and meaning but our true comfort comes from Christ and his continual commitment to us.

Have you possibly fashioned idols in your life while growing impatient in seeing God work in and through you?

Remember when God has shown himself faithful to you. Where you have seen his provision, his grace, and his deliverance from difficult circumstances.

Return to these altars as memorials that the Father sees you, he sees Christ in you, and you in Christ. You never have to fear his return as he has promised to never leave you in the first place, but promises to live with you, and in you, by his Spirit.

Go ahead, feel elated, and jump up on the Master of your soul. Let him know how glad you are to know that you can trust in his continual faithfulness.

I’m Cara Garrity, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23 • Exodus 32:1-14 • Philippians 4:1-9 • Matthew 22:1-14

This week’s theme is the Lord’s favor. In our call to worship Psalm, David considers the Lord’s favor that will be shown to his people. In Exodus, the Lord shows his favor to the Israelites despite their unfaithfulness to him. In the letter to the Philippians, Paul writes of several co-workers who are favored by God in having their names written in the book of life. And in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus gives a parable of a generous king who shows his favor by inviting everyone to his son’s wedding feast.

Have We Lost Our Minds?

Philippians 4:1-9 (NIV)

Mark Twain once wrote, Of all the things I have lost, I miss my mind the most.1 While we can laugh at the humor of this statement, it still speaks to the importance of having a sound mind. In fact, mindfulness has become an industry unto itself.

Today, we are going to be looking at a situation the Apostle Paul is forced to address in the Philippian church. Two of its key leaders were caught in a dispute, and Paul tells them to be of the same mind in the Lord.

Paul is going to use this situation as an opportunity to teach the church about the importance of our thought-life. We will see how these leaders had been caught up in the prideful mind. We will talk about how to have a protected mind, and finally, how we can have a praiseworthy mind.

Read Philippians 4:1-9

One of Paul’s main themes in his letters is his attention to our thought-life. To the Romans he wrote:

Be transformed by the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2 NIV).

To the Corinthians he wrote:

We have the mind of Christ and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16, 10:5 NIV)

To the Colossians he wrote

Set your minds on things above, where Christ is. (Colossians. 3:1 NIV)

And to his beloved disciple, Timothy, he wrote:

For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV)

The Prideful mind

Earlier in Philippians, Paul tells the church:

Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in Spirit and of one mind. (Philippians 2:2 NIV)

This certainly echoes with what we just read in chapter 4, that Euodia and Syntyche were also to be of the same mind. It’s likely that this has been where Paul was going all along and what he has been building up to in chapter 4. We don’t know what the nature of their dispute was, but whatever it was, it was causing problems for that congregation which was leading to a disruption of church unity and health.

Paul describes more of this prideful mindset in chapter 2. A prideful mindset lacks humility and seeks its own interests rather than that of others. It would seem then, that both women had lost their minds. Or rather, the mindset of humility towards one another. Instead, they were choosing to operate out of a prideful mindset.

Most of us can probably name someone we know who refuses to be wrong about anything, as if their entire identity is wrapped up in being correct. If you can’t think of someone, perhaps it’s you. All joking aside, none of us likes being wrong, or having our flaws or mistakes pointed out to us. But what is so wrong with having the ability to not take ourselves so seriously or to be wrong about something?

The times in life where we admit being flawed or fallible make us even more relatable. You can’t imagine how liberating it might be to be able to say, “I could be wrong.” Having to be right, taking ourselves too seriously, and standing in quiet defiance of others, is just a short list of prideful thinking. It is a cancer that eats away at our personal growth in Christ as well as the health of our congregations. So, how do we move beyond this way of thinking? Let’s take a closer look at the text.

The Protected Mind

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV)

Did Paul just change the topic here? I don’t think so, but I could be wrong. See how freeing it is to say that? But seriously, what could be better for a change of mind than rejoicing?

Knowing about our propensity to be anxious, Paul addresses that as well. The Greek word for anxious means to be pulled in different directions. One way leads to our hopes while the other leads to our fears. For those who suffer from anxiety, you know how debilitating it can be, both emotionally and physically. Anxiety inflicts the minds and imprisons us with scenarios of our own faulty imaginations.

Research has shown that 91% of all the things that we worry about never happen.2 The problem is that many live as if our fears have already been realized or they will be shortly. Paul gives us the antidote to this and calls it prayer. But the idea that Paul conveys here is for a deep affection and worship. It is a relational understanding between two parties.

Prayer centers us. It centers our minds back to what is true about us and God. It is a worshipful trust in God’s loving nature, character, and posture towards his creation.

There is a scientific field of study known as neurotheology. This is where scientists are discovering the effects of prayer on our brains; something that the ancients have known all along, scientists are just now catching on to. Research is showing that even though toxic thoughts can cause brain damage, prayer can actually reverse that damage and cause the brain and body to thrive.

Dr. Caroline Leaf said, “It has been found that 12 minutes of daily focused prayer over an 8-week period can change the brain to such an extent that it can be measured on a brain scan. This type of prayer increases activity in brain areas associated with social interaction, compassion, and sensitivity to others.”3 Sounds like information that Euodia and Syntyche could have used.

Verse 7 talks about the peace that accompanies our prayers which acts as a protection. The term used here “guarding” gives a word picture of a soldier standing guard.

The Praiseworthy Mind

Finally, brothers and sisters, 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 such things.  (Philippians 4:8 NIV)

Paul concludes this section by reminding us to direct our thoughts toward those things that are excellent and praiseworthy. In our day and age, we find a world that is anything but what Paul mentions as praiseworthy. Whenever you consume the news or social media watch where your thoughts lead you. Are these things triggering bad thinking? Paul encourages us toward higher thinking which results in higher living.

The Holy Spirit translates to us the very mind and thoughts of Christ. His life has become our life. In him, we live, move, and have our being. That includes the thoughts we think.

Letting carnal, selfish, prideful thoughts persist ultimately will undermine ourselves, our relationships, and our church. But Paul has given us the cure to prideful thinking – the toxic thoughts which cause division and mistrust.

This leads to Paul’s conclusion in this passage:

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9 NIV)

Our call is to rejoice in all that God has accomplished for us in Christ, to acknowledge that we have been forgiven, accepted, and given a new incorruptible life in Christ. This is what gives us peace – his peace. Because of Jesus, we are seated in the heavenlies with the Father, Son, and Spirit. We are his inheritance. We are his beloved. It’s all of grace and will always be all of grace. This is truly worth rejoicing over.

Because of this, we have the privilege to enter God’s holy throne room with all boldness, spending time in his presence, finding the strength for reconciliation, servitude, humility, and fulfillment. We have not lost our minds, but we have gained the mind of Christ.

1) www.goodreads.com/quotes/71988-out-of-all-the-things-i-have-lost-i-miss
2) www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/think-act-be/201907/how-often-do-your-worries-actually-come-true
3) How Prayer Changes the Brain and Body Prayer Changes the Brain (renewingallthings.com)

Let’s Speak Jesus w/ Dr. Chris Green W3

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October 15 — Proper 23 of Ordinary Time
Philippians 4:1-9, “Rejoice!”

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Program Transcript

Let’s Speak Jesus w/ Dr. Chris Green W3

Anthony: Moving on to our third passage of the month, it’s Philippians 4:1-9.

It is the Revised Common Lectionary passage for Proper 23 in Ordinary Time, which is on October 15, and it reads,

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my coworkers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious 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, brothers and sisters, 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. As for the things that you have learned and received and heard and noticed in me, do them, and the God of peace will be with you.

Paul admonishes his hearers to have the same mind, and this phrase keeps coming up. We read it earlier. So why is being of the same mind, one mind in unity, so important to God and our walk with him?

Chris: Yeah, so there’s a weak sense. There’s a way in which we could hear this, “be of the same mind,” in what I’ll call a weak way. Which is to say, Christians should be good to each other, and you need to find a way to get along, right? That at the end of the day, bad things happen when you’re at odds with each other, so don’t be at odds with each other and allow these bad things to come, right?

So that’s a weak reading. It’s not wrong. It’s just a relatively weak note. I think the point Paul is making is a much stronger one. Which is, you should, each one of us, should be so intimately aware of Christ at work in us that our will and his will are aligned, are more and more alike. And therefore, we want the same things.

If you are aligned to Christ, and I am aligned to Christ and Christ is not divided or at odds with himself, then you and I cannot be divided. We can’t be at odds with each other. So, I think what Paul means here is each one of you (and these two in particular, Yodia and Syntyche), you need to get in touch with the Lord who is near to you.

You’ve got to be of the same mind in the Lord. Not just get along because bad things happen when you don’t. The Lord wants something here. The Lord is saying something, asking something, needing something. And you need to pay attention. And if the two of you pay attention, then of course you’ll find each other because what the Lord wants for both of you is your good.

And you’ll find that by attending to his will—and I’m deeply influenced here by Simeon, the New Theologian—so those who might not know him, know that name, although probably most of your hearers do. He’s a controversial figure because he makes this claim that I think is right, but still, it can be hard to hear even in our day that it is possible to have a sense of what God is doing in your life.

And yes, there are some people who get carried away with that, convinced that they know God’s mind better than God knows it himself, right? And that God is telling them every car to buy and every word to say or not say. And that’s not what Simeon is talking about. And that’s not what I’m talking about.

But I do think Simeon’s point is where the Spirit is at work, there is a movement, what he calls gleamings or stirrings in your life, that if you are paying attention, you will notice them, this kind of overflow of love. He draws attention to ways in which we find ourselves moved by compassion for people.

And we can’t explain why we feel this. Why am I not angry with you? In this passage, why do I have peace? It passes my understanding. I shouldn’t have this peace. And yet I do. And what Simeon says is that’s because it’s Christ in you. Christ is taking shape in you, his mind is taking shape in you, and you should lean into that, so to speak, you should breathe on those embers and let them become a flame.

And I think that’s what Paul is calling for here. Pay attention. The Lord is near, and he’s working. He’s gentle with you, and you therefore should be gentle with everyone else. He’s not anxious. Therefore, you should not be anxious. Jesus’ life is a life of prayer even now. Therefore, your life should be a life of prayer. And if that’s true, then of course you’re going to experience the peace of God and all that comes with it: the justice, the purity, the delight.

Anthony: Yeah. And I think to work in an opposite way, in opposition with brothers and sisters in Christ, is actually opposed to our identity because we are in Christ, objectively and subjectively. Meaning, this is what Jesus, our Lord is doing with the Father. And so, for us to be in opposition is actually opposed to ourselves.

There’s a reason it hurts subjectively in our personal experience because we’re going against the grain of who God is and who we are made in him to be.

Chris: Yes, that’s exactly right, Anthony. And you can see this at the very beginning of the passage when Paul says that he identifies the Philippians as people he loves and longs for, his joy and crown, his joy and crown.

So if we just were talking about what it is he wants above everything else, which is to share in the crown of Christ (I want to be able to share in this calling this heavenly calling with Christ and his enthroned authority), now he’s telling you that will happen as you are served, that will happen as I’m able to bring you too to peace, I’m able to bring you into the salvation God has promised you. And I don’t think this is just hyperbole on Paul’s part or rhetorical flourish to win them over.

I think he really does feel toward them the same love he feels toward Christ. He sees them as inseparable from Jesus. They’re members of his body. As he’ll put it in Colossians, I’m making up in my body what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, the church.

Paul’s love for these people is God’s love for them. And it’s taking up Paul’s heart into the heart of God and that’s again a Galatians, right? The life that’s in me is the life of Christ that’s what’s rising up. And I think that’s what Simeon is urging us to attend to that if Christ is in you, he’s at work in you and there is this light this joy this peace that is operative in you. God is happening in you. You have to attend to it. Notice it. Let it happen.

Anthony: Yeah. Verse 4 talks about rejoicing, and I say it again, rejoice. And for me, I don’t know if you see the same, but I see a correlation to verses 8 and 9 about, “think of these things, whatever’s just and pure.”

Because for me, to read that Christologically, who is just? Who is honorable? Who is true? Who is praiseworthy? It’s Jesus. It’s His Father in the communion and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, right? Do you see the same correlation and what thoughts might you have about it?

Chris: Absolutely. Jesus is not known without the Father being known.

And Jesus is not known without his brothers and sisters, right? He’s not ashamed to be known as ours. So, I’m going to talk tomorrow in our conversation on Matthew about Jesus and Mary. So, in the Gospel of Matthew, when the wise men come to find Jesus, they see Jesus with his mother. And the second chapter of Matthew makes this point over and over again, that they see the child with his mother.

And you can see already there that Jesus wants to be known with his people and in the same way that he wants to be known with his Father in their Spirit. And Jesus is the one in whom all things hold together because he’s the one who does not want to be known apart from his Father and their Spirit and apart from you and me, apart from his people.

And that is what’s lovely about him, right? Like that he is never—there’s no, if I can put it like this, there’s no ego in Jesus. That there’s no way in which he’s edging anyone else out in order to be present. One of my favorite examples of this is John 2, the turning of water to wine. The Gospel tells us that this was the first of his signs, and in this way, he revealed his glory.

But if you go back and read the story closely, the only people who know what’s happened for sure are the people that carried the water, the servants, and Mary, because she told them what was going to happen. But no one else knows for sure what Jesus has done. All they know is that joy has come back to this wedding.

That somehow joy has returned and that is his glory. Jesus’ glory is not to be known as the one who turned water to wine. Jesus’ glory is the turning of water to wine and bringing joy to us again. And how can you not love that? How can you not adore that about our brother who is our God.

Anthony: Jesus and vino, who knew? And it is bringing joy to us.

Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life

  • Why do you think that we sometimes doubt God even when he continually shows himself faithful to us?
  • What idols have we fashioned for ourselves when we have grown impatient waiting for God’s timing?
  • What happens when we place our trust in other things besides God?
  • Name some specific incidents where you saw God come through for you.

From the Sermon

  • What are some of the consequences of having a prideful mindset?
  • Prayer is protection for our minds. How have you seen your life or your thinking change after prayer?
  • What are some things that you find especially praiseworthy?
  • Come up with a gratitude list of at least 20 items. Share that with someone else or your small group.

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