Sermon, Sunday October 15, 2017
Confirmation Rite, St Petri
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!
2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 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. 9 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.
There is a battle going on for hearts and minds of our young people. Everyone, good or bad, wants the hearts and minds of young people. From Apple to McDonalds, to TAFE, Schools, Universities, sporting clubs and community groups, young people are sought after because they carry the future with them. The words just keep on pounding out of the social media and air waves: a constant bombardment of voices aimed at attracting interest, building loyalty, meeting needs, slating desires; winning heart ad minds…..
All these competing voices make life for a teenager or young adult hard to navigate. Voices with purposes that can noble or ignoble, beautiful or ugly, excellent or shoddy, praiseworthy or blameworthy, causes, lifestyles, beliefs and future. It is confusing! Which voice do I listen to the most? teachers, parents, family, church, my friends – if so, which friends, because they often say different things?
If I listen to that voice on that part of my life, will I be OK? If I give my heart and mind to that voice, will I meet all the expectations I have of myself and that everyone else seems to have of me? Everyone seems to want a piece of me.
Some voices I am willing and wanting to give my heart and mind to. I can hear the beauty, nobility and love in their voices and see from their life that this will be good for me.
Some voices squash me, hurt me, tempt me to give up on what is good and noble and beautiful to serve myself above all else for a cheap thrill or the accumulation of the almighty dollar.
The most tricky voices are the deceptive ones. They seem like light but when uncovered end up being dark. They seem beautiful on the outside only to end up destroying you on the inside, they appear so appealing for the moment but lead to destruction of body, mind and heart if I give me heart and mind to them.
I think of the call of substance abuse. I think of the voice of promiscuous sexual behaviour. I think of any risk taking behaviour left unchecked….. I think of the seeds of workaholism embedded in the student who is almost totally fixated on achieving good results. I think of the seeds of sloth and self-serving in a student who cannot or will not try for fear of failing or just plain indifference and or lack of care.
Somewhere in the background of these is always the voice of the king of deception and damage, Satan himself. Yes, he is active and present in young people’s lives too. He also wants a person’s heart and mind – to destroy both and make you a person either of broken heart or puffed up heart and crooked mind.
Many young people feel overwhelmed and uncertain about who and what to be as the voices keep calling for heart and mind. I see;
- Confusion about everything from sexuality to the kind of milk I will drink.
- Insecurity about who I am and what I am and who I am becoming.
- Fear of the what is up ahead for me. Sure, “I have my whole life ahead of me and should be excited”, but what if my whole life is terrible!?
- Disconnection from engaging in study, life, family, church, relationships for fear of getting it wrong or making a mistake, which of course, everyone will know about through social media.
- Pain. longing for an anchor point, a good voice, a clear voice, a base from which I can live, learn and contribute real, purity, love, beauty, admiration, excellent things and actually know what real joy is. Yes, That is it. Real joy that helps me navigate, withstand, make good choices and trust what I have learned so far and trust the Lord and other people who love me – Joy.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! he says as he wraps up his letter of encouragement to a community in Philippi whom he loves dearly.
Not ‘being happy”, which is so fleeting and so fickle and “me” based, but joy – the joy in these words from St Paul written from a dark, cold prison cell, no less!
But how, where and when?
No, not from your heart and mind but only from the single heart and straight mind of Jesus. He is the one who gives you his heart and mind. His joy is not based on your choice or your performance or lack of. Jesus joy is based on his joy over you, his single heart and straight mind for you.
Jesus’ joy only comes from Jesus. Jesus joy is full and free and freedom. Jesus joy enables you to find clarity in who you are and what you are called to be and do from your study, your work, your search for a life partner, your sexuality, your values upon which you will step into the future.
Jesus joy gives a joy to live in any circumstance and all the choices you make. Your life and joy and truth and love are based not on you trying to have a single heart and straight mind, but on Jesus single heart and straight mind for you.
He gave up everything for you for love. He took on your lack of beauty, love, purity truth, nobility before a holy and just God and carried it all for you to that moment of abandonment on his cross where these things were cast out and removed from their once dominating power over you.
In your moment of water and word in the font of your baptism, you died to all that is untrue, unlovely, ugly, confused, anxious, joyless stuff and were raised to Jesus beautiful gracious loving hope-filled life.
You, like all of us, need to stay close to his voice as he promises to lead you to good spaces and joy-filled places that sustain you as a young man and woman of God.
He still speaks. He speaks in what happens in a local church, a Christian camp, the hearing of his words in Scripture, song, liturgy. He speaks in ways we can feel and taste in the Holy meal. He speaks when he gives you a mentor, a parent who loves, a friend who does not always just say “yes” to you but is honest enough to call you out on some things when needed.
People, younger and older,
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.
Stick to God’s words Jesus’ gives you every day for your ongoing joy, even when you feel like you are in a prison, or actually are!
From his single-hearted love and kindness for you be single hearted for his word and for serving others as you have been served.
From his straight mind that called you by name and gave you a place and a purpose in his church and in his world, keep your mind focussed and free in his words to you – sung, spoken, preached, read, heard, loved.
9 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.
Watch me and watch your parents and watch your friends and teachers. See, hear and then do the noble, beautiful, pure admirable things yourself. As you do, you will receive the only praise in town that really means the most – the praising words of your Saviour and Shepherd saying. “Well done today. Enter my joy today”, and press on tomorrow.
There is battle going for the hearts and minds of young people and everyone else.
The battle is won. His voice has spoken once and for all in the cross and resurrection of the Saviour Son. God’s heart is singly focussed on you to make your life beautiful, noble, and praiseworthy. His mind is straight for you and with you.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!
………And the God of peace will be with you.
I said that there is a constant battle for our hearts and minds going on in our lives. How do all those competing voice for your time and energy, loyalty and love make you feel? Share your story….
Read the preceding verse from Philippians 3:17 onward because our text begins with a ‘Therefore”, which means what we hear today is based on what has already been said. In 3:20 Paul is saying that our true citizenship is with the Lord and our lives are lives waiting in anticipation of the complete transformation of our bodies to be like Jesus’ body after his resurrection. So, we stand form in faith in Jesus….
Now we read our text in this light carefully noting HOW Paul directs us to live in this hope and joy. Go ahead and do that….
There is some mention of some discord in the church relating to the treatment of some of Paul’s co-workers to begin with before Paul begins to conclude his whole letter to his much-loved compatriots in the gospel in the city of Philippi.
Rejoice! He exhorts them. The Lord is near to you. No need to be anxious, he says.
What is making you anxious at the moment. List those things.
What direction does this Word give you in dealing with these anxieties and fears? Pick out the big words of Paul and say them aloud
Rejoice. don’t be anxious, pray……
What is the Spirit saying to you about those anxieties today? How is Paul suggesting you deal with them?
What do you consider noble in life?
What do you consider lovely?
What do you consider to be admirable?
Where do you find excellence in your life?
Where do you want to say words of praise about a thing or a person at the moment? Ponder these and share them.
Paul suggests we focus our attention on these things in order to wait patiently and freely on the future glory we will share in Christ. How do you go about doing this in your life?
I said that joy is the gift of God that comes only from Jesus and his single-hearted love for us and dead straight mind that got him to his cross where all thing not noble, lovely, praiseworthy and good were dealt a fatal blow – including our own sin and lack of goodness.
Can you see that Paul is not saying that we have to “be positive” or cover up bad things but rely on Jesus’ promise to always be present, give us his peace and one day transform our bodies to be like his in glory? It is Jesus single heart and straight mind that gives us the ability to live in him, not ours!
What is your reaction to this? How have you experienced this in your life?
Who are your receiving the example of faith-filled living from at the moment. What are you learning?
Through whom did you come to faith and what have you learned from those who passed it on to you?
How do you continue to follow their example as Paul suggest the Philippians Christians do his example of hopeful, faith-filled living?
Would you be brave enough to say to a person seeking answers to questions or struggling to live by faith to follow you example? Why/why not?
Pray for Jesus’ peace to keep you in hope-filled joy today…..