Summary: A sermon about experiencing the peace which transcends all understanding.
Joy and peace are often elusive, are they not?
Loneliness, family tensions, unexpected crises, grief and national events make them seem just beyond our grasp.
The COVID-19 pandemic brushed away any sense of normalcy that 2020 had any potential of providing.
Social distancing, quarantine, unemployment, and fear are some of the things we are dealing with.
Add that to the fact that 2020 has been a year filled with crazy headlines and shocking news.
We have also lost beloved people and seen protests break out throughout the country.
Wildfires have raged out West.
We are divided and angry about politics in ways that are almost scary.
On the 24-hour news channels people with differing views scream at and talk over one another.
Conspiracy theories abound.
On a personal level, we are afraid of catching the virus.
We can’t get physically close to one another anymore.
We can’t shake hands.
We can’t see the full expression on faces due to face masks, and there is no end in sight.
This is all completely insane!!!!!!!
Are we doomed?
It might seem like it.
And then we come upon this morning’s Scripture passage.
And we wonder, how Paul can call us to “Rejoice” in the face of such madness?
How can God expect those who struggle with mental and physical illness as well as other problems to rejoice?
The theologian Karl Barth once called joy a “continually defiant ‘Nevertheless’.
Which suggests that the kind of joy which Paul is talking about isn’t based on circumstances.
When Paul wrote the Letter to the Philippians he was living in a Roman prison.
He was to appear in court soon to face the charges against him, and the verdict could lead to his execution.
The church he was writing to was undergoing a lot of persecution and having all kinds of problems.
So, Paul, from prison, writes a letter of encouragement to them.
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice." Paul writes.
"Let your gentleness be evident to all…
…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 minds in Christ Jesus."
Peace--true peace--that can rejoice even in a Roman jail cell as one awaits the possibility of execution--what would people pay for this?
A "peace" that "transcends all understanding" and “guards” our "hearts and minds" even amidst the greatest torment--the worst this world can throw at us...
...how much is that worth?
...millions, billions, trillions?
But it can't be bought.
It is, in the truest sense, priceless!!!
Could this be the reason Jesus Himself compared it, in Matthew Chapter 13 to: "a treasure that somebody hid in a field, which someone else found and covered up.”
And then, “Full of joy, the finder sold everything and bought that field."?
Or, again, Jesus said it's like: "a merchant in search of fine pearls.
When he found one very precious pearl, he went and sold all that he owned and bought it."
It's worth everything we have, is it not?
One day a rich young man came to Jesus, in search of this peace.
He asked Jesus what he must do to receive it.
Jesus' answer: "Sell everything you own and distribute the money to the poor.
Then you will have treasure in heaven.
And come, follow me."
But, when the rich young man heard these words: "he became very sad because he was extremely rich."
And so he left...
The man was unwilling to part with his things, because of the grip they had upon him.
What has its grip upon you?
Is it Jesus only or is there something else holding you down--keeping you from the peace which transcends all understanding?
It's really important to remember that Philippians wasn't written to or by persons living on "Easy Street."
It was written by a man who had been stripped of everything in this world that we human beings naturally want...
...and it was written to a handful of people defending a new faith against a hostile ruling class.
But the promise of this Scripture is the same in all times: when we are finally stripped of self...
...there comes to us from God a life that is a joy to live--it carries with it a satisfaction and a peace that are "out of this world."
Because the peace that this world talks about is deliverance from problems, but the peace of God comes from losing ourselves in love for God and others.
Have you experienced this peace?
Do you have this peace?...
...or is a preoccupation with self keeping you from experiencing the kingdom?
Paul was at peace.
He had no idea what he would be facing tomorrow, but he knew he wouldn't face it alone.