19th Pentecost Morning Prayer (Zoom) October 11, 2020 By Suzanne G. Bowles, Ph.D.
“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you.”
We all need that, don’t we? – God’s presence and the peace that only He brings. We have now completed about seven months of lockdown and isolation. Yes, some restrictions have been lifted, but while we’re closer, we’re still nowhere near what our lives used to be. And, let’s face it, it’s been exhausting. Even if we’ve “adjusted” -- and I put that in air quotes – the wear and tear, emotionally, mentally, physically, has been significant. One common symptom we’re reading a lot about now is lack of a good night’s sleep, even among people who’ve never had sleep problems before. Fear, worry, anxiety about the future, even too much time on the iPhone just before bed, all take their toll. And then tiredness the next day merely magnifies the things to worry about and our ability to cope.
On a more positive note, though, I’m sure you’ve noticed how timely and relevant the scriptures are to us. Passages we may have heard numerous times and with which we are very familiar suddenly take on new meaning as we’ve struggled with the pandemic. That’s particularly true in today’s reading from Philippians. Even in the short passage for today, Paul packs so much. I want to look at just verses 5 and 6 and there is so much there to take in. Paul’s message to us from the Lord is full of practical wisdom. He’s not merely saying glibly “everything’s going to be okay.” He’s giving us a roadmap of how to find that peace of God which we all need and crave.
The foundation of Paul’s advice is the fact that God loves us and wants to have a relationship with us. Of course He knows our needs even before we ask, but He wants us to reach out to Him. God is “at hand” as Paul says in verse 5 and He wants us to have no anxiety about anything! That sounds great, but how do we tap into it? Paul says we do two things: one, we pray with supplication – supplication means “to plead humbly” –even the word “beg” can be used as a definition – and let our “requests be made known to God” He knows them anyway, but He wants to hear from us. He wants us to know that He loves us so much that it’s perfectly okay to tell Him what we need. The second thing we should do is give thanks. We need to include thanksgiving with our supplications. Thanksgiving for what? Paul doesn’t specifically say in this verse, but we all see the implication here. There are so many things we should thank God for. The list could be endless, but I think what Paul is getting at here is thanksgiving for all His past blessings plus thanksgiving for the answers to our specific supplications. In other words, we can and should thank God ahead of time for meeting our needs and showing us the way out of our difficulties. We should pray with confidence that God will help us, not because of our own goodness but because we trust in Him and have received already the garment of Christ’s righteousness, i.e. the wedding garment in today’s gospel lesson.
And what is the result? Peace, “the peace of God that passes all understanding.” That’s so astonishing that by definition it can’t even be defined! That’s a paradox, but a good one, the best one of all. This peace “keeps our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus” which is where they need to be.
It sounds so simple, but we know it can be difficult to put into practice. We are, after all, flawed and fallible. Our human nature always wants to worship itself. But God is merciful and knows our weaknesses. He gives us the wedding garment. God Himself, using His servant Paul, gives us this path to peace. Pray with supplications and thanksgiving and we will find peace. The more we intentionally do this, the closer we will come to that peace that passes all understanding. Amen.