JESUS SAID, – PEACE I LEAVE WITH YOU; MY PEACE I GIVE YOU. I DO NOT GIVE TO YOU AS THE WORLD GIVES. DO NOT LET YOUR HEARTS BE TROUBLED AND DO NOT BE AFRAID. (John 14: 27)
WELCOME TO OUR SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP.
OPENING HYMN (CH-15) – WE LOVE THE PLACE, O GOD, wherein Thine honour dwells; the joy of Thine abode all earthly joy excels.
It is the house of prayer, wherein Thy servants meet; and Thou, O Lord, art there, Thy chosen flock to greet.
We love the Word of Life, the Word that tells of peace, of comfort in the strife, and joys that never cease.
Lord Jesus, give us grace, on earth to love Thee more, in heaven to see Thy face, and with Thy saints adore.
LET US PRAY:
LOVING GOD, we come to praise You for the knowledge that You are always with us in all the changes and chances of our lives. We thank You that You are a God we can depend on in all the many uncertainties we face, always loving, always merciful and always faithful. Help us to let go of the fears and anxieties that weigh us down, that hold us back, that destroy our confidence and undermine our happiness, that alienate us from one another and prevent us living life to the full. Give us Your Word, the peace Jesus promised to all who follow Him, the knowledge that we need neither be troubled nor afraid, for You are with us, watching over us now and always. For the knowledge that You are always with us, we praise You, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. AMEN.
OLD TESTAMENT READING: – PSALM 4: 6-8.
MANY ARE ASKING, “WHO CAN SHOW US ANY GOOD?” LET THE LIGHT OF YOUR FACE SHINE UPON US, O LORD. YOU HAVE FILLED MY HEART WITH GREATER JOY THEN WHEN THEIR GRAIN AND NEW WINE ABOUND. I WILL LIE DOWN AND SLEEP IN PEACE, FOR YOU ALONE, O LORD, MAKE ME DWELL IN SAFETY.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: – PHILIPPIANS 4: 1-9.
THEREFORE, MY BROTHERS (AND SISTERS), YOU WHOM I LOVE AND LONG FOR, MY JOY AND CROWN, THAT IS HOW YOU SHOULD STAND FIRM IN THE LORD, DEAR FRIENDS! I PLEAD WITH EUODIA AND I PLEAD WITH SYNTYCHE TO AGREE WITH EACH OTHER IN THE LORD. YES, AND I ASK YOU, LOYAL YOKE-FELLOW, HELP THESE WOMEN WHO HAVE CONTENDED AT MY SIDE IN THE CAUSE OF THE GOSPEL, ALONG WITH CLEMENT AND THE REST OF MY FELLOW WORKERS, WHOSE NAMES ARE IN THE BOOK OF LIFE. 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 EVERYTHING, 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. 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. 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.
The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. We should be grateful to Apostle Paul for giving us this gem of scriptural assurance. From a prison cell, in the midst of circumstances beyond his control that would determine his fate, Paul wrote to a beloved yet troubled congregation this word of hope. His central message is that whatever the circumstances of life may be, there is available for us God’s all sufficient grace. Souls can always be relaxed for those who carry not only Christ’s name but also Christ’s attitude; and there is PEACE, the kind that goes beyond what we ever can imagine.
CIRCUMSTANCES AND … CIRCUMSTANCES. – There is obvious drama behind the names mentioned at the beginning of the passage. Euodia and Syntyche were women in whose homes two of the house congregations of Philippi met; and the two women had quarrelled. It is significant that, when there was a quarrel at Philippi, Paul mobilized the whole church to mend it. A quarrelling church is no church at all. No one can be at peace with God and at conflict with others. Clement goes down in church history as the peacemaker of Philippi and an example of true discipleship. – On the 8/9 May 1945, millions of people rejoiced to the news that after nearly six years, the War in Europe was finally over. Nazi Germany signed an unconditional surrender to the Allies, and the Second World War finally came to an end. But for how long did that peace last? Documents show that in the following decades even more people were killed in Europe than during the war; in prison-camps, “peaceful” border rearrangements, uprisings and revolutions, spy-missions and everyday communist- persecutions and interrogations. Was that peace-treaty, a real peace for everybody? – We live in a different world today than ever before. Instead of a “real” war, an Invisible Enemy, called CORONAVIRUS, kills millions of people all over the world. Is there, in a world like this, a place for peace and rest for our souls? Indeed there is. Thanks be to God.
GOD’S WORD OF PEACE IS AT HAND FOR THE BELIEVERS. Surveys suggest that the aims of all people include a desire for peace: world peace, national peace, the ending of crime and lawlessness, and personal peacefulness. The prophets of old declared it. Isaiah saw a day when the lion would lay down with the lamb, when we would beat our spears into ploughs, a world in which we would learn of war no more. That day has not yet come. Our Saviour Jesus came to fulfil the Old Testament promise as The Prince of Peace. At His birth, the angels sang about it: Peace on earth and goodwill towards men. Then, as a legacy of His atoning death and resurrection, Jesus gave the final promise: – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. This is what Paul refers to in our passage. He describes PEACE in military terms. God, he said, will “garrison” us. God will GUARD our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. We never fight the battles of life alone. God is with us. He is forever our Emmanuel – our PEACE which transcends all understanding.
WORRY IS NOT ALLOWED TO DOMINATE A PEACEFUL LIFE. Do not be anxious about anything. Here Paul warned us against unhealthy, damaging, destructive worry. The word anxiety in Greek actually means “to be pulled apart.” It describes a warfare in the soul, that gives no rest. Worry that kills is what Paul taught against. Now, not all worries are bad. Some amount of tension, as a driving force, may well be healthy. Some tension, some worry, may help to encourage us in facing the tasks that lie before us. But many of us are chronic worriers. If we don’t have something to worry about, well .. we are quick to invent it: – there is a Black Hole out there in the Universe, and I am afraid I’ll be the next to be pulled into it. Or there is a hole in the ozone layer. Indeed, there is – but I think it is right above my house. Please, don’t laugh. I myself heard people saying this; it just proves that human inventiveness is unlimited when it comes to worries. But there is a practical concern here. Worry doesn’t do anyone any good. In fact, all that worry does is to take away energy that could be used for creative and positive solutions to the things that trouble us. Excessive worry is damaging.
PRAYER IS THE ALTERNATIVE TO WORRY. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition present your requests to God. What world-view would we rather have – the frantic chaos of life out of control, or the calm acknowledgment that this is God’s world, and we are a part of it? Prayer is the positive alternative to a world out of control. It seems to me that there are at least two modern views of inadequate prayer. The first is the kind that makes God a slot-machine, and prayers into coins, as if we we should just “name it and claim it.” Then there are those who say, – “There is nothing in it. I can get along quite well without God and without prayer.” Indeed, you can “get along” without God and prayer – if you are satisfied just to get along.
HOW CAN WE DEFINE PRAYER? Is it the bowed head in public worship? Indeed, but more. Is it the occasional routine of prayer at meetings or at tables, before bedtime or any of our private moments? Indeed, but more. Prayer is all of life lifted to God – the developing togetherness and intimacy with the Father – for we believe that all of life belongs to God. Prayer is the greatest work of the heart. Prayer, then, is an exercise of believing people. Believing that God is approachable, interested, and involved in life with us. Prayer is the alternative to worry. Instead of wringing our hands desperately, we can use them at the great work of prayer. In a troubled world like this there really is hope – as long as there still are devoted Christians who not only declare faith in God, but are whole-heartedly involved in prayer: – faithfulness put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you, as Paul ends our passage.
WE ARE CALLED TO A LIFE OF PEACE. PEACE means to think about such things: – whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, – and then put these things into practice. A life of peace means not only the ending of hostilities or pandemic, but a peace located amid life’s turmoil. We believe in, proclaim, bear witness to a living Christ, who is with us in everything and always, just as He said, – Till the very end of the age. I admire FISH that are able to live under the pressure of tons of water. They have thin skin, but have pressure inside them equal and opposite to the pressure outside. They are able to live and swim freely where we would be easily killed and destroyed in seconds. That is what peace is like. Peace inside the human heart is equal and opposite of all the stresses and pressures crushing us from the outside world. One of Charles Wesley’s hymns so beautifully says, – I rest beneath the Almighty’s shade, My griefs expire, my troubles cease; Thou, Lord, on whom my soul is stayed, Wilt keep me still in perfect peace. (How do Thy mercies close me round,- Evening hymn). SHALOM is the Hebrew equivalent of Peace. It is used also as a greeting that declares the Peace of God and a significant level of well-being that comes as lives are lived according to the will of God, both to the world around, and within the soul. Shalom in this way means Harmony with God, His world and me. In the New Testament the word PEACE describes a restored relation. Because of our sin, we are alienated from God. Yet in Christ Jesus, this wrong relationship is set right. We are reconciled to God and forgiven. GOD HAS MADE PEACE WITH US THROUGH THE BLOOD OF THE CROSS. Jesus used this word by saying,- Go in peace and sin no more. AMEN.
LET US PRAY:
LIVING AND LOVING GOD, there is so much despair in our world, and for many there seems little reason to hope. Reach out, we pray, to all those whose belief in the future has been destroyed, and grant new dreams where the old have died, rekindled purpose where confidence has been undermined, support when there seems to be nothing left to hold on to, and hope that soon Your peace will anchor again their faith in You. We pray for all those who are weighed down by the stresses and strains of daily life – those who long for peace of mind, who seek rest for their souls but cannot find it. We pray for those burdened by worry, unable to throw off their anxieties, held captive by a multitude of secret fears. We pray for those who cannot let go, those who find it impossible to relax, always fretting over this or that. We pray for those who have lost time for You, allowing the pressures and demands of each day to shut You out, putting off any prayer or thought of You. Help us to receive the freedom You offer, the freedom that comes from knowing You hold all things in Your hands and that nothing can finally separate us from Your love. We thank You that whoever we are, wherever we are, or whatever we may go through, You are with us, constantly by our side, and leading us forward through Jesus into new experiences of Your Love and peace. Strengthen our faith, deepen our fellowship; help us to grow inwardly and outwardly, reaching out to You, to one another, and to all around, showing Your peace that transcends all understanding. When we do not hear You speak help us to remember all those times You have spoken unmistakably to us, and let those moments sustain and direct us to find rest for our souls. May Your anchor hold the Christian Church here and everywhere, to always seek Your will and follow faithfully Your guidance. Be with our congregation and with our loved-ones, and hear our quiet prayers for all whom we now quietly name in our hearts … through Jesus Christ our Prince of Peace and Lord. AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN …
CLOSING HYMN (CH- 412): – WILL YOUR ANCHOR HOLD in the storms of life, when the clouds unfold their wings of strife? When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain, will your anchor drift, or firm remain? CHORUS: – We have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll; fastened to the Rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love!
Will your anchor hold in the straits of fear, when the breakers roar and the reef is near? When the surges rave, and the wild winds blow, shall the angry waves then your bark o’erflow? CHORUS …
Will your anchor hold in the floods of death, when the waters cold chill your latest breath? On the rising tide you can never fail, while your anchor holds within the veil: CHORUS …
Will your eyes behold through the morning light the city of gold and the harbour bright? Will your anchor safe by the heavenly shore, when life’s storms are past for evermore? CHORUS …
MAY THE LORD BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU; THE LORD MAKE HIS FACE SHINE UPON YOU AND BE GRACIOUS TO YOU; THE LORD TURN HIS FACE TOWARDS YOU AND GIVE YOU PEACE. (The Book of Numbers 6: 24-26)
Sandor, your Minister.