Listen here to the sermon/guided meditation:
1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Holy One in this way, my beloved. 2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Holy One. 3 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 co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. 4 Rejoice in the Divine always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Divine is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, beloved, 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. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
This is letter from Paul to an early church community – the Philippians. Think, like, the Lyndalians. These are co-workers, as he says, or beloved colleagues in the early Jesus movement. And it is, indeed, a movement. Why else would Paul be writing from jail, arrested for treason and heresy which were really one and the same in his times? You might even imagine this as a kind of ancient pre-curser to Letter from a Birmingham jail – a treatise of encouragement and challenge to those on the outside who keep pushing, who keep living into a new way of being.
The phrase that has struck me this week as I sit with this text is the “peace which surpasses all understanding.” I was away much of last week trying to be gentle to my body and soul, letting myself rest in the wide expanse of time and space of the beauty of Lake Superior. I unplugged from social media, from email, from my phone except for emergencies to try to just arrive there and be. All week I’ve been trying to hold onto, grasping in fact to, the spaciousness of soul I felt in that oasis of space up there. I’ve been trying to hold onto some of that peace that surpasses understanding that Paul writes about.
But this is the thing. Peace like this, the kind that is really another way of talking about God’s wholeness nestled inside us, isn’t something you can grasp at without missing the whole point. It’s not graspable or consumable. It’s only sharable.
At Lyndale, sometimes we get so caught up in the headlines, in the horrors of injustice of the world, we can get out of balance. We need to step back sometimes or perhaps step forward into holy rejoicing and peace and gentleness and the mystery of grace inherent in each of those.
So this morning I invite you to share in some peace with me through spiritual practice. For some of you, what’s about to happen next is really not your thing. For others of you, I know you wish we did more of this. So remember that in a healthy, growing community, only about 75% of what happens will be your thing. The other 25% is for the person sitting next to you or the one who has yet to walk in the door. Welcome to the ancient practice of Lectio Devina, or praying the scriptures (click to enlarge the photo of the practice steps):
*This particular version of the exercise is from the Rev. Dr. Hal Taussig