The Peace of God: The God of Peace

Preacher: Nathan Hosler Scripture: Exodus 32:1-14, Psalm 23, Philippians 4:1-9

And the peace of God

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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.

Finally, beloved,

            whatever is true,                [think on this]

            whatever is honorable,                 [think on this]

            whatever is just,                 [think on this]

            whatever is pure,               [think on this]

            whatever is pleasing,                    [think on this]

            whatever is commendable,         [think on this]

             if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise,            [think on this]

                         think about these things.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”

These are not simply self-management or therapeutic calming techniques, on the other hand, there is something practical about this. It isn’t a conjuring up of belief or good vibes but is something of a focusing. Focusing on God, gifts of the Spirit, the gift of creation, the gift of community. Think about these things.

 While we have a clear call to be peacemakers in the world, we are also invited into state of peace– inner peace. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

 It may sound trite to say focus on the good things around us. (Stay on the sunny side of life?) In the scope of the world, I am in a good spot. However, it is easy to be anxious and caught up in legitimate and non-legitimate stresses and anxiety. And it isn’t always easy to sort these out. It is appropriate and good to be upset by the persistent racial injustice and we are called to be justice seeking peacemakers in response.

But the way we relate to our work or possessions, may or may not be. I read an article in the Atlantic this week about work. Early in the 20th century economists had assumed that as work become more automated and assisted by technological advances, we would work less and less, with more time to devote to family and leisure.

Audio begins with the text below.

 This has, however, not happened. For college educated workers there has been a shift from assuming that work was primarily economic and for survival to work being our identity. They called this “workism” and noted that while for those who find their jobs meaningful this works out fine but for many, their jobs cannot bear this existential weight. The effect is often longer hours and less contentment—less peace.

In this community, we tend to focus on peace out there. Either because of our location in Washington (the recommendation for a denominational Washington Office came from this congregation) or our connection to groups like Christian Peacemaker Teams and the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria or the disposition and work of some of our pastors and leaders or simply the nature of the world—whatever the reason, we, tend to focus on peace out there. Geopolitical or in the community, perhaps interpersonal. (Ironically, I realized this morning that almost immediately after writing this I worked on the denominational statement about the violence in the disputed region between Armenia and Azerbaijan).

The first part of the Philippians passage alludes to some trouble or conflict. It isn’t specified but it appears to be the context, perhaps the entire reason for, the writing of this letter. In the context of a distressing community conflict Paul exhorts, “rejoice always…Do not worry.”

2 verses after the exhortation to rejoice we have “Do not worry.” I ask, perhaps only internally, “But what if I can’t not worry? What if the instruction makes me worry about worrying? What if?…How?…I think I might get it wrong….

The full verse reads:

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

In our Exodus passage we read:

 “When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.””

They had been delivered from slavery by a dramatic showing of God’s power. They were then rescued, and the Egyptian army vanquished. Bread came from heaven. Water came from a rock in the desert. God gives the 10 commandments directly to Moses. But then—Moses is a little late getting back from another mountain visit with God. “When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain…” They moved to a backup plan.

I think it is safe to say that they worried and did not rejoice always. Somehow, they lost focus or didn’t trust. Most likely this was entirely reasonable. They were wanderingin a desert. Moses probably had fallen off a cliff on the mountain or gotten eaten by some wild beast or lost.

There were, and are, genuinely distressing and worrisome things in our lives and around us. While there are things we can and should do to address these, there is also the need to find ways to manage ourselves—to be at peace—in the midst of it. This isn’t some form of quietism saying that we shouldn’t do something—but is a recognition of our finitude—our need to “not worry,” “rejoice always,” for the peace of God to be in us, and the God of peace to be with us.

Let us focus our minds and still our hearts.

Finally, beloved,

            whatever is true,                [think on this]

            whatever is honorable,                 [think on this]

            whatever is just,                 [think on this]

            whatever is pure,               [think on this]

            whatever is pleasing,                    [think on this]

            whatever is commendable,         [think on this]

             if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise,            [think on this]

                         think about these things.

And the peace of God….will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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.

May the peaceof God be in you. May the God of peace be with you.

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