Grace Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
I have two sections of scripture for our meditation this morning. The first is found in 2 Timothy 4 vs 6-8:
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” NIV
The second is found in Philippians 4:4-9:
“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 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 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.” NIV
Happy independence day.
It has definitely been an interesting six months. Our nation has endured a lot. Really it probably started more like 8 or 9 months ago but who’s counting.
- The Russia probe found no wrongdoing by the President
- The Democrats cried, “Yes he did”
- The President was impeached, in spite of the fact that the democrats knew there was no way the Senate would convict.
- The President was acquitted by the Senate (That’s me yawning).
- A thing called COVID-19 hit
- The President says he saved lives the democrats said he killed people
- China and Europe were shut down
- The US Economy was slowly locked down by the government
- Churches stood empty around the nation during a quarantine
- Rioting began in several major cities over George Floyd’s death at the hands of a white police officer
- Federal state and local government couldn’t agree on how to handle the rioting and looting, much to the surprise of no one.
- The very people who one year ago were arguing for more police in schools after a school shooting now want to defund the very police they want to put in schools
- Arguments over race ensued on every major news channel. None of the major news channels seem interested in finding solutions to the problem of race, no, they like the status quo, it keeps ratings higher.
- The police cleared the area in front of St Georges church so that the President could have the dumbest photo op in the history of photo ops
- Unemployment hit 20%.
- States failed to get unemployment relief to the small business owners who needed it, in spite of congress providing money for it. In Illinois it’s June and many still haven’t received relief promised in April
- The North Koreans blew up a South Korean Building that was located near the DMZ inside of North Korea
- The China Trade Deal seems to have fallen apart
- CHAZ took over the Capital Heights area of Seattle and the Mayor of Seattle called it a block party. After two murders she decided she might have to take the area back. Good luck with that.
- COVID-19 cases in the US begin surging as more testing is done and more states loosen restrictions.
- Oh, and Mexico and Canada are talking about sealing their borders to the United States. (I made this one up)
Now, I know that every time we go through an event like this, people think this is the worst time in the recorded history of the world. They believe that this is the worst time in the history of mankind. For a little perspective here are some of the major crises that I’ve lived in that have directly impacted me and my family.
Since the date of my birth on August 3, 1965, these events have transpired:
- The Cold War
- The Vietnam War
- Civil Unrest over the Vietnam War
- Civil Unrest over Race Relations in the 1960s and early 70’s
- Oil Embargos with long gas lines
- The recession of the late 1970s and early ’80s saw double-digit inflation and unemployment.
- While serving in Europe I was stationed with a young lady who lost her life on Pan Am’s Lockerbie flight that was blown up by terrorists.
- The base I was in never left threat con Bravo, which meant we were in a continuous state of readiness, and after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 went into Threat Con Charlie where we all carried M-16’s to work every day and armed security police officers were on my daughter’s school bus and patrolled around our housing areas.
- I never was sent into combat but I served during the gulf war, the Panama invasion, the Air War in the Balkans, and several attacks on US Military personnel in Europe.
- The Rodney King Riots
- Tiananmen Square
- The End of the Cold War
- The second gulf war
- More recessions in 1991, 1998, 2001, 2008
- I’ve lived through three presidential impeachments
- And Three Illinois governors going to jail
- Oh I almost forgot about Y2K
Some in the religious community have sought to take advantage of these situations. Let’s forget the fact that Jesus said that no man would know the date or the hour of his return only the father.
That didn’t stop some of these geniuses:
- In the 1970s Hal Lindsey wrote the book the Late Great Planet Earth where he declared the rapture of the church would occur in the 1980s
- After Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, several televangelists took to the air and declared that Armageddon was now underway and Jesus would return soon. That was 30 years ago.
- Oh let’s not forget Y2K. Jerry Fallwell declared that God worked in two thousand year increments and that Jesus was coming back in the year 2000. Several pastors convinced parishioners to sell homes, cars and turn over bank accounts.
- These guys give ministers a bad name.
Yep, since I was born I have lived through some interesting times. But so have all of you.
So why is it today that we are so worried and stressed. Why are we so angry. If you spend 5 minutes on twitter, facebook or watching any news channel you see screaming shouting and anger we’ve not witnessed before. We live in the richest nation on earth. Even in the times we live in, food is plentiful, we have roofs over our heads, we are blessed beyond belief. Yes, we’re inconvenienced right now, but it’s not the end of the world. Most of us have lived through far worse.
So why is it that our society is so angry and anxious today? Why are we so divided and torn apart? Liberals vs conservatives, republicans vs democrats, Methodists vs. Methodists, and on and on.
Could it be that our anger today is coming from what we are focusing on? What I mean by that is this, are we focusing on the negative because that’s what we are putting into our minds? Have we become so immersed in our culture that it now drags us down into the depths of darkness? Today we have 24-hour news cycles that aren’t really newscycles but individual commentary hours. Let’s face it folks news channels don’t get ratings from good news. That means our news is now 24-hours of negative 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Social media which was supposed to bring us together has, in fact, divided us even further. Why, because we can say anything to a nameless, faceless person on Facebook or Twitter. I have seen some of the ugliest things said by people I know and care about. Things I know that no one would say in person. What used to be limited to a weekly letter to the editor article has now turned into an hourly update of negativity from many people. Making matters worse there are people trying to make a living selling ads on social media and the more hits you get, the more ads you sell. So shock value and playing on people’s emotions is how you get more hits.
Thought leaders and so called experts, have bought in as well. The truth is that too many people have become dependent on maintaining the status quo of division and anger. Their desire is to keep us divided so that they can maintain their cash flow.
Oh and how politicians from both sides of the aisle love the world we’re living in right now. The angrier and more divided they can keep us, the more they keep their bases fired up, and the less chance that people will wake up and see the damage they are causing.
Is it any wonder why we’re seeing Rioting and Looting? Is it any wonder we’re on edge? Is what we are putting into our minds causing some of this hate and division.
In our scripture for today, we see Paul writing from prison.
The Apostle Paul was living through some interesting times himself. He wrote as many as seven of his letters from a prison cell. 2 Timothy would be his final letter. He wrote to his young protege Timothy. In this final letter, he would exhort Timothy to preach the word. He would tell Timothy to focus on preaching God’s Word. He would tell him to beware of false teachers, but to tenderly care for God’s flock. Finally, he charged Timothy with proclaiming the Gospel and doing the work of an evangelist.
Paul understood that his life was going to end. Yet, he chose to send instructions and encouragement to his young apprentice.
At the time Paul lived, being a Christian could get you killed. Yet he and his companions were willing to lay down their lives to spread the Gospel. They kept their focus on Jesus and refused to get sidetracked. Tradition has it that right up until the moment of his death Paul was evangelizing. He forgave his executioner. Who among us would do the same.
In Philippians Paul tells us to rejoice. Remember that he wrote those words while chained to a Roman soldier waiting for a trial in which he could have received the death penalty. Yet Paul told us to Rejoice. How many of us could rejoice in Paul’s circumstances.
Later, In the book of Philippians Paul tells us how to get through times like these. He tells us to change our focus. To change what we take into our minds. This is what he says:
- Don’t be anxious
- Trust that God is in control. Allow him to be God and let our lives be under his care. Worry Kills. Both literally and figuratively. Worry causes heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and so much more. Worry also causes burnout and other career killing diseases.
- whatever is noble
- Think about the things of our king Jesus. Think about the kingdom of heaven. The palace of God, the temple of his creation. Focus on the grandeur of God the father.
- whatever is right
- Morally Good. Stop focusing on the evil in our world. Focus on doing things that are morally good. Worry about what you are doing and less about what is happening in Chicago. Make sure that you are focusing on being a moral person.
- whatever is pure
- Focus on remaining untainted by the sin around us. We have to live in the world. The trick is remaining in the world without becoming part of the world.
- whatever is lovely
- Put our focus on those things that are enjoyable and beautiful around us. Grandchildren, our animals, the people who make us happy. Take the focus away from those who suck the life out of your day.
- whatever is admirable
- Focus on those who work hard in service of others. Focus on our police and firemen and our nurses and doctors. Give admiration to those who spend their lives serving others.
- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy
- We use the word hero way too often nowadays. The word courageous is even more overused. Focus your praise on people who actually deserve your praise. Not some sports figure who played through a skinned knee and was called courageous by an announcer. No, focus on the real heros. The people who put themselves on the line for us each day. Give them the praise. While we’re at it how about praising the one who deserves our praise more than anyone else, Jesus himself.
Our world has become filled with anger, bitterness and rage. Remember that to protect ourselves from becoming filled with those emotions, we must focus on what we put into our minds. We need to put God’s word in our heart. We need to fill up on the grace and goodness of a God who loves you and me. We need to relax and let God be God. There will always be turmoil. We can get through it if we take care of what we’re putting into our minds! Amen.