The Peace of God

Rev. Shari Jackson Monson is the Transitional Executive Presbyter of Olympia Presbytery.  Among her many duties is the oversight of the well-being of the pastors in the presbytery (i.e. region of Presbyterian congregations).  Please visit UPPC.org/media to watch or listen to Rev. Monson's full message.

Rev. Monson taught today from Philippians 4:4-12.

"...and the peace of God will be with you."  Is this not what we each ultimately long for?  

God's peace surpasses understanding, to be sure.  But there is a crucial we all play in experiencing that peace, and it has something to do with focus.  For example, nature photographers must learn and be disciplined to use certain tools and timing to achieve focus on special moments in time.  Similarly, we can learn and be disciplined to use certain mental, spiritual, and even physical techniques to achieve focus on God's presence, God's love, and God's will.  And Paul says that the result is the "peace of God."  

We often want other things to give us peace.  Health, stability, vitality, loving relationships, financial wealth, etc., are all temporary and passing.  Even a marriage which lasts 70 years feels too brief when one spouse passes away.  Temporary comforts are not "wrong," but they cannot substitute for the eternal peace that can be found only in practiced relationship with the living God.  Rev. Monson highlighted two such practices.

1)  Practice receiving & giving support.  While we cannot experience God's peace ultimately through the support of our human community, our sisters and brothers in Christ God's chosen means of being present with us, that is, they are the "hands and feet of Jesus."  When we need support, we must practice receiving it from our faith family.  When we are able to give support, we must practice offering it within our faith family as an expression of Jesus' good news.

2) Practice embodied prayer.  Prayer is conversation with God, and it can be powerful to engage that prayer physically, not just mentally.  Try this exercise:  free up both of your hands.  

- Make a fist with each hand.  Squeeze your fists as hard as you think you should!  As you hold your hands in fists, let God know what is burdening you today.  We don't really "think" our burdens -- we feel our burdens.   God already knows the information; tell God what it's like for you to carry these burdens...make time, there's no hurry.

- Open your hands, palms down.  Release those burdens, inviting God to carry them with you.  God is capable of carrying far more than we're able to carry.  Why do we try to carry it all?  God offers to carry the weight of the world, and even burdens in our own lives we cannot carry.  Release the pride that tells this lie: "it's all up to you."  Speak truth into your life in the words of Christ: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened."

- Open your hands, palms up.  Receive from God the unconditional grace God longs to give.  The Bible is many things and tells many stories.  But the story above all the stories is somewhat simple: God wants to be with us, and wants us to be with God.  Receiving God's Holy Spirit into our minds and hearts begins with asking.  As Jesus insisted: "How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13).  

If only these things were automatic!  But God loves us too much to force our hands.  So we each have the opportunity to follow Paul's teaching, and make a practice of where we focus our minds and hearts, and how we engage with the Holy Spirit in such a way that we can experience God's everlasting peace...even today.  

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