Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Advent 2 sermon

Today we celebrate the 2nd Sunday in Advent which reminds us that Christmas is not too far ahead. It gives us time to look back to almost the past 12 months for which we can say God has been good to each of us in so many different ways. Things haven’t always gone the way we wanted or the ways we’ve prayed but if we want to be honest, we can truly say God has blessed in so many ways that we couldn’t have imagined as we started this year.

Our passage for today brings our attention to the apostle Paul who, even though he was in prison many times, had made it a habit of praising and thanking God at all times. There was one time the bible says he and Peter sang so much praise to God in prison that the very building shook. So how about us? Can we truly praise God when we are out of this building? We can sing him praises either from songs we know or making up our own.  (My soul praise the Lord  ... / Great is Thy faithfulness).

I would like us to consider the topic of thanksgiving and prayer as we look at the letter of Paul to the Philippians. Reading Paul’s letters in general, we can see that Paul had a genuine concern for the young Christian church he had started during his missionary journey. We can see from these letters that Paul had suffered many beatings and imprisonment for the cause of Christ. Now he writes this letter as he thought about the young Philippian church and probably reflecting on the different things that separated them all this while. He sends them a thank you letter showing his love and gratitude to the generous believers at Philippi. Even though Paul was in prison he does not start his letter by thanking them for their gifts, but rather he thanks God for these believers who had held on to their faith whilst he was away from them. These believers had not only shown their love to Paul in so many ways but had held on to their faith through different trials as well. We do not know exactly what they did to help him, but it is clear that whatever they had done had helped Paul out in a great way. They were there for Paul when he needed them. They were his servants in the gospel, so he says in Philippians 1:4 – Always in every prayer of mine for you all, making request for you with joy.
 He makes mentions that he is praying for the church at Philippi and that every request is made with joy. How many of us can say that we joyfully pray one for another? Or how many of us can say we spend as little as half an hour a day praying for others and not bringing to God a list of our own needs. 

I believe if our church, or any church, wants to survive, then we must spend time in prayer for one another before God. I don’t mean to only pray when a sickness or problem comes up. As 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing.” Let us pray for each other that we can be better teachers, leaders, fathers, mothers, and children etc. Pray that we will grow in spiritual maturity and have a desire to serve the Lord. Pray that nothing will come between our individual relationships with Jesus Christ. Paul as our example begins by saying that prayer should be a first response. Listen to vs. 3, he says, "I thank my God every time I remember you. Can we say that when we pray for each other when we are out of here?

Then, in chapter 4, vs. 6, he says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

What is Paul saying? He is saying that whenever anything happens to him, whether positive or negative, he prays. That’s his first response. He prays, "God, thank you for the blessings that you give me. God, I even thank you for the troubles that come my way. Now teach me the lessons that I need to learn from them." Paul always started with prayer. So we too can begin to learn to.

So like Paul, we have a choice. Positive & negative things happen every day. We can focus on the negative & become an unhappy grumbler if we want, but if we’ll focus on gratitude, we will be able to see the blessings that God is sending our way. We all know that  when we’re in trouble it is important to have friends who will stand beside us, friends who will be there through thick & thin, that we can always count upon. What we always need to remember is that we are the salt of the earth so complaining, grumbling faultfinding should not be what our friends, family members or neighbors should identify us with. 

So listen to vs’s 9 -11. Paul says, "This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.

All those who serve God need to be remembered in our prayers, our Vicar and his family, our priest’s bishops and everyone in authority in our churches. We hear of the urgency to pray for our churches esp. from the news we hear on the radio/ TV daily. Let us be constant in prayer. Even though Paul wrote these words from a prison in Rome, he still had a burning passion to see people living in righteousness. So we can imagine him saying to us from, Ph 4:6 do not fret or have anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. So like Paul may we have that gentle spirit of thankfulness even in the midst of challenges esp. in this season. There is that song that says,  
"When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost
Count your many blessing, name them one by one
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done

Finally as we look ahead to the last few weeks of this year and the start of another year in thanksgiving for blessings past, blessings present and blessings on their way to us, let us remember that God in His mercy has allowed us to celebrate this season of advent and use it is a pointer that He is coming soon. The passage in Malachi reminds us in these words, “the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple, behold he is coming, but who can endure the day of his coming and who can stand when he appears.  The coming of God would mean judgment- when he comes in judgment He’ll be coming to our area, down our street, to our world. Will we be ready? He will spare those who are His, those who have a relationship with him and those who fear and honour His name.

So let us be ready, let us share this good news that we are privileged to know and let us constantly pray with thanksgiving for each other and anyone known to us. Let us pray for those who God might by chance lay on our hearts this coming week that as we give thanks for them, pray that God would rescue any unsaved amongst them before the Day of Judgment comes.

1 comment:

Fr Paul Trathen, Vicar said...

This is a sermon by Myna Jones, one of the Readers serving at St Peter's.