Proverbs 3:5-18; Philippians 4:4-9

“Blessed are the Peacemakers”

November 8, 2020


This has been an historic week in our nation, an emotional roller coaster for many.

We do not worship in a vacuum, but in the context of what is going on around us.

This morning, at least half of our nation is happy about the election results;

the other half is unhappy and unsettled by the results.

And so we have much work to do – in listening to one another and learning how to work together

for the sake our communities and our world.


Our prayer is that today’s worship will bring us all a bit of hope and encouragement, a renewed sense that we have important work to do in the Church and in the world, and that even when neighbors and close friends and family members have vehemently disagreed with one another on something like a national election ,they can nevertheless still live and worship together in unity and common purpose.


Prayer for Illumination –

Holy God, on this weekend, of all weekends, we pray for peace and unity in our nation,

and we pray that you would illuminate your Word for all who gather to worship today

in every town, village, and city across our country.

Your Word helps us recognize and confess our own sin,

and leads us in new paths of truth and grace. May your Word,

heard through words and music, accomplish all you intend this day; through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Our New Testament reading for today comes from Paul’s letter to the Church in Philippi.

Paul loved this congregation dearly and wrote, at least in part,

to address a potential crisis in their community.

Dissension was brewing in the church between two women who are mentioned by name,

Euodia and Syntyche, and Paul’s words were meant to ward off potential conflict between them,

and to provide an opportunity for reconciliation.

Just before our text, Paul urges the two women “to be of the same mind in the Lord.”

Paul did not say to them they had to agree with one another;

he encouraged them to “be of the same mind in the Lord.”

And then he urges his loyal companions in the church to help these two important members

of the community find reconciliation, “for they have both struggled beside me

in the work of the gospel, ” Paul writes.


For any who have known disagreement or potential conflict with a friend, neighbor, or family member,

hear the Word of the Lord from Philippians 4:4-9.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone.

The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication

with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God,

which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your 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.

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.

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.


When Paul wrote this letter, he was in jail in Rome awaiting a possible execution.

Only Paul, the one who had been through so many terrible circumstances,

could tell the Philippians to rejoice…always, no matter what crisis they may be facing.

The word “crisis” in the Chinese language is illustrated by two distinct Chinese characters.

The first is the symbol for “danger”, and the second is the symbol for “opportunity”.

Thus, whatever crises we may be facing in this country,

whether from the pandemic or from a divided politic or an uncertain economy,

whatever crises you and your family may be facing as we enter November and head toward the holidays,

these crises could be both “danger” and “opportunity” at the same time.

Paul says “rejoice”, even in the midst of crisis.

Your crisis just may be an opportunity to grow in faith and faithfulness.


Now, it is important to note that “rejoicing in the Lord” and “being happy” are not the same thing.

Happiness is based on current circumstances; rejoicing in the Lord goes much deeper,

it is more closely related to long term hope.

As someone once said:  “Joy is not the absence of suffering; it is the awareness of the presence of God.”


Friends, many people in our nation are exhausted.

Many are worn out by dealing with the pandemic and all its challenges;

many are exhausted by the political divisions, the tribalization, the anger.

One thing that has been confirmed over the past week is that many of us have been living in “bubbles”.

We have lived and consumed news media in different “echo chambers” throughout the country,

hearing and listening only those who think and vote like we do.

This has led to significant dissension in our nation and we have not understood each other.

When the election numbers finally began to settle, it was clear that half of our nation,

and almost exactly half of the state of Georgia,

was going to celebrate after four years of frustration;

but the other half was going to find themselves upset and even more fearful

about the state of our nation and the world.


The peace of God which surpasses understanding can be elusive in such situations,

especially when neighbors and close friends and family members have disagreed with one other.

The question going forward it:  Can we disagree without being so disagreeable?

Can we focus on what unites us rather than what divides us?

Can we work together across divisions for the sake of the common good?


I read an article this week that asserted that one thing our divided nation needs is a united church.

The next several months are a wonderful opportunity for the Church of Jesus Christ

to simply be the church, to live as a hopeful alternative to our culture, and not an echo of our culture.

People are tired of the division, but nobody quite knows how to move forward together.

This is where the congregations throughout the nation can make a real difference.

Our culture is tired of hate and division, and yet caught in its grip,

and will only be released from it if there’s a clear alternative.

Hope, peace and love are a clear alternative, and these are the marks of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Hope, peace, and love can and will ultimately overcome despair, chaos, and hate.

At its best, hope, peace and love are exactly what the church can offer the world.


What our friends and neighbors and family members need are NOT members of the Church

who gloat over a victory NOR or a defeated people who double down on what divides us,

but what we all need amongst us are AMBASSADORS for Jesus Christ who are filled with grace,

who bear in their daily lives the seeds of hope, who speak words of peace,

who are committed to actions of love.

The Church, at its best, will follow its Savior Jesus Christ, who loves God’s children

on both sides of the aisle, and whose love transcends our human boundaries of tribe and party,

and even of nation and religion.  (adapted from Carey Neiuwhof, November 4, 2020)


As a nation, we will be sorely tested in the months to come.

The conflicts and crises we experience are real and deep.

And yet, Holy Scripture reminds us that God’s will be with us.

God will be in the midst of the storm, and shall not be moved.

The peace of God will be available to us, and God’s peace can heal divisions and bring reconciliation.

God’s peace will encourage us NOT to protect ourselves from others who are different,

and NOT to separate ourselves into like-minded factions,

but God’s peace will REQUIRE us to come together to face our conflicts and crises,

shoulder to shoulder, trusting in the power of God to make all things new.


Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote. “Men often hate each other because they fear each other;

they fear each other because they don’t know each other;

they don’t know each other because they cannot communicate;

they cannot communicate because they are separated.”

(Quoted in Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (1958),

Dr. King Jr.’s historic account of the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott,

The Church is NOT to be a place where people are separated into like-minded groups.

The Church is to be like a body, the body of Christ, in which different parts come together

with ears ready to listen, with minds ready to understand one another,

with hearts ready to love those different from ourselves.


Paul ends our text from Philippians with this encouragement:

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.

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.


There is a word of correction for the people of the Church here.

Carey Neiuwhof wrote in his blogpost this week that many have been worried over the past months

about their kids watching the politicians and the pundits and mimicking their attitudes and actions.

“I promise you”, he wrote, “that your kids (and grandkids) are watching you more closely

than they’re watching any politician. So, take your personal sins seriously.

Confess (any ways that you have furthered divisions or denigrated those different from yourselves.)

Repent. Change.” Or, in the words we have been reading from Romans 12:2 this year,

“let God transform you by the renewal of your minds.” (Neiuwhof)


“Keep on doing these things”, Paul says, “and the God of peace will be with you.”

This is one of the most beautiful promises in all of Scripture.

“Rejoice always, in every circumstance, pray always with thankful hearts…

focus on what is true and honorable and just and pure….

And (the promise is that) the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,

will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If we engage in these age-old practices of the Church,

the peace of God will stand guard over us, literally “stand sentry watch” over us,

shielding us from that which would harm us, shielding us from the hate which would divide us.


Friends, by the grace of God and by the attitudes and actions of the people of the Church,

may the peace of God, the peace which surpasses all understanding,

flow into all of our congregations this day, across this fine nation,

bringing hope and comfort and encouragement, and even a real sense of unity in purpose,

for the sake of the common good, for the sake of all of God’s children, whomever they may be.



Rev. Dr. Todd Speed

Decatur Presbyterian Church

Decatur, Georgia