< back to Sermon archive

Sermon for Sunday 22 May 2022

First Reading: Acts 16:9-15

9A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. 11So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

Psalm 67

1May God be merciful to us and bless us, show us the light of his countenance and come to us. 2Let your ways be known upon earth, your saving health among all nations. 3Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you. 4Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide all the nations upon earth. 5Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you. 6The earth has brought forth her increase; may God, our own God, give us his blessing. 7May God give us his blessing, and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.

Second Reading: Revelation 21:9-14, 21-27

9Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed — 13on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 21And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. 22And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25and its gates will never be shut by day — and there will be no night there. 26They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Gospel: John 16:23-33

23{Jesus said to his disciples,} “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. 25I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” 29His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” 31Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Maalox Moments

Several years ago, the makers of Maalox antacid came up with a series of commercials that highlighted situations which, in their estimation, were tailor-made for the use of their product.  In one of those commercials, we’re taken into a home with kids running about screaming, the dog knocking over a vase, and the bathtub overflowing and spilling water onto the floor.  The toast is smoking in the toaster.  The doorbell is ringing, and so is the telephone.  The camera then zooms in on the haggard look of the mother who, at this point, could easily qualify for a nerve transplant.  It’s then that we hear the announcer: “It’s another one of those Maalox moments.”

Maalox is, of course, taken for upset stomachs and I’m sure most of us have experienced acid indigestion and heart burn caused by the stress, the worries, and the anxiety that’s common to life today.  For example, all I have to say is pandemic, or Ukraine, or Roe vs. Wade, and our stress and tension levels instantly rise.  Add to this the fact that we’ve once again entered into another election season, and it’s a wonder any of us can get any sleep.  Between everyday stressors, work, world events, the economy, and rising fuel costs, let’s face it, Maalox moments occur all too frequently.  We live in an age when anxiety is at an all-time high, when tensions are mounting to increasingly steep levels, and when stress and worry are often the order of the day.  Evan a casual glance at pharmaceutical statistics proves the point.

High blood pressure medicines like Lisinopril, Losartan and Amlodipine, make up three of the top 10 most prescribed drugs in America today.  Close behind, on this top 10 list, is Omeprazole and Tagamet, both of which are prescribed to treat ulcers, indigestion and acid reflux which are often the result of worry carried too far.  This, of course, doesn’t take into account top-selling over-the-counter drugs like Maalox, Excedrin and Rolaids which are near the top of their own respective lists.  Add to this prescription drugs like Valium and other antidepressants, and you begin to get a picture of what’s going on in our lives.  The distinct role of these medications is to treat the physical effects that are the result of excess stress, worry, and anxiety.

This being the case, it seems apparent, that the words of Jesus, in our Gospel reading for today, haven’t been taken seriously by a good many people.  Jesus tells His disciples, and, in essence, tells us, “I leave behind with you peace.  I give you my own peace.  You must not be distressed or fearful.”  We need to understand that Jesus’ use of the word peace in this passage is rather unique.  It was common in Biblical times for people to greet each other with the word peace, of Shalom.  But Jesus isn’t using the word peace here as a greeting, He’s using it in terms of a gift.  Jesus says, “I’m giving you peace,” and He fully expects that the peace will reign supreme in the hearts and minds of all His followers.  That being said, why is it that so few of us realize this peace?  

Why is it that our lives are filled with more Maalox moments than they are with peaceful moments?  Maybe one of the reasons lies in the fact that all too often we get worked up over things which we cannot do anything about.  There’s a legend about a burdened old man who, along his tiresome way, met an angel.  The old man was bent under the enormous weight of a great burlap sack across his shoulders and on his back.  It was so heavy, it was a wonder he could walk.

The angel said, “What is it you have in the sack?”  The man replied, “In there are my worries!”  The angel said, “Empty them out, let me see them.”  With great effort, the old man lowered the huge sack from his back and turned out the contents.  Out first came yesterday, and then tomorrow.  And the angel picked up yesterday and threw it aside and said, “You don’t need that because yesterday is in the hands of God and no amount of worrying will change it.”  Then the angel picked up tomorrow and said, “You don’t need this because tomorrow is in the hands of God and no amount of worrying will change it.”  In the end, the old man had no worries to put in the sack.  It’s often the case, that much of what we worry about lies beyond our control.  Maalox moments are often the result of things we can do nothing about.

Most people have heard of the prayer that the members of Alcoholics Anonymous pray; it’s a great prayer and we all should consider adopting it.  Most people know it by its name, the Serenity Prayer.  It reads: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  Of all the phrases by which people live their lives, I can think of none that contains more good sense than that.  Within this prayer is the acceptance that there are things that happen to us in life, that despite how much we would wish them to be different, they will not be different.  If we’re to reduce the stress in our lives, we must accept those things that cannot be changed as they are, doing so with grace and with dignity.  Of course, we must never use this as an excuse to do nothing.  The prayer also asks God to give us the courage to change the things we can along with the wisdom to discern the difference.

Walter Underwood, in his book Being Hopeful, Being Human, talks of a man who developed a worry table.  He wrote down all the things he was worried about and then classified them.  He quickly discovered that forty percent of the time he was worried about things that would probably never happen; thirty percent of the time he stewed about decisions he’d already made; twelve percent of the time he fretted about becoming ill; ten percent of the time he was troubled about his friends and their children; and eight percent of the time he was worried about immediate problems that needed to be solve.  After reviewing his worry table, it became obvious that he could discard 82 percent of his worries.  Maybe we all ought to adopt the practice of putting our concerns in a worry table.

Perhaps in constructing our own worry table, we’d find that one of the reasons why we have more Maalox moments than peaceful moments might be that we worry too much about things which will either never happen, or which we can do nothing about.  Then there’s the matter of getting all nerved up because of the things we lack, failing to realize and appreciate all the things we do have.  On Tuesdays, it’s common for the pastors to discuss what they’ll be focusing on for their Sunday sermon.  I had already been praying about the readings and felt led to talk about worries.  One of the pastors proceeded to present the following amusing argument: He said, when you stop and think about it, in the end we really have nothing to worry about.  Let me explain, there are only two things to worry about in life, and that’s being healthy or being sick.  

He went on to say, if you’re healthy, you have nothing to worry about.  If you’re sick, you have two things to worry about, getting better or getting worse.  If you’re getting better, you have nothing to worry about.  If you’re getting worse, you have two things to worry about, surviving or dying.  If you survive, you have nothing to worry about.  If you die, you have two things to worry about, going to heaven or going to hell.  If you’re going to heaven, you have nothing to worry about.  If you go to hell, you’ll be so busy shaking hands with your friends that you won’t have time to worry anyway.  Oftentimes, what it takes to go from a Maalox moment to a peaceful moment comes down to a matter of keeping things in perspective.  

Let me share with you the interesting story about J.C. Penney, the tycoon who founded the large chain of stores that bear his name.  J.C. Penney suffered tremendous financial losses during the Depression.  He worried about them to such an extent that he had a nervous breakdown and was confined to a sanitarium for months.  The doctors worked with him but to no avail.  He became increasingly worse until one night he decided he was near death and so he wrote farewell notes to each of his loved ones.  The next morning, to his great surprise, he was still breathing.  He hadn’t died.  As he further contemplated his fate, he heard singing and the tune sounded vaguely familiar to him.  

Struggling out of bed, he walked down the corridor to the chapel, the source of the voices.  As he opened the door, he heard the words that were being sung: Be not dismayed what’er betide, God will take care of you.  Beneath his wings of love abide, God will take care of you.  Mr. Penney remembered that song from his childhood.  It aroused within him an overwhelming sense of the care, kindness, and the love of Almighty God.  He suddenly began to recall his blessings instead of his worries.  

He then began to take note of the fact that there were a lot of things right in his life, that he had a lot of things going for him which many people didn’t have.  He was blessed by family, friends, and business associates who never left his side.  God had indeed taken care of him and blessed him, but he was too filled with worry to take notice.  J.C. Penney began to recover quickly, and he went on to live to the ripe old age of 92.  He never forgot the old song that enabled him to realize his blessings instead of his worries, to image all he had, instead of all he lost.  The same could be said for many of us.

We worry about getting ahead.  We worry about accomplishing something.  We worry about paying off a debt.  We worry about meeting a deadline.  Now don’t get me wrong, all these are legitimate and important concerns.  Where we fail, is that in the meantime, in the time it takes to overcome or correct these concerns, we fail to stop and appreciate and relish the immense number of blessings we still have, and which will still be there regardless of how successful or unsuccessful we are with our ventures.  Another reason why our Maalox moments might outnumber our peaceful moments could stem from the fact that we have unrealistic expectations about life.

S.I. Hayakawa, the former Senator from California, once wrote a very telling piece about bus drivers from Chicago.  When he was young, he used to ride the bus down Indiana Avenue, a street that was often blocked by badly parked cars and tractor trailers backing into warehouses and maneuvering in every which way.  While he rode the bus, he observed two types of bus drivers.  One type seemed to expect to be able to ride down Indiana Avenue without interruption.  Every time things got blocked, they would get worked up with rage.  They would blow their horns, and they would lean out of the bus to yell at the drivers of the tractor trailers.  At the end of the day one can reasonably assume that they were nervous wrecks.  When they went home, they were probably jittery and hypersensitive, menaces to their wives and children.

The other type of bus driver, Hayakawa observed, drove their buses fully expecting Indiana Avenue to be blocked, a realistic expectation because it usually was.  They would sit and wait for minutes at a time without fretting.  They would be whistling a tune, or they would be writing their reports, or they would be glancing at a magazine that they brought along for just such interruptions.  Hayakawa concluded his essay by remarking how, in confronting the same objective situation, some bus drivers lived a conflicted life of nervous tension while the other bus drivers had a more relaxing job with plenty of time to relax.

It does make you question if many of our Maalox moments stem from the fact that we expect life to be perfect, free from flaws, interruptions, mistakes, and turmoil.  Let’s face it!  It never is!  Recall what the last verse of our gospel lesson is for today?  Jesus was clear, “In this world you will have tribulations (John 16 33).  The better we learn to cope with life’s inevitable shortcomings, the better our nerves will be and the less stressful our lives will be.  Another reason why we may not be realizing Christ’s gift of peace could stem from the fact that we’ve too self-centered.  When we are, we end up having nothing else to think about except our aches, our pains, our worries.  

The Healing Power of Doing Good is a book packed with testimony about the immense benefits which come our way when we give of ourselves for the sake of another.  One statistic noted that sixty percent of the people who volunteered their time, realized a decrease in feelings of helplessness, despair, and anxiety.  One senior citizen started doing volunteer work at both her winter residence in Florida and her summer home in Minnesota.  She volunteered her services tutoring young children in math. According to her, volunteering was the best thing she could have done for herself.

She said that working with children not only made her feel good, it also got her to forget the aches, the pains, and the bits of arthritis that worried and troubled her.  The truth is, when our life centers around ourselves, we have far too much time on our hands and because of that, our minds have nothing else to do but manufacture worries.  There are many reasons why our Maalox moments outnumber our peaceful moments.  The question is, who’s fault is that?

It’s true, we’re living in very stressful times.  Anxiety and tension are indeed on the rise.  But we must remember three things: first, Jesus said, “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:33-35).  Second, recall what Jesus said to His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid (John 14:27).  And finally, take a look again at verse 33 from our gospel lesson, “I have said these things to you that in me you may have my peace.  In this world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  Jesus, before returning to the Father, left for us His gift of peace.  Isn’t it time we reflect and collect on these promises?


Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.

< back to Sermon archive