Sundays:  Pastor's Class 9:00 AM (Ephesians)
               Divine Liturgy 10:30 AM

Wednesdays: Pastor's Class 10:00 AM (Psalm 119 deep dive)
                    Divine Liturgy 7:00 PM

Ash Wednesday:

Imposition of Ashes 11:00 AM
Divine Service with Imposition of Ashes 7:00 PM



Peace Which Passes Understanding

December 24, 2023 Pastor: Rev. Lloyd Gross

Advent 4
Phil. 4:4-7

We live in a world that is weary from constant strife, longing for peace. In the past hundred years we have lived through international wars, social conflicts, racial troubles, and the greatest percentage of broken families in the history of the world. No wonder we are weary of conflict! We can't even get away from road rage. Industrious little creatures that we are, we make bigger and bigger bandaids to cover the leprosy of strife. Social legislation has spent billions on the poor, which has given them the appetite for trillions. On the international level we have watched the constant failure of the progressivists who think they are so enlightened. They gave us the League of Nations which could not stop the Second World War. Then they gave us the United Nations, which threatens to become a world monopoly of power, but more often than not merely looks ridiculous. In the face of militant Islam, it can do nothing but scold and bluff. Peace between people is always out of reach until there is peace within each person. Examine the human heart to find that peace. What's this? It's not there. What we find within ourselves is anxiety.

Anxiety is the plague that infects us all. It is the burden with which Satan has bound our contemporaries. It is the demonic jack hammer which undermines trust, hope, confidence. If left unchecked it can produce physical pain, sleeplessness, and perhaps even drug addiction, and in the worst case, suicide. Anxiety haunts the conscience with all the guilt of the past, fear for the future, and a spirit of grabbing and guarding for the present. Anxiety allows no time for rest. You cannot grab and guard when you're asleep.

Such anxiety is the Christian's most aggressive enemy. The good news is he is a vanquished enemy. Jesus has already dealt him the mortal blow. No one needs anxiety, but when Jesus takes your burden upon Himself, Satan can no longer force the anxiety on you. Jesus gives us His burden instead - the peace of God which passes all understanding. Surely that burden is light! He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows - lifting away all the consequences of anxiety, because He has forgiven the guilt with His blood. He baptizes us with the Spirit of joy. The Spirit never sleeps, so we can, always confident that our Comforter is watching. And when we are at work, we can resist that anxiety because the Spirit is within us.

St. Paul bids us to rejoice because the Lord is at hand. We celebrate His presence among us. The world is still filled with sorrow, but in Jesus' hands we can rejoice, standing in God's favor, knowing that He has made us righteous, and that we are now in the service of the King of Kings.

Our King is the self-humiliating Servant, who calls us to imitate His meekness. He left heaven to become a mortal on earth, He chose to be poor, meek, and forbearing, He chose the way of the cross. So when Paul says, Let all men know your forbearance, he reminds us that whatever we lose here had no permanent value anyway, whether it was material things, honor and fame, or intellectual achievements. When the Lord returns, we will see how all of our opinions were more or less mistaken. Material possessions will be burned up. However, as we imitate the King of Meekness by losing all that is ours, we gain all that is His.

Given who we are, that's a tall order. Flesh and blood clamors for constant attention. We still have to live in the world. Does Christ really want us to lose everything? Even if He is coming soon in glory, we don't know when. There are needs that have to be met. Can we help being anxious about such things? St. Paul urges us here to let God know our requests, to enter His ever-open throne room, certain that He will receive us. Nothing is too large for God to grant, nor, as some seem to think, too small. He will take away your anxiety. That is important. He pushes away your anxiety by filling you with the peace that passes understanding. We pray for His Advent, as we do in the Lord's Prayer, that His kingdom will become realized over all. Ask for forgiveness, for a new heart, for a righteous understanding of yourself, for comfort under the trials of life, for the fruits of the Holy Spirit, for virtue of every kind, for joy on the inside, for deliverance from every evil. God promises to hear you for the sake of Jesus, and to grant what you ask.

Now while you're talking to God, don't forget to thank Him for all that He has already done. God gives little to those who are ungrateful. Contrary to popular belief, God does nothing for those who help themselves. He does everything for those who let Him. If you would be God's friend, then appreciate all that He has done for you.

Such appreciation cannot share your heart with anxiety. Anxiety does nothing to help. It only worries about things. Swap that anxiety for the light burden of Jesus Christ. That is not a difficult choice unless you're trying to serve two masters. God will give you His peace, not as the world gives. The peace of God surrounds the heart like a shield, a rampart to keep the Old Evil Foe at a distance. This is Jesus' own peace, beyond all understanding. And it never ends. AMEN.