Proper 23A’23 St. Luke’s Day/Stewardship Kick-off
15 October 2023
Philippians 4.1-9
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone <+>

May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.                                                       – from the blessing following the Holy Eucharist, The Book of Common Prayer

If we’re honest we might agree with a friend who said the other day, “It’s been like ‘one of those days’ for three years now!” Another person told me, “I’m not an early bird or a night owl, I’m a permanently exhausted pigeon.”

A New Yorker magazine cartoon had the picture of a man down to his underwear sitting on the exam table. The doctor says, “Well, I think I know what’s wrong with you… you’re paying attention.” There’s certainly plenty to pay attention to and it can take its toll.  What a horrific week, the carnage of terrorism and the ravages of war. So much needless pain, and suffering out there, so much grief. Stress is affecting us all, especially those who are trying to pay attention. Stress causes most us to search for some relief.

Perhaps what we could use is some comfort food. Ahh yes, just the mention of those two words can send you off on a savory and sweet journey of smells and flavors.

One of mine is homemade chili. About this time every year, usually after the first cold snap, I make a big pot on a Friday night and before one spoonful hits my mouth the smell in the kitchen has already begun the wonderful process of anticipation that will result in bringing comfort to my heart and that satisfying warm feeling in my stomach. What are you seeing and smelling as I’ve been talking? Getting hungry?

Ok, Church dismissed let’s all caravan to Cracker Barrell!

We all know deep down that what we need is some soul food, and St. Paul delivers in the continuation of his letter to the Philippian church. Paul had quite the perspective as he wrote this letter from prison. When the going gets tough we try and think on the bright side, and St. Paul was no different. His thoughts were drawn to the local church at Philippi that he had started a couple of years back with the help of Euodia and Syntche, and others.  Paul had started a number of churches in that part of the world and only the Philippians were sending donations to keep his apostolic mission going. It was not an easy time or place to be a follower of Jesus, the Jewish carpenter turned rabbi, turned Messiah.

Let’s take a look at some of the soul food Paul was serving up to the brothers and sisters of Philippi.

First, he offers heartfelt greetings and then gets to a matter that was troubling. Euodia and Synthche who had been so helpful to Paul in the past were now locked in controversy and conflict. In Christian love, Paul basically tells them to quit it! To be of the same mind in the Lord. He wasn’t telling them to agree on everything but to agree on the main thing – that they were members of the family of God, and that no issue topped that fact. Paul reminded the other believers to assist them in their good works and for all of them to remember and not forget that their names were written in the Book of Life. When things get squirely – go back to the basics is a good rule of thumb.


No matter what circumstances the Philippians found themselves in he reminded them to: Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice!

Again, he uses the phrase “in the Lord.” Because, their faith and ours believes in redemption and resurrection. There is a power at work greater than our own egos, or the assaults of tyrants. When we live our lives within the community of Christ, as members of the family of God, in communion with God and one another we discover a solid foundation that can help us weather any storm that may come our way.

Happiness comes and goes and is heavily dependent on our circumstances. But Joy is something different, and comes from a deeper place within as a gift from the Holy Spirit. Joy can be a little bit crazy; it’s been known to lead people who are going through very trying circumstances to experience a deep peace that passes human understanding. Because God is at the center of our being we can experience a deeply inward spiritual gladness and calm that makes no earthly sense. 

Again, writing from prison, St. Paul then writes out his prescription for worry: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” There’s not a thing we can bring up to God that God won’t make time to listen to. As the saints throughout the ages all attest prayer changes things and it changes us. In fact, the neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg has been studying the effects of prayer and meditation on our brain with some amazing findings.

Some of you may remember the antidrug commercial where someone holds up an egg and says, “this is your brain,” then they point to hot cast iron skillet and then says, “this is drugs.” He then takes an egg, cracks it and puts it into the hot skillet and the egg begins frying. The person then gives the punchline “this is your brain on drugs.”

On your service leaflet you can see an actual PET Scan showing the difference in a normal brain and then that same brain during a time of prayer and meditation. You will notice how the blood flow (indicated by the color red) moves away from the amygdala (the fight or flight part of our brain) and moves to the cerebral cortex sometimes called the higher brain where our executive functions are located. Prayer actually brings calm to our brains as we talk with God about our concerns and leave them there, we are given a promise that we will know a peace that passes our own understanding and will guard our hearts as well as our minds.

He then rallies the Philippians to be intentional in their mindsets.

Positive faith and good attitudes don’t just happen all by themselves. As only Paul could, writing from prison says for us to set our minds on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellence, things worthy of praise – and to THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS! I would highly encourage all of us to limit our media consumption. There are ways to still stay informed without exposing ourselves to the graphic images, and horrific sounds that they play over an over 24/7.

I’ll end with a story about living by faith:

The Smith family was a family of 5 whose three-story townhouse caught fire and fortunately all of them had made it outside into the front yard, except the youngest daughter 8-year-old Tori. The lower two floors were engulfed in flames when Tori suddenly appeared on the third story balcony. The smoke was burning her little eyes and her dad began calling to her telling her to jump and that he would catch her. Tori cried out, “but daddy I can’t see you!” The dad shouted, “that’s ok Tori, I can see you – jump!