Sermon October 24, 2021 by Rev. David Hodgson

The Windows of my Mind …As through a glass darkly

 “Rejoice! …The Lord is at hand.  Have no anxiety about anything, …and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:4-7

This morning I would like to invite you into my mind for a while, hoping you’ll excuse the clutter.  There are unfinished thoughts scattered all around that need to be put together when I find the time.  Over there, some outdated notions gathering dust that probably need to be discarded, but they’re so familiar that I keep saving that task for another day.  Here and there some assumptions about life that need to be challenged, and some habits of thought that are past their expiration date.   Oh, yes, and over there some new ideas waiting to be explored ~ you know, when I ever get around to it.

My mind is really not so tidy a place as you might have imagined; but my reason for inviting you into my mind is to give you a chance to see the world through the windows of my mind.  I’ll grant you, you can see the world just fine through the windows of your own minds, but every now and then a change of perspective can be a useful thing.

You must be thrilled!  The view, however, is always unique to each of us.  There is a texture to the glass through which we look at the world that makes our perceptions different. That is, after all, what makes each of us so one of a kind ~ the gift of being able to see the world through different lenses.

So come, and make yourself at home in my mind ~ but only for a little while.

Sometimes, I find that if I press myself too closely to the glass it fogs up and needs to be wiped clean.  That is what some would refer to as a personal bias. or a prejudice, ~ and it is!  The fog of prejudice, however, is on the inside and cannot be removed from the outside.  It can only be wiped clean from the inside.  So let me wash away as much as I can.

[Pull out handkerchief and spray and start wiping the window.]

Is that better?   Oops! Some personal biases are harder to remove, but I have a solution for that.

[Pull out lens cleaner, spray, and wipe again.]

 Now then, what I’d like to show you may seem a little incongruous at first, but with all that’s wrong with the world outside, I can see from in here that there are a lot of joyful people out there!  It’s strange, I know, for if you’re looking for reasons to be glum ~ my goodness! ~ they abound!

Cultures are clashing, community is fracturing, nations are warring, religions are faltering, social systems are oppressing ~ and yet, from the windows of my mind there appear to be joyful people out there, totally undismayed by everything that seems to be going wrong! 

How do they do it?  They are either completely out of touch with reality, or they are in touch with a reality that is more profound than everything that is happening around them!

Somewhere in all of my mental clutter here, I saved a fragment of thought from St. Paul ~ written back in the first century to some folks down in Philippi.  (In Macedonia ~ that’s northern Greece not far from the Aegean Sea.). It was there in 42 B.C. that Mark Anthony and Octavian defeated  Brutus and Cassius in two fierce battles.  Yet like flowers blooming upon abandoned battlefields, so also on that land some who lived with faith in Christ began to blossom.

The times were almost as bad then as they are today for the Christians ~ what with all the political persecutions and societal confusion.  There was no freedom of worship, no freedom of speech or press, no right to assembly; yet this piece of a letter I saved from Paul ~ Oh, here it is! Thank God! ~ is significant because it encourages the Christians to live in the world that is organized around one set of values as though it actually functioned around another set of values.

Listen to this.  Rejoice! …The Lord is at hand.  Have no anxiety about anything, …and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

 I saved that because it is evidence of a political conspiracy.  And maybe saved it for just such an occasion as this, because sometimes I have the impression that our generation prefers conspiracy theories to truth ~ only this conspiracy is a conspiracy of truth against falsehood!  This is truth conspiring against falsehood!

As I have come to understand it, and to experience it, the conspiracy works like this.  If you live with joy in a world of sorrow, you will discover that joy is a more powerful force than sorrow, for joy has the power to raise the level of contentment for everyone around you.   In time, it becomes a self-fulling prophecy, for the more joy you share, the deeper your capacity for joy becomes, and you actually get to the point where you know that the source of joy is God!

So also when you live with hope in a world despairing, or with faith in a society that is disbelieving, or with love in a time of indifference ~ it may seem as though you’re out of step with the world.  But it is the spiritual cadence of heaven; and in time the virtues of heaven transform those who live upon the earth one life at a time, until the world, with all of its failings, becomes the place where the glory of God brings its influence to bear upon all that is temporal.

At the time Paul wrote those words to the Philippians the Roman Empire was already losing its ability to govern effectively its expansive territory, but God was establishing bonds of spiritual kinship that one day would unite all of human kind.  One historian, looking on declared in amazement:  My how they love one another!

I remember noting somewhere here in my mind that Jesus referred to just such a conspiracy of truth against falsehood.  Ah, yes, in one of his last prayerful conversations with his Heavenly Father ~ here it is:    As he was leaving his disciples behind he prayed, Heavenly Father, they are in the world but not of the world!

That’s the kind of prayer one offers when a conspiracy of truth has been well planned and executed with precision.   For in our Lord’s final hours he knew that seeds of truth as beautiful as wild flowers had been planted all across the desolation of the world, and no force known to man would ever be able to stop them from growing.

It was as though he had launched a quality of life in which the humble of the world would shine with a glory the arrogant can never attain, in which the poor discover the generosity of God long before the powerful ~ in which the common people find more courage than the elite, and the prayerful experience God more fully than the fearful.

Truth, manifesting itself in the lives of common ordinary mortals in such ways as to transform the world, even as those in authority look on feeling powerless to stop it. It is a conspiracy of truth, for God is not off somewhere in another galaxy, but right here on the earth for all who want to find Him.

[Pull out handkerchief and wipe reflectively]

Oh, I know when I think this way those windows of my mind get all steamed up.   I can attend to that, but this I know for sure, that these windows are not provided so that we can be spectators to life.  God put them here so that we can see the world clearly, and then participate in the adventure of life fully! Therefore, Rejoice! …The Lord is at hand.  Have no anxiety about anything, …and the peace of God, which passes all under-standing, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

David S. Hodgson   October 24, 2021