anxiety coping skills faith sermons

God who rides upon the clouds

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

Dear Friends,

We are continuing to celebrate the resurrection of Christ this Sunday and meditating on Peter’s letter which encourages us to humble ourselves before God and to cast all our anxiety on God. The God we worship is God who emptied God’s self, took flesh to dwell among us, who lived and died to give us eternal salvation, and after being resurrected ascended into heaven. We believe and worship God who lived, died, rose again and ascended into heaven, God who rides upon the clouds. 

As we seem to be living deeper and deeper into the tunnel of Covid-19 virus and at the same time seeing glimmer of the light at the end of this tunnel, we have God’s word to read, to hear, to meditate upon, to believe, to proclaim and to live by. 

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, was a follower of Jesus during his ministry and a witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus. He writes to fellow believers to testify to who Jesus is and teaches us in his letter how to live as those who believe and belong to Jesus Christ. Peter addresses the trials believers are experiencing and reminds us that we have salvation of our souls in Christ which is eternal. Through God’s great mercy, we have a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We have a living hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in whom we have new life.

 “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood:

May grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:1-9).

Peter tells us that we rejoice even now, even if we have had to suffer various trials. How is this possible that we can rejoice even now as we suffer various trials? How does our faith prove to be more precious than gold when Jesus Christ is revealed? Later in this letter, Peter says, do not to be surprised at the fiery ordeal as though something strange were happening to us. He urges us to rejoice in so far as we are sharing Christ’s sufferings:  

4:12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. 14If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.” (1 Peter 4:12-14)

It is quite surprising, mysterious, and puzzling how we are to rejoice in suffering! I believe that we are rejoicing not in the suffering so much as rejoicing in our love of God and our eternal salvation we have in and through our Lord Jesus Christ. Peter reminds us of our love for Jesus. We love Jesus whom we have not seen and we love him whom we do not see now, and we believe in him. In this we rejoice, because we have indescribable and glorious joy in loving Jesus in whom and through whom we receive the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls. 

Do you know, believe, and love Jesus in this way that you rejoice with the “indescribable and glorious joy?” I remember on my fourth or fifth birthday, clearly and distinctly, feeling the presence of Jesus at my birthday party. Jesus was with us all the time. Of course, Jesus was at my birthday party also! No matter how far back or recent your memory sensing Jesus’ presence, do you feel Jesus’ presence now, feel beloved now, and feel the joy of eternal salvation now? If you don’t, I hope you will want to remember it, or to encounter Jesus for the first time. Now, at such a time as this, we need all the love and support we have. We are reminded during these trials and suffering that we are not in control and that we need to look to God where our help comes from. 

So therefore? 

5:6Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 8Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. 10And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. 11To him be the power forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:6-11)

So therefore, as Peter urges us, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among us. Let us humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God. What could this mean? Humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God means acknowledging and humbling ourselves to the providence of God. How in control were we of our lives before Covid-19? And now? Are we not getting used to the new norms? Do you now look for your mask just as you make sure you have your wallet and your keys before leaving your house? I’ve had to turn back and walk up the stairs to my apartment many times to retrieve my mask recently, until I got used to the new normal: check my pocket for keys, wallet, AND put on my mask before heading out. And for those of any age, but especially those who are elderly, and those who have pre-existing conditions, are we not at greater risk for complications if we get infected by the Covid-19 virus? But still, we must go out to get groceries, pick up our medicine, and go for walks when possible. What or who protects us? 

Cast all your anxiety on God, because God cares for us. This idea of casting all our anxiety on God is not only found in Peter’s letter but is also found in Psalm 55:22.

“Cast your burden (what God has given you) on the Lord, / and he will sustain you; / he will never permit / the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22) 

Although modern translations say cast your “burden” on the Lord, the word is also literally “what is given to you.” Meaning, cast all that God has given you back on the Lord. Doesn’t this make sense to us, especially if we believe God gives us all that we have? The truth is, nothing we have is of our doing. Last time I checked, no one asked to be born. No one got to choose what family, country, ethnicity, social-economic class, and educational background to be born into. When we are true and honest to ourselves, we are not in control of most things in life, especially during Covid-19 pandemic.

God, who has sustained us in the past, God, who has protected us in the past, will surely now, when we need God all the more, will sustain us, and not permit the righteous to be moved. We will not be shaken. God will make sure of that. None of us knows when we will get to return to God, but until then, we can cast ALL our anxiety on God from whom all blessings and yes, burdens that we carry, have come from.  

And when you feel the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding, keep alert, as Peter urges us. Discipline yourselves through consistent prayer so that our adversary who prowls around us like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour faces defeat. Resist him, being steadfast in your faith. Take comfort and support knowing that our brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. God will restore, support, strengthen, and establish us. To God be the power forever and ever, Amen.  

Peace to all of you who are in Christ,

Rev. Alice

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