September 22, 2013: “If Only I Could”

Posted on : Sep 19th, 2013 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

One of the things I often hear myself and others say is, “If only I could…” or, “If only I had…”

If only I could find the right job.  If only I had enough money to…

If only I had a girlfriend or boyfriend.  If only I could find the right partner.

One of the things I’ve noticed after many years of counseling is that single folks often think having a partner will make their life complete and meaningful; and couples know how frustrating and at times, just plain difficult, it can be to be in a relationship.

Another thing I’ve discovered after many years of living and listening:  nobody can make my life better but me (and God).

The Apostle Paul knew that too.  One of the letters he wrote was to the Philippians.  Philippi was an ancient city located in what is now Greece.  The introduction to this letter in the Oxford Annotated edition of the Bible says:

This letter, one of the most cordial and affectionate we have from Paul’s hand, was addressed to the Christians at Philippi in Macedonia.  They formed the first congregation established through the apostle on European soil, and Paul’s relations with them in all the years afterward seem to have been extraordinarily close and happy.

That happiness is everywhere in Paul’s letter.  He writes to his friends:  “Rejoice in Christ always; again I will say, Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God.   And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

However, there is one thing that needs to be added here.  When Paul wrote those joyful words, Paul was in prison awaiting trial in Rome.  The entire letter breathes Paul’s radiant joy and serene happiness in Christ, even while he was in prison and in danger of being put to death.

Paul concludes with these words of wisdom: “For whatever the situation I find myself in, I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret:  whether on a full stomach or an empty one, in poverty or plenty, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

The spiritual truth Paul gives us is that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  In truth, when we move from “I wish I could” to “I can!” we find ourselves much happier and more in touch with the power of Christ in our lives.

The profound meaning of these words came to me at the close of a Communion service at the Annual Gathering of our Southern California/Nevada Conference in the UCC.  One of the affiliated ministries of our Conference is Peppermint Ridge.   Peppermint Ridge is “a non-profit organization with the mission of providing loving homes and empowering support services for individuals with developmental disabilities, gently guiding these special people toward greater independence and fuller community participation.”  http://peppermintridge.org

At the closing Communion service of our Annual Gathering, a mentally handicapped adult was asked to give the Blessing.  He had obviously worked very hard on this.  When it came time for the Blessing, he came forward and gave us the most simple, yet beautiful blessing I have ever heard.  Then he walked back to his group of friends from Peppermint Ridge and shouted – I mean SHOUTED – “I DID IT!  I DID IT!”

He was so proud of himself and so was everyone else.  There was not a dry eye among the hundreds of us who had gathered for Communion.

For me, that was it.  I knew at that moment that if the UCC had the faith and trust in a severely mentally handicapped adult to offer the final blessing, that was the kind of church I wanted to belong to.  And he proved to himself and to all of us exactly what Paul meant when he wrote, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”

It’s great to be back and I look forward to being with you all on Sunday!

Blessings,

Dan

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Philippians 4: 4 – 13

Rejoice in Christ always; again I will say, Rejoice.

Let everyone know your forbearance.  Christ is at hand.  Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God.   And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, sisters and brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is decent, whatever is admirable,  virtuous or worthy of praise, think about these things. Live according to what you have learned and accepted, what you have heard me say and seen me do. Then will the God of peace will be with you.

It gave me great joy in our God that your concern for me bore fruit once more. You had been concerned all along, but had no opportunity to show it. I don’t say this because I am in need, for whatever the situation I find myself in, I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret:  whether on a full stomach or an empty one, in poverty or plenty, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

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