Sermon / Pr. Lucas A. Albrecht / Season of Pentecost Sunday October 15th 2017 - / Philippians 4:4-13 / Think of these things
Text: Phillipians 4:4-13
Theme: Think of these things
Intr – I am pretty sure you can recognize what I have here in my hands (shows the container). This is an ice cream container. It is empty and I just can’t remember what flavour was inside here. It might as well have been one of my favourites, chocolate.
Now, whatever the flavour was in here that’s the only one you can get. I mean, if it was chocolate, then you couldn’t have vanilla. If it was vanilla ice cream, then you couldn’t scoop strawberry ice cream up out of it; and so on. Whatever you have inside the container that’s the only thing you can scoop up to enjoy.
1 - Imagine for now that this is your mind, your heart – the place where your thoughts and feelings are. Then I would ask: what is that’s inside there?
I ask this because St. Paul asks us in our epistle for today to “think of these things”, referring to the good things he just had listed. In the today’s language Bible, we read: “fill up your minds with everything that’s good”. Then again the question: What is there inside in your mind and heart?
That is a very good question. Because sometimes we leave room in our minds and hearts for the things that are not quite what Paul asked us to think of. Sometimes what we see inside there is (fills the container with):
-Angry / -Lack of dialogue /-Guilt / -Anxiety / -Envy
They are all consequences of sin. They are real threats, thoughts and deeds that want to take over the space we have here. What happens then? Just as in the case of ice cream containers when something fulfills this space here inside of our minds, taking over our thoughts, other things are left outside. Maybe the good things would have some little corners to squeeze in, but we may recall here a law of Physics and adapt it to this situation: “two things cannot occupy the same place in space at the same time.”
And what happens then? Like with ice cream containers, you can’t get vanilla out of a chocolate one; or vice-versa. The things we allow to have room in our minds, those are the ones we will scoop up out of it.
Paul is urging us to think of those things, to fill up our minds with everything that is good because this is a real danger: having our hearts and minds filled with empty space. Because this space there is never actually empty. There is always something occupying our thoughts, feelings and minds. If the good ones are not there, then the not commendable ones will. Just as this container is not really empty (there’s lots of air here inside).
Then, sometimes we keep wondering why the world, our city, our neighbourhood are is the way they are, when there are so many good messages of love, tolerance, respect and all the good vibes being nonstop aired everywhere. But let’s hit close to home – sometimes we wonder why our family and our life are full of things we think shouldn’t be, but are there anyways, even though we want to have a happy home and a happy life. Is that the case we are trying to get chocolate out of a container that most of the time is occupied by vanilla? Are we trying to convince ourselves that we can occupy our minds with things that we know are not those good things Paul mentions – they are instead anger, resentment, lack of respect, lustful desires, greed, indifference, and some others - and still scoop up out of minds and hearts whatever is good, commendable and have good actions as a consequence…?" What is pure nonsense when it comes to ice cream containers we think would make perfect sense in our thoughts and actions of daily life.
2 - That’s why Paul invites us: “think of these things”. “Fill up your minds with it!” Leave little space for things that harm your faith!
I’d like to say “leave no space at all”, but being saints, justified as we are in Christ we remain sinners though, and we know we can’t be perfect. The “other things”, instead of “these things” are always around us and eventually they land bad thoughts or bad actions in our daily life. But we can look daily to the Greatest thought ever; not only thought, but words and action: Christ’s work – His perfect obedience, His death and resurrection. He is the One who can fill up our minds and hearts with “everything that’s pure, lovely, gracious, honourable, just and if there’s any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise”, as Paul puts it. He forgives our sins, our bad thoughts, our bad feelings, our bad actions – our sin. He draws us near to His word, where we can get all the good things from to think of, to fill up our minds with.
God fills up our hearts with everything that is good, so we know we are forgiven, saved and redeemed (fills the container with):
-True / -Honourable / -Pure / -Lovely / -Commendable
-Any excellence, anything worthy of praise
This is what Christ fills up our minds with: everything that is good and comes from His Word. Everything that shows in our daily life the faith He has given us and that connects us with the source of all blessings, the source of all good.
The Psalm of today points to this as we see David describing the LORD as our Good Shepherd who gives us good pastures and calm waters. He feeds our minds and hearts with everything that is good so it can come and occupy it with his love and care. This is what we heard from Isaiah as well: “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well aged wine, of rich food full of marrow of aged wine, well refined”. Here we have a good illustration of what food for thought is. God’s good food for our good daily thoughts. And actions.
You see? When our minds and hearts are filled up with everything that is good, there is less room for the evil. And whereas ice cream containers unfortunately eventually run empty, God’s Word and Sacrament they are inextinguishable sources of refreshment and taste to our souls. They break the ice of a life far away from Him and feeds our thoughts and hearts with His incomparable food.
Cc – In February 2006, Pastor Paulo and I were in Texas visiting with our friends Bill and Pat Thompson. On Sunday after Church they took us for lunch. As we made ourselves comfortable they asked for a tea glass each. Well, not just glasses but big Texan glasses. As our lunch went on I noticed that their glasses never run empty. As soon as the liquid level approached the bottom some waiter appeared to fill it up again. Noticing my curiosity about that Pastor Thompson told us: “Here in Texas, one of the ways you know if a place is good is by the glass. A good place is the one that never lets your glass run empty.”
We know that your God is good because He never allows our mind, heart, life to run empty. “Fill up your minds with everything that’s good”. “Think of these things”. What’s the best way to enjoy our favourite ice cream? Buying the bucket that contains it. What’s the best way to act in faith towards our neighbours? “Thinking of these things.” Ice cream can be good. But by faith in Christ we can taste every day the marvelous and life giving good things that God has to his children is His Word. Scoop it up! Amen.