A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: with both supplication and thanksgiving

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he says, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

There’s actually quite a bit of theological significance in that one sentence; unfortunately, people often stop with the first clause: “Do not worry about anything.” Many have read that and said, “so, that means Christians should always be calm and unconcerned about (or even detached from) what’s happening in the present or what the future holds, and if they’re not, then that’s because they have a lack of faith.”

That interpretation has led some to a very fatalistic sort of faith, and others to simply reject the teaching out of hand as nonsense, because plenty of faithful people in the Bible worry, including Jesus!

So let me just say right up front: that is NOT what Paul is saying. There is a reason, after all, that Paul said more after “do not worry about anything.” For Paul, “worry” is basically a kind of anxiety spiral in which we turn things over and over in our mind all alone, and get no peace until what we’re worried about either happens or it doesn’t.

What he’s saying, then, is that’s not how we should handle things when we are concerned about something. Rather, we should bring them to God in prayer, where we can be comforted in God’s presence rather than anxious and alone. And he specifically says we should do so with both supplication and thanksgiving; in other words, asking for what we need and expressing our thanks to God as we do so.

I find this passage particularly important for us as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday this year, and it will be our Scripture at our Thanksgiving Eve worship service, which will be held at 7 p.m. next Wednesday, November 25 via Zoom. As we continue to live through the challenges of the pandemic, it seems especially appropriate to turn to God in both supplication and thanksgiving, because those two modes of prayer can help center us in the midst of all these challenges.

We are using Zoom for this service rather than Facebook Live, as we did for Maundy Thursday last spring, because it allows us to see each other and be more interactive. The service, following Paul’s encouragement, will have time for prayer, for supplication, and for thanksgiving.

There will be testimonials of gratitude from several people within the congregation, and an opportunity to break into small groups and reflect on our own sense of gratitude in this season. And we will celebrate communion together interactively, sharing in the liturgy of the “Prayer of Great Thanksgiving” together in small groups so that we are serving and supporting one another in worship.

I think this will be a very meaningful experience, and I look forward to sharing it with you. I encourage you to invite friends and neighbors who may be longing for community this Thanksgiving holiday, and I hope to see your faces on Zoom when we gather.

Grace and peace,

7 p.m. – via Zoom

All are welcome for this special service of Scripture, song, prayer, and testimonials of gratitude by two of our members. We will also offer Communion; if you would like to participate, prepare a bread or bread-like item (cracker, pita, bagel, muffin, etc.) and grape juice, wine or water.

Meeting ID: 847 9130 0832To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 847 9130 0832, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID; press the # key again.