Philippians 4: 1-13

Illustrated Resources (and Other Resources of Merit) from 2017 to 2020

(In order to avoid losing your place on this page when viewing a different link, I would suggest that you right click on that link with your mouse and select “open in a new tab”. Then, when you have finished reading that link, close the tab and you will return to where you left off on this page. FWIW!)
  • Preaching Helps (Advent 3C)(2018)

    by Doug Bratt
    Jonathon Kozol wrote a provocative book about people in the Bronx who are materially poor called Amazing Grace. The title reflects that of the old hymn that he heard them often sing in churches in the Bronx. However, it also reflects Kozol’s amazement that even in the midst of real deprivation, something very much like joy flourished. Even struggling people were able to “take heart.” One pastor told Kozol that the fourth stanza of “Amazing Grace” was the anthem of the people he served. There, after all, they sang, “Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. ‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” One of Kozol’s students wrote a paper that described his vision of the Lord’s nearness in the new earth and heaven: “There will be no violence in heaven. There will be no guns or drugs or IRS … Jesus will be good to all the children who have died and play with them … God will be fond of you.” That’s a vision of the Lord’s nearness in which all of God’s adopted sons and daughter can rejoice.
  • Is This What the End of the World Looks Like?

    by Jim Chern
    In the last few weeks - Natural Disasters with a frightening ferocity captured our attention as Hurricanes devastated peoples lives and homes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico and throughout the Carribean... Earthquakes ravaged the peoples of Mexico. Then there’s been this growing sense of division that people are recognizing throughout our nation - where it doesn’t seem to matter what the issue or topic is, but we don’t seem to be able to communicate with someone who has a different opinion anymore. And then, this past Monday, we woke to the horrifying news of not just another mass-shooting, but the worst mass shooting in United States history. I hate to admit I was almost numb when I first saw the headline pop up on my phone of "Shooting at Concert" before I went to bed...
  • Doxology

    by Kathy Donley
    Tom Gordon was a hospice chaplain in Edinburgh, Scotland for decades. He had end-of-life conversations with countless men and women, but one in particular stands out. An elderly man said he served as a sailor in the Second World War on ships in the North Sea. Through his tears, he shared an event that had haunted him throughout his life. He had been on shore-leave before his ship was due to sail. Two days before he was expected to join his ship in the Orkney Islands, he fell ill and was told by the doctor that he was unfit to travel. During his recuperation, word came that his ship had been sunk and only a handful of sailors survived. In between wiping his eyes he asked two questions. First, he asked: Why was I spared when others died? He had wrestled with this question for years and concluded that it was random chance. God had not spared him while condemning others. His second question was the one that still rocked his soul. He asked: Have I been thankful enough for the life I’ve been given? He knew that if not for a timely, microscopic virus, he most likely would have never survived his early twenties. He would have never experienced a million things he encountered over his long life. As the end approached, he wondered if he had sufficiently expressed his gratitude for the many extra years he had been given...
  • Rejoice in the Lord

    by Vince Gerhardy
    “I have everything I need!” Robert said. His hands are twisted, and his feet are useless. He can’t bathe or feed himself. He can’t brush his teeth, comb his hair, or put on his underwear. Strips of Velcro hold his shirts together. His speech is drawn out. Robert has cerebral palsy. This crippling disease didn’t keep him from graduating from high school or attending university and becoming a teacher. Robert’s disease didn’t prevent him from becoming a missionary in Portugal. He moved to Lisbon, alone, in 1972. There he rented a hotel room and learnt Portuguese first through a local a restaurant owner and then at university. He became involved with students, distributed brochures in a park about Christ, started small groups in a local church and within six years seventy people joined the church, one of whom became his wife, Rosa. Robert then spoke in different churches around the country. Other men carried him in his wheelchair to the microphone. They laid a Bible in his lap and with stiff fingers he forced open the pages. Robert could have asked for sympathy or pity, but he did just the opposite. He held his bent hand up in the air and boasted, “I have everything I need. My joy is complete.” His shirts are held together by Velcro, but his life is held together by joy...
  • Rejoice in the Lord in Every Circumstance

    by Vince Gerhardy
    On Christmas Day, 1974, 10-year-old Chris Carrier was kidnapped. When the boy was finally found, he had been burned with cigarettes, stabbed with an ice pick, shot in the head and left for dead. Miraculously, young Chris survived, the only permanent physical damage, blindness in his left eye. No one was ever arrested for this crime. Twenty-two years later, David McAllister, 77-years old, blind and dying in a nursing home, confessed to the crime. Chris began visiting the man who had tortured him and left him for dead. Chris prayed with and for him, read the Bible with him and did everything he could to help David make peace with God in the time he had left in this life. Chris says, “While many people can’t understand how I could forgive David McAllister, from my point of view I couldn’t not forgive him. If I’d chosen to hate him all these years, or spent my life looking for revenge, then I wouldn’t be the man I am today, the man my wife and children love, the man God has helped me to be.” He went on to say, “I became a Christian when I was 13. That night was the first night I was able to sleep through the night, without waking up from my nightmares. It would be selfish not to share that same peace with David McAllister.”...
  • Proper 23A (2017)

    by Scott Hoezee
    As Kathleen Norris wrote in her book, Amazing Grace, if it is a gathering of like-minded individuals you’re looking for, then you should join a political party, not a church. Because in a church what you have is a group of wildly diverse people who share in common mostly just their faith. Such faith may be the most important thing in the world but it’s not always enough to head off the kinds of conflicts and disputes that can so often make life in a congregation difficult. Norris writes that when at midlife she finally joined a church, she did so for the best possible reason: she had become a Christian. Alas, the only church available in her small South Dakota town was at that time in the throes of a dreadful series of controversies, most of which had been brought on by the farm crisis of the 1980's...
  • Of Myrrh, Peace and Rejoicing (Philippians)

    Art and Faith by Lynn Miller
    The peace of God which passes all understanding. That's what is promised to those who do not worry about anything, but by prayer and supplication let their requests be made known to God [Philippians 4:1-9]. One of the phrases that may be the most meaningful to us today is "which passes all understanding."
  • Theology at the Theatre: The Sound of Music

    by Beth Quick
    The real life Maria von Trapp reflected in her autobiography that she was sometimes mad at God, even on her wedding day, because she truly had felt called to become a nun, and it was hard for her to reconcile the new path of life she was taking with what she first believed to be God’s call. But, she said, she ended up experiencing more love than she had ever known, and she believed that she was following God’s will for her life.[4] Her years at the abbey, she said, "were really necessary to get my twisted character and my overgrown self-will cut down to size."[5] The Sound of Music is a fairly light-hearted musical, but the real-life events on which the musical is based were times of true hardship and struggle for Maria, her family, her nation, the world. Maria remained grounded in her faith, committed to following God’s will, and able to find deep joy in life in the midst of everything she experienced...
  • Our Struggle to Celebrate

    by Ron Rolheiser, OMI
    What does it mean to celebrate something? To celebrate an occasion is to heighten it, share it, savor it, enlarge it. We also celebrate in order to link ourselves more fully to others, to be playful, to intensify a feeling, to bring ourselves to ecstasy, and, more commonly, just to rest and unwind. But because of our incapacity to enjoy something simply we often try to create that enjoyment through excess and seek the ecstasy of heightened self-awareness in the obliteration of our consciousness...
  • Giving Thanks and Thankful Giving

    by David Russell
    One writer put it this way: Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire. If you did, what would there be to look forward to? Be thankful when you don’t know something, for it gives you the opportunity to learn. Be thankful for the difficult times. During those times you grow. Be thankful for your limitations because they give you opportunities for improvement. Be thankful for each new challenge because it will build your strength and character. Be thankful for your mistakes. They will teach you valuable lessons. Be thankful when you’re tired and weary because it means you’ve made a difference. It is easy to be thankful for the good things. A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the setbacks.
  • Think of These

    by Victor Shepherd
    One day when I was in my last year of undergraduate studies I was discussing World War II with my father. I began to speak disdainfully of German history, German people, and German military personnel. My father didn’t rebuke me or argue with me. Instead he told me a story about Winston Churchill. When General Erwin Rommel’s forces were hammering the British Eighth Army in North Africa, hammering the Brits so badly that the Brits were on the point of going under, a British member of Parliament rose in the House of Commons and spoke contemptuously of the German general. Churchill took it for as long as he could, then he leaped to his feet and shouted, “I will not permit you to speak such villainies about so fine a soldier.” That’s all my father said.
  • The Peace of Christmas

    Sermon Starter by Leonard Sweet
    I read about an enthusiastic group of 1200 would-be peacemakers who began a "peace march" a few years back in Los Angeles. This group wanted to make a statement about the futility of war, and the importance of peace. A noble venture, wouldn't you say? Before they had gone too far, however, the peace march stalled-out. About half of the group had disbanded because of petty bickering within the group. "The remaining marchers quickly polarized between those who were walkers and those who rode vehicles. Following that was a dispute over a dress code. Finally, they decided to settle some of the conflict with an election, but there was disagreement over who could vote. Eventually they came to an agreement, allowing even the children to vote, but then the election was declared invalid. The 'peace march' ended with a large percentage of those assembled refusing to speak to one another."

Illustrated Resources (and Other Resources of Merit) from the Archives

  • Illustrations on Joy

    from the Archives
  • Worrywarts

    by Robert Allred
  • A Prescription for Peace

    by Fred Anderson
  • Trust No Matter What

    by Phil Bloom
    ("John Paul II's mom died when he was nine. Three years later his older brother, Edmund, a medical doctor died of scarlet fever. He and his father continued on - the main support to each other in a world going insane. In 1939, when Karol Wojtyla was in his late teens, the Nazis invaded Poland and they used terror to control the Polish people...")
  • The Faith of Gratitude

    by Gilbert Bowen
    Corrie ten Boom who, with her family lived through the Nazi holocaust, hid Jewish people in her home to keep them from being taken to the camps. Long afterward she loved to tell the story of how she and her sister Betsy ended up in a Nazi prison camp that was such a flea-ridden, terrible place that she couldn't stand it. Betsy one day said, "But I have found something in the Bible that will help us. It says, ‘In all things, give thanks.'" Corrie said, "I can't give thanks for the fleas." Betsy said, "Give thanks that we're together. Most families have been split up." Corrie thought, "I can do that." Her sister continued, "Give thanks that somehow the guards didn't check our belongings and our Bible is with us." She gave thanks for that. But Corrie said that she would not even think of giving thanks for the fleas. Later they found out that the only reason they were not molested and harmed by the guards was because their captors were so repulsed by the fleas that they would not enter their cell. Corrie allowed as how this taught her to give thanks for all things, because you never know...
  • The Peace of Prayer

    by Gilbert Bowen
    In his autobiography, historian John Lukacs tells of the summer of 1944 where as a fugitive from the Nazis, he experienced the devastation of the bombing of Budapest. He writes, "During that deadly summer I learned not only that death and life are close, but that so are happiness and unhappiness; that one can find happiness amidst the most wretched circumstances, but one must look for it. It was many years later that I learned that unhappiness almost always involves an amount of self-indulgence (and despair a large sinful dose of it). To wallow in one's unhappiness... is easy, while happiness requires a certain effort of organization and even of planning. Happiness, like love, is a self-imposed task. It requires forethought and cultivation ,... which is why this task is not easy."...
  • The Springs of Gratitude

    by Gilbert Bowen
    William Stidger tells how he liked to use the coming holidays to get off letters to those who had had an influence on him over the years. One year he wrote a teacher who had given him a love for literature. The letter was forwarded from town to town until it reached her. One day Dr. Stidger received a reply: "My dear Willie: I am an old lady in my eighties. I am ill and I cannot leave my room. Your letter came like a ray of bright sun, illuminating my dark day and my even darker life. You will be interested to know that, after fifty years of teaching, yours was the first letter of thanks I ever received from a former student. You lifted the clouds for me."...
  • Holy Friendships

    by Christi Brown
    "I once read about a troubled teenager who ran away from both home and school all the time. One day, his teacher ran after him. The boy ran through streets and fields, dodging and jumping over obstacles. His teacher followed close behind, also running through streets and fields, dodging and jumping over obstacles. Finally, the student stopped running and walked toward his teacher. She said, 'Why did you stop? What made you come back to me?' He said, 'This is the first time anyone's ever cared enough to run after me.'..."
  • Peace Amid Bedlam

    by Michael Brown
    "Some years ago a man was in a bed in Cardiac ICU in a major hospital in the city where I live. He had just undergone radical and experimental surgery designed to save his life. As he lay in ICU, he was in crisis. There were serious post-surgical complications. Later he reported about that night when he lay awake, fearing that his life was about to end, and reflecting on what it had and had not been, reflecting on all the things he had gotten any way he could and all the things he had lost, all the pain he had suffered and all the pain he had unfairly inflicted upon others...")
  • That Every Child Who Wants Might Learn to Dance

    by Paula Cooey
    ("Before she married, my mother was an accomplished dancer. During the late forties, when I was about three years old, she began to teach dancing and baton twirling. She traveled throughout rural north Georgia, holding classes in the public schools as an itinerant dancing teacher...")
  • The Wolf of Gubbio

    by Richard Fairchild
    ("How St. Francis Taught The People of Gubbio To Feed Their Wolf is a strangely humorous story with layer upon layer of meaning. In a nutshell, the people of Gubbio have a problem. The bloody remains of some of their townsfolk start showing up on the streets of their beautiful city when people awake in the morning...")
  • Always Joyful!

    by Vince Gerhardy
  • Instead, Only Fruitcake Comes

    by Fred Kane
    ("Listen to Saint Paul's response to one of those gifts drawn from one of his apocryphal letters that never made it into the Bible. It was written to the Church in Corsicana, TX, where the Collin Street Bakery has been baking the world-famous DeLuxe Fruitcake for over 100 years. 'What I always feared has happened to me,' writes Paul, 'I have no See's, no Godiva, not even a Whitman's Sampler; instead, only fruitcake comes...")
  • Giving Thanks

    by Paul Larsen
  • Thanksgiving

    by Paul Larsen
  • Rejoice, If You Have the Time

    by Robert Martin
    ("Let me offer this scenario. Imagine you are a contestant on the TV game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? You are asked the question; what is the most powerful force in the world? The possible answers are; (a) the weather; (b) gravity; (c) time; (d) all the lawyers in Washington DC...")
  • Thankful Hearts

    by Jim McCrea
    I saw a Guideposts magazine article by Mary Manachi who wrote about losing all three of her children before any of them turned 20. Their deaths were due to a rare blood disease known as Cooley’s anemia. It was so rare that when their first daughter was born with it, the doctors told the parents not to worry about having additional children; the odds were all but impossible for it to happen to them again. But it did. All three children were born with the disease and required blood transfusions every other week. When the first daughter died at the age of 12, the other two knew that they would also have shortened lives, but they both decided to make the best of the time given to them. And both of them lived up to that determination. When death finally claimed both and Mary and her husband were left alone, people would ask Mary over and over again, “How can you be happy after losing all three children?” This is what she told them; “My children understood that life is a holy gift from our Creator. They loved each day they were given. In the face of early death, they embraced life. If they loved life as much as they did, honoring it, reaching out to soothe their stricken friends, using their days creatively, am I to love life any less? No! I will not dishonor God — or my children with gloom and self-pity. I embrace life as they embraced it and I shall rejoice and be glad in it!”
  • With Grateful Hearts

    by Jim McCrea
    During one of my college literature classes, we were required to read Voltaire’s novel Candide. In essence, Candide is a dark comedy that satirizes those who try to always look at the world through rose-colored glasses regardless of what their circumstances may be. It is Voltaire’s attempt to demonstrate what he felt was the foolishness of advice like Paul’s. The character Candide is the illegitimate nephew of a German baron who grows up in the baron’s castle under the guidance of a philosopher named Dr. Pangloss. Dr. Pangloss is an eternal optimist who teaches Candide that this is “the best of all possible worlds.” Then the novelist Voltaire proceeds to guide Candide and his friends through a series of horrific adventures designed to show both the range of injustices in the world of his day and to crush the possibility of such unthinking optimism. Ultimately Voltaire’s recommendation is for everyone to adopt an attitude of stoic endurance.
  • You Make My Heart Dance, Lord

    by Jim McCrea
    ("Christian poet and novelist Ruth Harnden has written eloquently about the joys and trials of her mother's later years. She wrote that her mom had maintained a relationship with Hilda, the elderly Scandinavian woman who had served as the family cook for many years. Then, late in life, Hilda married and moved away to Oregon...")
  • A Better Than Perfect Christmas

    by Rick Miles
    Several years ago, a truly great news commentator, Harry Reasoner, passed away. Many of you no doubt remember him. But before he died he penned a Christmas commentary for the news show, “Sixty Minutes.” Harry believed that there was something about Christmas that goes beyond perfection, even beyond logic. It’s worth repeating his words this morning as we continue preparing ourselves to celebrate Christ’s coming into the world. This is what he wrote: “The basis for this tremendous burst of buying things and gift giving and parties and near hysteria, is a quiet event that Christians believe actually happened a long time ago. You can say that in all societies there has always been a midwinter festival, and that many of the trappings of our Christmas are almost violently pagan, but you come back to the central fact of the day… the birth of God on earth.” “It leaves you only three ways of accepting Christmas. One is cynically, as a time to make money or endorse the making of it. Another is graciously; the appropriate attitude for non-Christians who wish their fellow citizens all the joys their beliefs entitle them. And the third, of course, is reverently. If this is the anniversary of the appearance of the Lord of the universe in the form of a helpless babe, it is a very important day. It’s a startling idea, of course, the whole story that a virgin was selected by God to bear his son as a way of showing his love and concern for humankind...
  • Mind What Your Mind's On

    by Nathan Nettleton
    a wise old man talking to a teenage boy about the inner struggles the young man was experiencing between his desires to do good and his desires to be violent and vengeful and spiteful. And the old man describes the two impulses as being two wolves doing battle within him for the mastery of his soul, a good wolf and an evil wolf, both big and powerful and formidable, and now pitted against each other in a deadly struggle for control of the young man. And hesitantly the young man asks the wise elder, “do you know which one is going to win?” The old man looks at him and replies, “The one you feed.”
  • The Choice Is to Rejoice

    by John Pavelko
    Concerned about the economic conditions of his country, the newly crowned King of Bhutan, decided in 1972 to make GNH, Gross National Happiness, his nations top priority rather than the GNP, gross national product. The king sought to ensure that prosperity was shared by everyone, cultural traditions were preserved, the environment was protected and the government remained responsive to the needs of the people. The nation is still working on these goals, after 33 years they now rate themselves as the happiest people on earth. While people in the United States rated themselves very high, the survey showed a steady decline in our perception of our well being. Even with the median family income showing a steady rise, more Americans are saying that life is less enjoyable...
  • As on a Day of Festival

    by Jan Richardson
  • A Meditation on Joy

    by Ron Rolheiser, OMI
    "If I go about my life demanding, however unconsciously, that others carry me rather than seeking to carry them; feeding off of others rather than trying to feed them; creating disorder rather than being a principle of peace; demanding to be admired rather than admiring, and demanding that others meet my needs rather than trying to meet theirs, joy will never find me, no matter how hard I party or try to crank up good cheer..."
  • God's Whatever

    by Billy D. Strayhorn
  • The Six Words that Can Save Your Life

    Sermon Starter by Leonard Sweet
  • Rejoice in the Lord Always

    by Alex Thomas
    ("One is the story of a mother who was talking her neighbor about her little boy who was quite beyond her. Whatever she did, his behavior just seemed to get worse. She tried all kinds of things, even bribery, but got nowhere...." and other illustrations)

Other Resources from 2020

  • Paul as Pollyanna

    Video with Eric Anderson
  • Sermon Starters (Proper 23A)(2020)

    by Doug Bratt
    Jonathon Kozol’s provocative book about people who are poor in the Bronx is entitled Amazing Grace. His title reflects that of the old hymn that he heard people often sing in churches in the Bronx. However, it also reflects Kozol’s amazement that even in the midst of real deprivation, something very much like joy flourished. Even struggling people were able to “take heart.” One local pastor told Kozol that the fourth stanza of Amazing Grace was the anthem of the people he served. There, after all, we sing, “Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. ‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” One of Kozol’s students wrote a paper for him that described his vision of the Lord’s nearness in God’s everlasting kingdom: “There will be no violence in heaven. There will be no guns or drugs or IRS … Jesus will be good to all the children who have died and play with them … God will be fond of you.” It’s a vision of the Lord’s nearness in which all of God’s adopted sons and daughters, even those whom people and circumstances beleaguer, can rejoice.
  • Have No Anxiety at All? In 2020??? Seriously?

    by Jim Chern
    A man was traveling across the country by sneaking from one freight train to the next. One night he climbed into what he thought was a boxcar. He closed the door, which automatically locked shut and trapped him inside. When his eyes adjusted to the light, he realized he was inside a refrigerated boxcar, and he became aware of the intense, freezing cold. He called for help and pounded on the door, but all the noise he made from the inside the car failed to attract anyone’s attention. After many hours of struggle, he lay down on the floor of the railroad car. He wrote messages in the floor detailing his ordeal. “It’s so cold…” “I can feel my body going numb…” “I’m dying… I know this is the end…” “Tell my family I love them.” Late the next day, repairmen from the railroad opened the door and found the dead man inside. Though the man had all the appearance of having frozen to death, the truth was the repairmen had come to fix the broken refrigerator unit in that car. Most likely the temperature of the railroad car had never fallen below fifty degrees during the night. The man had died because he thought he was freezing to death...
  • Proper 23A (2020)

    by Phil Heinze
  • Rejoice in the Lord Always

    by Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
  • Proper 23A

    by Bill Loader
  • Proper 22A (2020)

    by Kate Matthews
    Scroll down the page for this resource.
  • Proper 23A (2020)

    by Sam Powell
  • Proper 23A (2020)

    by Ekaputra Tupamahu

Other Resources from 2018 and 2019

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Other Resources from 2017

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Other Resources from 2014 to 2016

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Other Resources from 2012 to 2013

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Other Resources from 2008 to 2011

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Other Resources from the Archives

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Children's Sermons and Dramas

The Classics

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