Thursday, January 28, 2010

Phil. 4:4-7

I needed to write a short reflection on these verses from Philippians for a funeral service I'm taking later today. This is always a challenge, to try and say in two minutes what you might take 35 minutes to say any other time. I guess the nature and place of preaching is a subject that will rumble on and on as long as we continue to do it.

Anyway, here's my simple reflection on these great words from Paul:

Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi is written while the apostle is under arrest. He doesn’t know what the future holds for him, it could be a time of great anxiety. It isn’t that Paul isn’t prone to worry. He cares deeply for the churches across the whole region. He is anxious about his own people, the Jews. He’s concerned about the faithfulness of the emerging network of followers of Jesus Christ. Paul is not unfamiliar with the stresses and strains of life that can cause us to become anxious about anything and everything.
But he has a simple prescription to put it all in its proper context.
He’s already told his readers that they shine like stars, that they must “press on” in life and that even prisoners chains cannot hold back the progress of the kingdom. As he pleads with two members of the community who are at odds with each other to agree and as he enlists the help of the faith community to support them, he calls them to respond with worship.
In the Bible worship is always a valid response, whatever the circumstances. Whether pressure, hardship, unrest, loss or even death, worship is something we should always do. And not only worship but also pray. Pray about it all. Tell God what is on your heart and on your mind. Hold nothing back, because he wants to know and he cares enough to listen and is powerful enough to answer. Not always as we think he should, but always he answers.
So, Paul’s antidote to a life of anxiety is simple: Always rejoice, pray about everything, don’t let you mind wander to the bad stuff.
After our reading finishes, Paul’s very next challenge to the church is to focus on the good stuff. The noble stuff, the pure stuff, the lovely and admirable. If it’s worthy of praise, think about it says Paul. Don’t dwell on the negative, rest in the positive.
Rejoice always, pray about everything, focus on the good stuff.
This is not a recipe for a good life, it’s the recipe for life in God’s hands. A life in which anxiety and worry find their proper place.

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