Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Listening to Paul

Wednesday, April 8, 2009 -- Holy Week

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 956)
Psalms 55 (morning) 74 (evening)
Jeremiah 17:5-10, 14-17
Philippians 4:1-13
John 12:27-36

There are few passages in the New Testament that I enjoy more than today's reading from Philippians. I'm particularly drawn to the paragraph beginning at 4:4 ("Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice...) and the following paragraph that urges us to focus on the right ("Finally, beloved, whatever is true, what ever is honorable, whatever is just...)

But as I re-read these familiar and comforting words today, it was their context that struck me. Paul writes these words in the middle expressions of conflict and hardship.

Yesterday he complained of those who "live as enemies of the cross of Christ." He might be speaking of fellow Christians who followed a spiritualized Jesus; they taught a theology that downplayed the human and physical suffering of Jesus. Paul may be struggling in a theological battle for the very soul of the future church. Was Jesus really human? Or was he simply divine, adopting the form of a human body for a while and then escaping back to heaven before the cross, while the empty shell of a body suffered and died. These kinds of debates shook the early church with profound division.

Then Paul references a more personal and immediate conflict. Two leading women in the congregation have a disagreement. They have been companions and workers with Paul, and Paul regards both of them as loyal friends "whose names are in the book of life." Yet they are in the midst of some sort of a fight. Paul writes, "I urge Euodia and I urge Synthyche to be of the same mind in the Lord." Paul doesn't take sides, but he urges them toward unity.

These two references about struggles introduce the exhortation to "Rejoice." Out of Paul's concern for "enemies of the cross" and his concern about the division between two leading women, he nonetheless turns his spirit toward rejoicing. "Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

If we skip to the later portion of today's reading, we see Paul living his own words. He thanks the congregation for expressing their concern for him. Then we get a peek at some of the pressures he lives with. He makes light of his struggles, "for 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 of being well-fed and of going hungry... I can do all things through him who strengthens me."

Paul expresses this spirit of equanimity just after he has urged us to keep our minds elevated. "Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you."

We see the God of peace working in and through Paul. Though he lives with conflicts, pressures and need, he is able to live thankfully, contentedly, within the peace of God.

Rejoice. Do not worry. Focus on the good. Be thankful.

Peace.

Lowell
_____________________________________________

Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.


Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117

An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html


The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

2 Comments:

At 10:07 AM, Blogger The Underground Pewster said...

What struck me about today's readings were the conflicts depicted in the Psalm and in Jeremiah,

Psalm 55
12 It is not enemies who taunt me—
I could bear that;
it is not adversaries who deal insolently with me—
I could hide from them.
13 But it is you, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend,
14 with whom I kept pleasant company;
we walked in the house of God with the throng.

I thought to myself that "you...my familiar friend..." might be the desires of my own heart, and that I carried those with me into the temple of God. Can I solve these problems on my own? No, because verse 18 reminds me Who is capable of resolving the issues I have with my friend.

"He will redeem me unharmed
from the battle that I wage,"

Then Jeremiah 17: reiterated this idea,

"9 The heart is devious above all else;
it is perverse—
who can understand it?
10 I the Lord test the mind
and search the heart,
to give to all according to their ways,
according to the fruit of their doings.
11 Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed;
save me, and I shall be saved;
for you are my praise."

 
At 7:57 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thank you, UP.

You remember Pogo's observation: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Oh God, save me from myself.

Lowell

 

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