Thursday, September 25, 2014

Joy, Suffering, and Philippians 1

In Sunday's epistle (3-yr series) Paul was comforting the saints in Philippi with assurances that his imprisonment was for the sake of the Gospel.   
In my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.
I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Yes, Paul was acting Christlike, to suffer for preaching the forgiveness of sins to those who are not worthy of it.

Yes, Paul was an example to the other Christians, so that they were emboldened.

But also, he was writing to the church at Philippi.  You remember who was a member of that congregation?  The Philippian jailer.  The guy who'd listened to Paul and Silas singing hymns half the night.  The guy on duty during the earthquake when the Lord opened the prison doors. The guy who was going to kill himself, until Paul stopped him.  The guy whose whole family was baptized, who welcomed the apostle into their home and treated his wounds and fed these missionaries.  The guy who rejoiced (Acts 16:34) in the Gospel.

You want an idea of why Paul could say that his chains are for the furtherance of the Gospel?  And that in his chains, they partake with him of grace?  And why that resonated with the folks at the church in Philippi?  Because they knew, intellectually, emotionally, experientially.  They had lived it.  They knew this fellow who worked at the jail.  They knew his family.  They worshiped with him.  They cared about him.  And this family heard the good news of Jesus' forgiveness because Paul had been unjustly accused, beaten, and imprisoned.  Not fun or comfortable for Paul.  But cause for rejoicing nonetheless, because there is greater joy in heaven (and in the church militant too) over one sinner who repents. 

And there it was again, in Rome: Paul's arrest being a good thing.  (So weird.  An unfair arrest being good?!)  But if anybody would "get it," it'd be the folks at the Philippian church.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Single Red Branch

Winter's coming. 

(Shhhh.  Did I really say that?  Right out loud?  [shudder]  I should have my mouth washed out with soap.)

Leaves are changing color. 

This year, more than other years, I'm noticing how one branch's leaves will turn red or orange, while the rest of the tree's leaves are still green.  It's so patchy.  And it's not just one or two trees; many are showing the same pattern.  It seems odd.

Then I think of people's hair.  How my gray hairs all come from the same small patch on my head.  How a man's beard will change with one stripe graying before the rest.  How some people will turn gray at their temples first.

Maybe those trees are more like us than I thought.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Roots and Stability

I like to know what to expect.

I don't like not-knowing --  not-knowing about the economy or safety or politics/military action.  It makes it hard to plan for the future.  It leaves a person unsettled.  We're trying to think about our will right now, and whether to set up a trust for Maggie.  But who knows what to expect these days?  Health care and taxes and who'll be running the country and whether religious persecution will come to our shores -- it's all up for grabs.  No certainty.  Questions about stability.

In our Bible story recently (Numbers 6), we heard about the Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai.  They'd left Egypt a little more than a year earlier.  For a change of pace, we hear that they obeyed the Lord.  When the pillar of cloud/fire moved, they were to move.  And they did.  When the pillar of cloud/fire stayed put, the Israelites were supposed to stay in the same spot.  And they did. 

But what about their expectations?  Any one evening, at the end of the day, when the cloud of the Lord's presence settled, the people pitched their tents and started supper ... with no clue whatsoever as to whether they were going to be packing up again the next morning or in a week.  Or in a month.  Or in a year.  They lived day-to-day with no knowledge of the morrow.  No certainty.  No stability ...

except ...

"the Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer."