1Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. 2I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. 4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, 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. 9Keep 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.
Moving toward the conclusion of the church's year of grace! This Revised Common Lectionary Year A emphasizes the gospel we received from the community gathered around Matthew. At the start of Matthew an angel instructs Joseph to name the baby "Emmanuel," God-with-us; at the very end, Jesus promises to be with us forever, "Lo, I am with you always." And, of course, we know Jesus' promise through Luke of the Holy Spirit of life, of resurrection, of abiding presence the world received in a spectacular manner on the day of Pentecost and that we as the church bring to the world around us. John's gospel also brings us God's abiding presence in the Spirit.
Texts appointed for Pentecost 19A also include Psalm 23, "Thou art with me" // "You are there" in Joel Martinson's version we sang on Sunday.
One last discussion for now of the apostle Paul's letter to the beloved church at Philippi where we was founding pastor and probably a kind of mission developer. Philippians is the "epistle of Joy," with joy or its cognates occurring at least 16 times. We refer to Philippians as a captivity letter; Paul wrote this epistle from incarceration—possibly house arrest, possibly a dungeon, yet despite circumstances, he maintains confidence in God's ongoing presence in his life and work along with assurance of his essential identity in Jesus Christ. Philippians 4:8 brings us one of Paul's famous lists: true; honorable; just; pure; pleasing' commendable; excellence; worthy of praise...
Discussion: How do we know God is with us? What physical, sensory evidence do we have that can taste, see, feel, smell, hear God-with-us, God in our midst, God's presence with us? For once I wanted a specific response! God self-reveals and is present to us in holy ordinary stuff of creation—water, grain, fruit of the vine. The sacraments model how God comes to us in everyday physical, "means" or vehicles.
How does the world know God is with everyone and with all creation? How does the world perceive God in its midst?