Monday, September 25, 2017

Pentecost 16A

Psalm 145:1-8

1I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. 2Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever. 3Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable. 4One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. 5On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. 6The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed, and I will declare your greatness. 7They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. 8The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
After opening class with responsive Psalm 145, We began with the serendipitous start of the Philippians church. Acts 16 recounts how Paul and Timothy went to Roman colony Philippi in Macedonia, then to the river on the sabbath to find an ad hoc synagogue {if there was no local synagogue, Jews would gather at the river to form a minyan or at least to pray together}, then finding Purveyor of Purple Cloth Lydia by the riverbank, finally the baptism of Lydia and her entire family.

Acts 16

6They [Paul and Timothy] went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; 8so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." 10When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them. 11We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13On the sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home." And she prevailed upon us.
Most major cities originated and grew up alongside a river; waterways are strategic nodes of communication, commerce, immigration, and exchange of ideas. The early church always baptized in the flowing water of a river; a river is a dynamic, open system. How about our walk by faith? A participant at our August Green Faith Team meeting suggested being baptized in the Los Angeles (San Diego, Amstel, Cumberland, Chicago) River, identifying with the city beside the river banks, especially seeking the well-being of that river and that place.
Philippians 1:21-30

21For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, 26so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. 27Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, 28and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God's doing. 29For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— 30since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

The apostle Paul wrote this letter from jail or prison or (most probably) house arrest. Incarceration. Philippians is his "epistle of joy" to that church at Philippi where the Roman caesar was the default divinity. Philippians uses the word joy 16 times, Christ 50 times.

In 1:27 he counsels the Philippian Christians to live out their baptism via their public, political lives "in a manner worthy of the gospel" as witnesses to Jesus' death and resurrection—not to Rome's death-dealing imperialism. How about us? As we frequently observe during our Sunday morning discussions, even the smallest actions add up to big ones; they're synergistic— more than the sum of their individual parts!

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