and if there is anything worthy of praise,
ponder these things.
1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. 2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and petitions with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will protect your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 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, ponder these things. 9 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.
Philippians is the "Epistle of Joy," with joy or its cognates at least 16 times. We refer to Philippians as a captivity letter because Paul wrote it while he was incarcerated in house arrest or possibly in a dungeon. Along with confidence in his essential identity in Jesus Christ, he assures us of God with us, God among us, God for us.
When I prepare these reflections I always check out Pastor James Howell's Weekly Preaching Notions and usually two or three commentaries from Working Preacher. Doubtless the contributor wrote it at least a couple months ago in time for publication, but Jane Lancaster Patterson mentioned how perfect this comforting passage of God with us and God's call to "rejoice anyway" is for now.
4:2 "I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord…" often gets misinterpreted by assuming the two women had been seriously disagreeing, but it's almost definitely a style of discourse called paranaesis (encouragement or exhortation) that was common in that era and that we find elsewhere in Paul's writings and in other epistles. In addition, unlike in Corinth, there's no evidence of any particular conflict at First Church Philippi. 4:9 confirms this when Paul advises them to keep on keepin' doing everything they've learned from him, their pastor and teacher.
4:8 is one of Paul's famous lists: true; honorable; just; pure; pleasing; commendable; excellent; praise-worthy…
The Lord is Near.
Philippians 4:5b – How?
This lectionary year emphasizes Matthew's gospel. At the start of Matthew an angel tells Joseph to name the baby Emmanuel, God-with-us; at the end of Matthew, Jesus promises to be with us forever, "Lo, I am with you always."
Through Luke we know Jesus' promise of the Holy Spirit of life, of resurrection, of presence the world received in a spectacular manner on the day of Pentecost, and that we as the church bring to worlds around us. John's gospel also brings us God's abiding presence in the Spirit.
The Lord is near as God self-reveals 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.
• What evidence of God's presence do you especially rely on and return to?
• Do you have a favorite scripture for comfort or reassurance? A particular book of the bible?
• Is there a special place or activity that almost always helps you feel better and/or closer to God?
• How does the world know God is with everyone and with all creation? How does the world perceive God in its midst?
Where We Live
The Lord is near. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will protect your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. … the God of peace will be with you.• Today's second reading promises God is with us; it also commands us "Rejoice in the Lord always." If you've sung in choirs, you may know Henry Purcell's "Rejoice in the Lord Alway" based on Philippians 4:4-5.
• This Letter of Joy more than suggests:
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable [famous or renowned – Greek is euphemism], if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, ponder these things.
• Amidst all the ugly, disappointing, devastating, and degraded, how does thinking about good and pleasing things feel?
I'd seen the quote, "And shall not loveliness be loved forever?" but had to search for its source. It's from Bacchae by Euripides:
"What else is Wisdom? What of man's endeavour
Or God's high grace, so lovely and so great?
To stand from fear set free, to breathe and wait;
To hold a hand uplifted over Hate;
And shall not Loveliness be loved for ever?"