The letters of St. Paul are written mostly to new churches made up of people who are “young” in the faith. He encourages, at times corrects, and almost always teaches. Paul not only encourages people to use the talents God has given them for the building up of the kingdom, he also encourages everyone in the community to help one another. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians we see him at his best.
“My brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, 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.”(Philippians 4:1-3)
Paul encourages Eudoia and Syntyche in their ministry within the community in the proclamation of the Gospel. He encourages the rest of the congregation to help the two women as the share the good news of Jesus with the community. Paul then encourages the community to be gentle with one another and not to worry, but to bring everything (the good, the bad and the ugly) to God in prayer.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 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.” (Philippians 4:4-6) He then leaves them with a blessing, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
Finally, like Jesus, Paul, having blessed them sends them out with a challenge, a mission and a promise.
“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.” (Philippians 4:1-9)
In our world today, in which we are sometimes not true or kind or just or honorable toward one another, I want to claim this challenge and mission and promise for those of us who have been called to share the Gospel of love shared with us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Thanks be to God!
Ben Alford is the former rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Albertville.