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A Letter of Joy

September 15, 2020

“I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but too remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.” Philippians 1:23-24

After spending the last several months working our way through Romans, the lectionary this week moves us into Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. Philippi was the site of the first Christian church in Europe, founded in this Macedonian city by Paul around the year 50. Paul returned to Philippi several times; once, he and Silas were imprisoned there but released after an earthquake (Acts 16-16-34).

This epistle was written during another of Paul’s imprisonments. It is a letter of deep joy and thanksgiving. Yes, Paul felt great joy and thanksgiving even while he was imprisoned for the sake of the gospel! Meditating on whether it is better to die and be with Christ or remain alive with all of life’s suffering, Paul leaves it in God’s hands. Either way, he belongs to the Lord. This far exceeds any suffering or pain he has to endure.

Paul’s faith is certain; he is not afraid of death and looks forward to the full life of the resurrection. For Paul, to live is not simply to delay dying; it is to live for the sake of others: “to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.” This life we live is not simply a prolonged period prior to death. In Christ, we live already on the other side of death. Alive in Christ, we can live for the benefit of others in this world. Alive in Christ, we can anticipate the even greater joys of the kingdom.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

God of joy, we thank and praise you for the victory over death won for us by Christ. Give us eyes to see beyond the suffering of this world, and hearts moved to relieve this suffering. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: St. Paul in Prison, Rembrandt, 1627 (public domain).

From → COVID-19

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