A Devotion for Friday, April 3, 2020
Philippians 1:21-30 (NRSV)
21 For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23 I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25 Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, 26 so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.
27 Only, 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, 28 and 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. 29 For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— 30 since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Thoughts from “The Word in Season”
Fellowship From Afar
“Whether I come and see you or am absent …
I will know that you are … striving side by side.”
The church at Philippi was the first church Paul established in Europe (Greece). He visited it twice more, but in this letter he’s unsure if he’ll be able to visit again. Yet he took joy in the connection he felt with these believers who endured much for the gospel.
I met Stephen when I traveled to Uganda in 2013. As lay leaders in our respective faith communities, we treasured the fellowship we shared during my visit. We’ve kept in touch through social media and email. He’s native Ugandan, so the worlds we grew up in are vastly different, with challenges unique to our lives and faith. We’d love to see the other again – meet family, catch up on our lives, and renew our faith conversations face to face. We almost did last spring, but Stephen’s visa application was denied.
Now, like Paul, we’re unsure when or if we’ll visit again. But even on opposite sides of the globe we take joy in “striving side by side … for the faith of the gospel” (v. 27).
Prayer: Windy Spirit, you circle the world effortlessly.
Keep med close to those who are far away. Amen.
Romans 12:3-5, 9-13 (NRSV)
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another …
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
I love these words from Paul, words that remind us that in our individualistic society (“have it your way”) we in the church are part of a community, a body of faith, connected with one another by the Spirit of God – to be a witness, to serve one another, to support one another, to build each other up so that we are more than the sum of our parts. Later, in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul likens the church to a body, with feet, hands, eyes, ears and so on, linking us inexorably with one another – “members one of another” – serving the Lord.
We are different, yet joined together in a common faith, a common Lord, a common purpose. And in this time where we are physically separated by contagion, remember that we are yet linked together as one body by the Spirit that is ever-present with us, drawing us to one another.
So together, wherever we are, we can “rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering” (especially facing the dire realities of, and predictions for, Covid-19) and “persevere in prayer.” On that last note, a reminder that as our church bells toll at Noon and at 8:00 p.m., we are called to be joined in prayer for each other, and for our world, in this particular time of anxiety and need.
Hymn for Reflection:
“What a Fellowship, What a Joy Divine” (ELW #774, WOV #780)
“We have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people.”
– 1 Timothy 4:10b (NRSV)
Blessings & Peace,
Want to do something positive in this uncertain, anxious time?
Write an encouraging card, note or letter for our elderly friends at Senior Star (there’s a bin in the breezeway where you can place them) – or for one of our shut-ins (Ken Bechtler, Myrtle Daneilson, Helen Randall and Barb Morphew) which can be brought to church for delivery.
Or, make some cheerful, simple artwork – for others and for yourself – that can be put in a window to cheer you up, and those who may see it in your neighborhood.
Sign up to ring the church bells to send the message to our community that God is with us in the midst of this time, and that we at Messiah are praying for those who are affected, and for an end to the pandemic.
For those affected in any way by the Covid-19 pandemic.
For our congregation in this time of separation, that we would yet be held together.