Scripture: Philippians 4:1-9
Key verses: (4-6) 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 supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Reflection: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4) might be the second most memorized verse in scripture after John 3:16. Paul urges this early church to claim the joy that comes with faith. We just started Lent, so we are really a bit cranky and somber about faith. Many people have given up something they rely on instead of God and after two days without caffeine, chocolate, wine, complaining, TV shows, social media or just being self-focused, we are not ready to rejoice. Always? Really?
Is church really about rejoicing? We come here to confess our sins and we are often focused on the confession instead of celebrating that we are forgiven. We complain too often about the lack of holiness, faithfulness or commitment instead of remembering that we are all children of God. We are too often frustrated by feelings of weakness or not being enough instead of being delighted the Holy Spirit is working in us with strength and power. O.K., we probably need a reminder to “rejoice in the Lord.”
Paul opens his letter to this church with a request to be “constantly praying with joy” (1:4); he goes on to mention “joy in faith” (1:25) and wants the Philippians to “make my joy complete” by having the same intent and mind (2:2). “Joy” and “Rejoicing” is a central concept for Paul in this letter.
Even in Lent, it should be easy for us to rejoice. Real and lasting joy comes from the confidence that, no matter what happens, we are inseparably connected to God. We belong. We are enough. We are loved. A few years before penning his Letter to the Philippians, he wrote to the congregations in Rome: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35). During Lent, we are shifting our focus from ourselves to our relationship with Christ. The focus on Christ, however, has immediate ramifications for the here and now. One of them is Joy.
Prayer: O Christ, be my help. O Christ, be my hope. O Christ, be our joy. Amen.
Author: Michelle Thomas-Bush
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].