Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

In one of the readings for today, Paul is writing to the Christians in Philippi. Although he is in prison, his optimism is contagious:

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. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7, NRSV)

I don’t know about you, but I think this is no small task. Being gentle to those colleagues who don’t work as hard, but still do a better job than me, is not easy. Trying not to worry about that big, important interview next month is a quite a challenge. Finding a reason to give thanks to God when I’m up to my ears in student loan debt is tricky.

Okay, enough narcissism: let’s take it outside of my own world. When we open the newspaper, how shall we rejoice?  If we see the oppression, illness, hunger, poverty, and violence that are raging in creation, Paul’s words become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

Yeah sure, Paul – “the Lord is near” my ass.

But wait. He’s writing this in prison, and is still able to say “the Lord is near.” And God is. See, God doesn’t take back promises. And she promised to be with us in everything – even the oppression, illness, hunger, poverty, and violence that we see in our communities and in our hearts.

So do not worry about anything, but pray and give thanks for everything; and the God of peace will be with you.

Lord Christ, you came into the world as one of us, and suffered as we do. As we go through the trials of life, help us to realize that you are with us at all times and in all things; that we have no secrets from you; and that your living grace enfolds us for eternity. In the security of your embrace we pray. Amen.
Image “Peace be with you” ©2007 Valerie Everett. Made available under license CC BY-SA 2.0. Prayer from Evangelical Lutheran Worship Pastoral Care: Occasional Services, Readings, and Prayers, #337.

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