The Apostle Paul's Final Wish

Six Beautiful Words for Courage in a Political Crisis

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There is so much going on regarding religion, faith, and spirituality — the elections, the new letter from Pope Francis, the impact of the coronavirus on congregations and faith communities, and other issues in the news. Click on the button below and submit a question to me. I can’t answer each individually, but I’ll pick one or two to respond to here at The Cottage.

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The Apostle Paul’s Final Wish

Earlier today, I preached for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights, OH. The pastor asked me to preach on a topic relevant to faith and politics, especially addressing the anxiety so many are feeling right now.

One of the texts assigned for this Sunday in the Revised Common Lectionary (the slate of Bible readings used in many Protestant and Catholic churches) is from the Epistle to the Philippians. These words jumped out at me:

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.

Did you know that Paul wrote Philippians from jail? That he was a political prisoner when he penned these words to his friends? And that he believed he was going to be executed for treason?

Yes, Paul was anxious. Anxious about having been caught up in a political crisis that shaped the life of the early church. What did he say to his friends and co-workers as his final words to them?

He urged them to reflect on six virtues: Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable — all that is excellent and praiseworthy.

Truth, honor, justice, purity, that which pleases, and all that is commendable. It is a surprisingly radical list of hope.

I invite you to read the passage (below) and listen to the sermon (which is also a bit of a history lecture!).

Click here or on the picture to listen to the sermon.

And take Paul’s final plea seriously. Ponder these six words. Put them in practice.


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Philippians 4:1-9

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, my loyal companion, 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.

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.

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.


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I am available to speak at online events and webinars, and to teach and preach virtually this coming winter and next spring. And I’m booking in person events beginning late April 2021 (with hope!). For more information, click here to contact my manager.


An Invitation: Tripp Fuller of the Homebrewed Christianity Podcast and I have been talking religion and politics in the news — and hosting great guests — every week in a series we call Ruining Dinner, an election season pop-up community of learning and solidarity. You are invited to join in! Please click here for more information.