Therefore, 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. Phil 4:1; 4-9
We are one week away from the 2020 Election. It’s difficult to remember a time when our country felt more divided (at least in the four decades of my lifetime.) I urge you to spend the next 7 days in prayer. Pray for our country, our elected officials, and our future as “One Nation Under God.” As you pray, open your Bible for guidance, for reassurance, and for words of Hope.
I invite you to read this message our Bishop Jonathan Holston sent out today: https://www.umcsc.org/bishop-holston-voting-is-an-opportunity-to-witness-to-our-faith/. I join Bishop Holston in asking you to please VOTE. Use your voice and witness to your faith. Cast your ballot in the 2020 Election.
I share a reflection below on Philippians 4 below, and send my love and prayers to you all.
Pastor Julie Belman
The political climate of our country is on everyone’s hearts and minds right now. I need you to know that I am wrestling with these issues as much as you all are right now. In many ways, it hurts to see where we are and wonder how we got here. But I believe, as people of faith and members of this beloved church (who stand on various places of the political spectrum,) that we can do the hard work that is required to come together and proclaim a message of love and unity despite the seemingly impossible circumstance of the world we are living in.
I believe that we can find common ground and have hard, but necessary conversations with kindness and civility. I believe that we can, like Paul says when we talks about Euodia and Syntyche (two women within the Philippian church experiencing some sort of dispute, though we do not know what, exactly), “be of the same mind in the Lord.” I believe that we can be informed by our faith and by scripture, as Paul eludes to at the end of this passage, and allow God’s peace to dwell within us. Though I am not entirely sure how it will work, I believe that we can speak a relevant message of hope amidst our own diversity within this political climate.
Yes we can. I believe that we can.
Paul’s words actually bring me a lot of hope right now. Paul is writing this letter from prison; he is writing to a church he founded that he loves very much. Despite the uncertainty of the circumstances in his own life, he has so much hope for this church in Philippi. Because Paul believes God can do hard things and bring unity to this church in Philippi during a time of chaos and confusion. And I believe God can and will do the same thing for us here at Bethel during these unparalleled times.
Paul urges the faithful, “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.”
I do not think Paul said these words lightly and I do not read them lightly today. The thing is, it is really hard not to worry about things right now. It is really hard to “let your requests be made known to God” – to just give it to God and then let go of it. It is really hard to just “be in the same mind in the Lord” – I mean, who knows what Euodia and Syntyche were disagreeing about, but if it was half as complicated as the political issues that surround us today, then we know it could not have been as simple as just agreeing to disagree. It is really hard to trust that God’s peace will “guard your hearts and minds” amidst this painful and stressful turmoil that surrounds us.
But the other option is to be consumed by the pain and the stress and the turmoil and that is not something that I want for any of us. Because our faith offers us a promise of something more, something better. In creation, God made order out of chaos. Through Christ, God brought light into the darkness. And so yes, things are hard right now, but that does not mean God has abandoned us, that just means that we have to work that much harder to not only believe in God’s promises, but also to proclaim the Good News that Jesus taught.
The Passion Bible translates this verses the following way: “Be cheerful with joyous celebration in every season of life. Let joy overflow, for you are united with the Anointed One!“
This is not easy to do amidst the pandemic, the political climate or anything else that has come our way this year. It is hard to be cheerful when there is so much disappointment, uncertainty and anxiety all around. But I want to remind you that Paul is writing these words from prison; he is in a season of his life where he is being persecuted because of his faith and yet he is standing firm in that faith and rejoicing in the God of creating, redeeming and sustaining grace. I implore all of us to do the same.
The second word of encouragement comes from verse eight: So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. (again from the Passion translation.)
In other words, the way we live our lives matters, now more than ever. We need to think about how our words affect others, the consequences of our actions and how we will glorify God. We have to be kind and show mercy and live our lives with honor and truth.
And here’s the thing – I do not have any easy answers or a clear timeline of when things will get better. But I believe that God is with us. I believe, like Paul says in this passage, that, “the Lord is near.” I believe that we can cast our worries on God, because God has planted us firmly within the foundation of this faith which cannot be shaken and which will carry us safely to the other side.
So today I invite you to remember our two pieces of encouragement from this scripture. First of all, rejoice in the Lord always! Celebrate this season of life, as challenging as it is. And second of all, put the Gospel into motion in your thoughts, in your words and in your actions.
And then I believe that we can have difficult and challenging conversations. I believe that we can find unity. I believe that we can overcome starkly contrasted differences. I believe that we can feel God’s peace during the tumultuous times. I believe that we can do hard things. I believe, like Paul says, “the God of peace will be with you.”
My beloved friends – I believe that we can.