Devotions from Tri-City ELCA Pastors – Pastor Barbara of Holy Redeemer, April 20, 2020

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. [1]Philippians 4:4-7

Beautiful passage, eh? Did you know that it was written from jail?  This extraordinary letter from Paul to the people of Philippi was actually written and sent while Paul was in prison.  During this time when many of us may feel trapped in our homes, or trapped into risking our own health and those of our families by going to work, or even to the grocery store, it might be a challenge to hear Paul telling us to rejoice, not to worry, to be gentle, to give thanks, and to pray – until you realize where he is.

Somehow, Paul has managed to put aside his fear and to make the best of a bad situation.  How did he do that?  Well, he tells us how.  He says, “The Lord is near….the Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  I suspect that Paul is telling us what he needs to hear himself.  That what he does matters.  That what he does matters to those he is in contact with (in his case, Imperial guards & the people of Philippi) and also that what he does matters to God.

Staying home matters, even – and especially if – it is hard.  Losing one’s income is impossibly hard, yet it is allowing many to live who would not.  Going to work for the good of others matters, clearly, to the people helped and to the people protected.  Maintaining contact with those we love matters, even more when we are discouraged with how unsatisfactory online communication is, when we would give anything to hug and hold our loved ones near.

Paul is telling us, from his own experience, that God is near, that peace is possible, because our hearts and our minds are being guarded by the love of God.  I think that when Paul says rejoice, he is not saying to sing ecstatically in happiness, but to take comfort in the knowledge that God is near.  We can place our anxiety and fear in God’s hands.  I pray that all of us will be able to seek and find – if only in small ways – the peace of God, which passes all understanding, in this time.  I rejoice that each of us are part of such a wonderful community.  Through you I feel God’s presence.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Barbara

[1] Harper Bibles. NRSV Bible (Kindle Locations 56661-56664). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

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