Thursday, September 16, 2021

Katie Snipes Lancaster

I thank my God
every time I remember you,
constantly praying
with joy
in every one of my prayers
for all of you.
Philippians 1:3–4

A Look at Joy
Nature may at times be beautiful, majestic, awesome in power, and sometimes calm. Nature can also be stormy, disease-ridden, accident-prone, messy, ugly, dangerous, and unforgiving. Likewise, society may offer happiness, security, and well-being in our relationships with others. For many people however, society is a zero-sum game where one person’s advance comes only with another person’s decline. Projected into a dog-eat-dog world of competition with money or power or status on the line, our relationships often turn into unbearable hot houses, alienation, and/or failure. Paul knows this dark side of life in both nature and society. He often recalls the ups and downs of how he has been treated these many years (see 4:11–12 and elsewhere), and, of course, he sits in prison as he writes, falsely accused, berated, beaten, and in peril for his life, with a long, harrowing road in front of him.

In Christ however, we find ourselves in the reality of God-with-us (Emmanuel, Matt 1:23). Jesus’s birth, life, death, and resurrection in time redefine our lives by his life. The Spirit of God awakens us to this truth here and now…Writing to his friends from prison, with an uncertain future before him, Paul is living into the moment. Every moment is a gift from God filled with the reality of God all around him. In Christ, energized by the Spirit, we rejoice in that reality. In the presence of Christ (God-with-us), we are free to throw ourselves into the struggles and issues of life with abandon, and smile…Christ is the One in whom we rejoice at every moment of life. So into what moment right now, public, or private, are we trying to live … and rejoice?

(Excerpted from Merwyn S. Johnson’s essay “Between Text and Sermon: Philippians 4:4-9” from the journal Interpretation, January 1, 2019)

Spirit of Life,
Caught in between,
we want calm, beauty, life and light
within a messy, ugly, dangerous, unforgiving landscape.
Redefine our uncertain futures with your Spirit at the fore,
so that we might awaken, renewed to you in this moment.