Grace and peace to you, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you.” Paul is writing to the church in Philippi, the same church he founded years earlier. We heard about Paul’s time in Philippi, when we read Acts a few weeks ago. Remember Paul was arrested, and put in prison there, too. This letter was written years later when Paul was again in prison, possibly in Rome. Despite all his suffering, he opens his letter with thanksgiving and prayer for the Philippian Christians. In this letter, there is none of Paul’s famous temper. This letter is all about Paul wanting to thank the faithful in Philippi for their support for him, providing for his needs throughout the years. Paul also wants to praise their good work confirming and defending the Gospel over the years. His continued prayers are that they grow in faith and knowledge, living out God’s love for each other and continue sharing that love with others.
Paul shares with the Philippian church that even when the Gospel of Jesus is proclaimed for selfish reasons, God’s love is still proclaimed. It’s not just about the intentions of the speaker, but the power or the Good News to enter people’s hearts. That is encouraging for the Philippians, and it should encourage us as well. Not that we should share the Gospel for selfish reasons, but that we do not need to be perfect to share the good news. Remember a few weeks ago when I talked about finding a simple way to share our faith? And last week, I shared the story of responding when people thank us for helping them. “It’s what Jesus would have us do” is a great way to share our faith. Paul’s message to the Philippians: to continue to live out our faith and not be afraid to say the wrong thing when we do share our faith.
All of these things encourage us to remember we belong to God, and God will be with us, as we live our lives as God would have us do. We are called to share the Good News, share the love of God and the example of Jesus, trusting that God will be with us. We need to continue what Paul started in Philippi - not by being perfect evangelists or great speakers, but by simply living our faith whenever the opportunity arises.
What does it mean, in Paul’s letter, to live into our faith? We are fed by Word and Sacrament, then go out to live as Jesus would have us live so people can see what it means. My good friend, Barb, wanted to learn how to knit, so she looked online and found the Knitting Cottage. This is a place where you can purchase yarn and needles and anything else you might need. The owners are old-order German Baptist, which means they live a simple life - something like the Amish. They also have knitting and crochet classes. There is only one rule for the classes. Be kind to each other. The women do not talk about their beliefs, but teaching with kindness is how they share their faith. Here is a quote attributed to St. Francis. I find this helpful. “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”