It was 2 Sundays ago, back in 2018 — back before Christmas (on Sunday the 23rd) when we gathered round the table together. We arrived, some later than others and after some banter opened in prayer. And then we began checking-in; talking about whether the Lord is near, talking about what is hardest in Philippians 4:4-7 (rejoicing always, letting your gentleness be made known, not worrying/anxious, praying for your desires), talking about if we follow these verses will joy be guaranteed to come?
There were mixed responses. God can feel so very far, maybe not from us specifically but from all those suffering. God is also inside each of us — so God is near, always…but it doesn’t always feel quite that way. And then all the invitations — to rejoice always, to be gentle, to not worry, to (know & then) pray your desires are each challenging, with some being more challenging than others to each of us (likely some even being more or less challenging depending on whatever season of life we might be in!). And while we didn’t necessarily consider following these 3 verses to guarantee joy would come, it seems that we did agree that following these verses (and seeking God in general), but in seeking to live into these invitations, to rejoice always, to be gentle, to not worry, to pray your desires did make a difference in our lives. From experience, when we have done these — when we have rejoiced even when our heart might be full of sorrow, when we have been gentle even when taken advantage of, when we have been able to pray our desires to God — it allows joy to be present, it has allowed us to breathe easier knowing that God holds us tenderly. So while not a guarantee, we did agree that trusting and living this “guide” has proven reliable, and as we enter into the new year perhaps we can hold onto these verses!
And then (I think) we turned briefly to scripture — and if memory serves…we didn’t read the whole scripture selection for the day (Psalm 80:1-7) but instead I named it, and highlighted verse 3 & 7 (nearly same language):
3 Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us,that we may be saved.
7 Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.
There wasn’t time to discuss. But instead the announcement of no Adult Study on Dec. 30th & an invitation to optional homework, for the next 2 weeks — the ending of 2018 and beginning of 2019 — to be praying for hope, peace, joy, and love to come to our community — right now & next year (this year!) in new & unexpected ways. It’s a homework assignment of course we can be doing (praying, living) at all times.
I pray God is in-breaking in new ways right now and I cannot wait to sit around the table with you again, for the first of many times in 2019! See y’all Sunday!
In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater