Today we gathered round the table. We were mostly on-time, and it was a warm table — with only a few squabbles over the choice chairs to sit in. After the last person (at that time!) sat, we opened in prayer. And then we began checking-in: answering the question of what we learned about Philippians and what the good work is that God is working on in us.
We started with what we learned: written by Paul, while he was imprisoned (likely in Rome, but perhaps somewhere else like Ephesus, or Caesarea), written to a church in Philippi that he had established earlier. Also, the church is mostly Gentile, and the general population of Philippi is retired Roman soldiers. We also learned that this letter of Paul’s is likely one of his last (or the last) — so we can hear it nearly as final words in some ways. It was also noted that this letter is encouraging, full of joy (a theme), and also seems as though written to Paul’s favorite (church/believers) — in a way, this seems appropriate as he was in many ways called to the Gentiles and this church was mostly Gentile.
We learned quite a bit about the book (and yes, of course you can continue learning about the book as we continue with it!); the willingness to share about the good work that God is doing within each of us is a little more challenging (vulnerable) if we want to engage the details. We named how generally, God is working out our salvation; that we are becoming more like Christ. It was named how this could be more of a behavioral thing that God is working on or more of a heart thing that God is developing within us (note — these two are perhaps more intertwined than we understand or really think!). And so we talked about some behavioral pieces that God is addressing, and we talked about some heart issues that God is addressing — noticing that even as we get older (and prayerfully more mature in Christ) we still have things that God is working on in each of us! Within here too we began to talk about what it really means when Paul prays that our love abound, that it grow in knowledge & discernment — and we considered perhaps Paul’s prayer is that with all that life offers us (including pain, sorrow, betrayal, hurt, anger, imprisonment…etc.) that we choose to grow in love — that our hearts get larger in the breaking rather than grow smaller or colder or harder; this prayer is a hard one — it’s one that recognizes that love (even when the emotional euphoria is not there) is a decision that includes behaviors (like Christ going to a cross) that we would rather not do; this love is expansive and costly & seems rather to line up with the Good Work that God is working out in us all (until we’re done — and to allow us to be able to do the work that has been prepared *ministry in all forms* in advance for us to participate in!).
So…after a rich conversation that really did not want to end, we turned again to scripture & continued in Philippians reading Philippians 1:12-18b:
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[a] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[b] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.New International Version
We heard the scripture read aloud once and had just a little bit of silence before seeing where the Holy Spirit was directing us to look. Quickly mentioned was different motives; that what mattered was the preaching of the gospel; that everything had happened was for the advancement of the gospel; that Paul is rejoicing. There is much being said in these few verses, and much that if we’re being honest might be rather challenging for us to really agree with (if we’re being honest that is!). And so — in short order the homework for the week was offered before we closed in prayer, and it was/is:
- Answer: Have you (literally or metaphorically) been imprisoned for Christ? Please describe/say more/explain…
- Answer: Do you agree with Paul with all that he is offering here (in these verses)? Why/Why not? In theory or reality? *doesn’t matter people’s motives — only that Christ is preached….or “it” (all life) all makes sense & is to advance the gospel….?
Enjoy answering y’all…and of course keep on learning about Philippians as we go. Looking forward to gathering around the table with y’all next Sunday! Until then….
In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater