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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, October 14, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Philippians 4:1–9

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. 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. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. (NRSV)

I have two friends who choose to stay in touch by writing notes or letters. While I enjoy receiving personal pieces of snail mail, and always delight in reading their comments, then the quiet grumbling begins. Now I need to respond in kind, a task that is too easy to put off.

As twenty-first-century Christians, we can be very grateful that the Apostle Paul, a consummate letter writer, found time for these vital epistles that still guide us. Today we read a portion of his affectionate closing words to “my brothers and sisters whom I love and long for . . . my beloved.”

One of the lures of letters is their distinctly personal character. Paul chose to take a moment in the midst of his departing words to address Eudora and Syntyche, two women leaders in the congregation at Philippi. He urges them to reconcile their differences, with the help of their friends in faith.

In our own time when despair and cynicism are ever-present temptations, we so need to hear Paul’s concluding exhortation: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice.” These words echo on the Third Sunday of Advent, the days preceding Christmas, when the powerful, yet heavy passages may weigh us down, along with all our preparations.

We need this message now, as we experience the seemingly endless duration of multiple pandemics: pandemics of COVID-19, of loneliness, of systemic racism, and of increasing violence. God in Christ is with us as we strive to find our way. Thus our spirits are lifted when we are able to join Paul, rejoicing in our loving God who will not leave us on our own.

I rejoice in you, Lord of life, that you walk with me through struggles and challenges, sustaining me so that I can resist tempting detours and dead ends. Continue to walk with all of us, we pray, leading us to rejoice each step of the way. Amen.

Written by Jeff Doane, Parish Associate for Older Adults

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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