Stress. Anxiety. Anger. Yup, these are three words that we are all quite familiar with these days. It kind of makes me chuckle a little bit when I read the words of this scripture passage from Philippians. Paul, writing to the Philippians and he tells them not to worry.
Don't worry about it.
Geesh. Okay, Paul. Easy for you to say. Almost impossible.
But upon reflection, I am guessing it wasn't an easy thing for him to say. At this point in Paul's life, he's writing to the community in Philippi from somewhere in prison. He's pretty sure he's not going to see any of these people that he loves and ministers to again. All he's got to keep him going are the letters that he is sending an receiving. Yet, he is still faithful. He still loves and trusts God. He wants the people to know that his encouragement not to worry is rooted in the promise that the God who loves us is near and is listening. Paul wants them to know that they can feel joyful and be peaceful when they have trusting communication with God.
Read Philippians 4: 1-9
So, this passage starts out with "Therefore, my brothers and sisters whom I love and miss." It starts with "therefore" because this is his final chapter in this letter. He's wrapping things up. If you want to read back a few verses (Phil. 3: 20-21) you will find that he is telling the community that their "Citizenship is heaven." He says Jesus will come from there and transform us to be a part of this kingdom. So, therefore... and we move on to his advice.
First, he mentions Euodia and Syntyche and urges them to settle their disagreement. We know that they are two female leaders in the early church, but we don't know what it is that they are at odds about. Given the speed of letters and how news traveled back then it must have been pretty interesting for Paul to learn about it in prison and then respond to it in his letter. All we can guess is that this conflict was causing worry for the church in Phillipi so he calls it out. Paul acknowledges that conflict and stress are a real problem.
We all know about that, am I right? Paul says that conflict, anger, and worry are all obstacles to peace. Read verses 4 - 9 again of this scripture and think about these questions:
- What or who does Paul believe peace and joy are rooted in?
- How does Paul say we can cultivate peace and joy?
- What thoughts or practices can we cultivate today for greater peace and joy?
One spiritual practice that we can work on is prayer. Here are some things to watch. Totally different types of prayer are depicted in the movies "Joe Vs. The Volcano" and "The Apostle." In the first clip, Joe is lost at sea when he watches the moon rise and utters a prayer of thanks. In the second video “Sonny” prays an honest and very angry prayer for peace.
Stuff to think about:
- What do you think about Joe’s prayer in Joe vs. the Volcano?
- What do you think about Sonny’s prayer in The Apostle?
- What kinds of prayers lead to peace and joy?
- How do you talk to God?
Labyrinth: Here is another spiritual practice that you might want to try. Tracing or walking a Labyrinth can help us relax and seek peace and joy. Try this one below. Follow along with your finger or your eyes and reflect on the prompts provided at the designated points.