For our last meeting of 2013, we finished the book of Phillipians, reading the verses starting in chapter 4 verse 10 to the end of the chapter. Verses 11 and 12 provoked much comment. Do we reach a point in our lives where we are more content with our lot in life and have less anxiety over the future and things that bother us? Some say that we achieve more wisdom as we age, but maybe there are just fewer opportunities to upset us. I guess it remains an open question. On our recent vacation, I remember getting upset over a number of little things like people coming in late for performances and disrupting those behind them, or administrative details of the vacation being handled poorly in some cases, and in general the rudeness and thoughtlessness that some people exhibit. I suppose that I should learn to be less concerned and more accepting of the foibles of others. Paul was facing some large problems as he was writing from prison and could be fearing for his life. The Romans had killed others who followed ‘The Way’ at that time. But he said earlier in chapter 1:21-26, specifically verses 23-24, that he might prefer to take on the body like that of the transfigured body of Jesus, but that if God had more planned for him in his present life, specifically to continue his work with people like those at Philippi, he could accept that as well.
We then discussed the issues surrounding end of life for us. Frank posed some very interesting questions that prompted some interesting discussion. .
Frank says there is dual intent in death in that sedation can ease pain but
also accelerate death. What is difference between physician assisted death and
staying off tube and having morphine. Is determining time and
place of death and suicide different. Chuck asks what is the right time
for death. Verse 11, can we be happy with our terminal event? In 3:21, Paul
wants a glorious body like Jesus had. What is the difference between going to
heaven immediately and being raised at Jesus second coming? Mark says there is
no time after death, so there is no difference. Jesus resurrected body didn’t stay on earth, but is with God. Think about it as the redemption of the physical body. Doctors are instruments of God says Tom. John says why should you says it is a sin to say you shouldn’t take your life in any way. Humility is a tough thing to
obtain and if we think we have it we may be sinning on our assumption. Sin is
pervasive in us. But the church should not abandon an individual no matter
Next time I Thessalonians.
This is such a beautiful section of the book. It is marked by his requests for encouragement for the women that have worked side by side with him. It is as if he knows these people so well and wants them to get along with each other. He urges Euodia and Syntyche to iron out their differences. They must have had a problem and he urges everyone there to help them, because their names are written in the book of Life. Then he urges them to Celebrate God all day, every day and he even says to revel in God. That is more than mere celebration of your love and respect and willingness to follow God and to do his will. Then he says to help them to live as if the Master could show up at any time indicating as many believed at that time that the second coming was coming soon. At least within their lifetimes. I think of how long the Jewish people had longed for a Messiah and then when one came, they didn’t recognize Him. Then Paul finishes off the section with a beautiful verse 8 that emphasizes all the wonderful things that come because of God and then gives a little benediction that the God of peace will be with you.
Here Paul urges the people to walk as he and others in the way of Christ and he urges them to resist walking as enemies of the cross of Christ. He says that their end is destruction, their god is their belly and they glory in their shame with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and we want our present lowly body to like his glorious body in heaven. Paul talks many times about wanting to be with Christ and is of two minds, knowing that he has work to do here to help people find the Way of Christ and yet wanting to be with Christ. Remembering that he was in prison all this time, it must have been difficult to keep up his work. One thinks of Nelson Mandala who spent so much time in prison but kept encouraging the people to fight against the apartheid of South Africa. He must have wanted to give up as well, but continued to be a witness towards what he believed.
Straining towards the Goal: This is the title of this section in The Lutheran Study Bible. And that is what Paul is pushing towards. His goal is the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. He is pressing forward doing what he can to achieve this prize, but says he can’t do it on his own, but only because Christ Jesus has made Paul his own. And then he urges the people to hold true to what we have attained. Don’t be a back slider. The Lutheran Study Bible says the goal is the promise of our transformation in the resurrection. It says that we often focus on earthly comforts worldly examples of success, and maintaining a beautiful youthful appearance. All of these things are nothing compared to citizenship in heaven. He urges us to turn away from the destructive ways of human nature and towards the heavenly calling the promises that contains.
Paul’s goal here is to do whatever it takes to attain the resurrection from the dead to be with Christ. He starts out warning the people about the evildoers who mutilate the flesh. Maybe they had people at that time who did body piercing or tatoos! Then he gives his credentials for his ministry. It includes his standing as a Jew being to the tribe of Benjamin and a pharisee, and he adds that he was blameless. But then Paul says, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. The next statement is that surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ is worth all of the fine things I had before and the standing I had before. And this is from a man who knew Jesus Christ only from the transformational experience he had on the road to Damascus. I am sure the disciples who had been with Christ must have looked at Paul saying this as a bit presumptuous. They had been with Christ and Paul at best had a few minutes with him. But it is interesting that Paul would make this kind of witness even with that few minutes with Christ. It is an amazing witness and probably is the point of many of Jesus’ teachings about the difficulty of wealthy coming into the kingdom of Jesus. Paul then goes on to explain that righteousness comes from God, not of his own doing which would come from the law, but it comes as a free gift through faith in Christ. He even asks to share in Christ’s sufferings so that he could be like Jesus in death. Such a powerful witness, that Paul is making here!!!
It must have been a difficulty among the Jews who were converting to be Christians, and they thought that they had to be Jews before they could become Christians. So what a break when Paul teaching to the Gentiles would say that it wasn’t necessary to be circumcised. There would certainly be some enmity between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians because of this. We speak of this today from our perspective as Gentile Christians. We think Paul was completely justified, but I am sure that Peter had a lot of trouble on this account. Circumcision was widely practiced in ancient times to distinguish a group of people. It dates back to the ancient Egyptians. We discussed the calling to be a monk. Mark noted that Monks spend much of their time praying. Is that wrong? Should they be more gainfully employed? But they do have to work to sustain their order and their own living expenses. We shouldn’t diminish the monk’s calling.
By the way, there is a Men’s Retreat at Ewalu Feb. 7-9