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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, October 16, 2017

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)

When did joy become such a difficult thing? Maybe it’s always been hard and I’m just finally becoming adult enough to notice. But as joy gets harder and harder to hang on to most days, it also feels more necessary. I grew up with the privilege of happiness, an overabundance of joy. As I found my way in this world and started to realize all the places of overabundant woe, I started to feel uncomfortable about my joyful privilege. I began to believe that, because of all of my advantages, I should only push myself to do the hardest thing with a puritanical fervor. Joy was a waste of time, a drag on my productivity and a privilege I no longer deserved. In other words, I became somewhat of a bummer to be around.

But Paul, the patron saint of try-harders and those trying to atone for their past enjoyments, writes to the Phillipians of joy, from prison no less, as vital. Rejoice in the Lord always. Paul reframes joy for us in this passage from a frivolity to something that does real work. Rejoicing in the Lord, together and always, is the remedy for the divisions in their community. Joy is the antidote to their anxiety. Joy is the gateway to knowing peace.

So I stand with Paul now, calling us all to rejoice in the Lord. Not a saccharine, self-serving happiness, but a deep joy. Come join me in the hard work joy of finding God’s presence in unexpected places and celebrating it.

God of Joy, Let us rejoice like children learning what goodness is, how sweetness tastes, how harmony sounds, for the first time. Amen.

Written by Alex Wirth, Minister for Evangelism

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