Yr B ~ Advent 3 ~ Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice, Paul tells us. The Lord is near.|
Rejoice always! It’s so important he says it twice in one verse: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
Why? The Lord is near!
We might say that God is present. God’s nearness, God’s presence is a wonderful source of and producer of joy!
Then he says something a little odd. Paul says, “Let your gentleness be known to everyone.”
Our ears hear gentleness as being soft and kind – and that’s good stuff. Paul certainly doesn’t mean for us not to be soft and kind.
But the deeper meaning of the word is about being fair-minded, being equitable, fulfilling the spirit and not just the letter of the law as you interact with the world.
Joyful people who know that God is near, are moved to live justly!
Our joyfulness isn’t just for our own benefit, it’s for the world.
We’re off to a great start!
What might derail all this joy and justice and noticing God’s nearness? Worry!
Verse 6 begins: Do not worry about anything. Really? Good luck with that!
But if we dig deeper we can see that the word worry here doesn’t simply mean the care and concern we have for our loved ones and others. It refers to being divided, distracted, going to pieces, literally it means being pulled in two directions.
Paul is not telling us not to have concern for things or people. We can’t care for people or be loving and compassionate if we don’t feel concern for them. No, the worry we’re being warned about here is more than just being anxious about something, it’s about the dangers of being overly preoccupied with things, being absorbed by them, being obsessed with them. Care and concern are healthy, preoccupation and obsession are not.
Care and concern and love don’t steal our joy.
It’s that general state of anxiety and disquiet that insidiously sneaks into our being and starts to run our life – that’s the real soul-sucking stuff. That’s the worry that kills.
So how does one avoid that?
Prayer is one of those words that we use all the time, but it amazed me that in over a decade of preaching here I’ve never gone deep and really wrestled with the core meaning of prayer. Hold onto your hats! Here we go!
The Greek word for prayer is proseuché (pros-yoo-kay) – it’s a compound word consisting of two concepts: toward-ness, and will-exchange. read on