Re:Verse passage – Philippians 2:19-30 (day three)

For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.vs. 20

“…so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition.”

At this point, Paul just straight up says, “I need some encouragement.” He tells the Philippians that he’s sending Timothy to them to do encouragement reconnaissance. Vulnerability before others long ago ceased to frighten Paul. He couldn’t manufacture his own encouragement. If he could, the existence of others would for him be superfluous. But others did matter. They could hurt him, and did, as he makes clear elsewhere. His energy was needed for the tasks before him, and he could not afford to spare the energy it takes to project an image of the self-contained, savvy spokesman for the Savior. The sign on his life reads, “Do resuscitate.”


Re:Verse passage – Philippians 2:12-18 (day three)

“Even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.”

As time went on, Paul kept discovering that the gospel was always better than he had previously thought. He continually updated his joy with each realization. A few years earlier, Paul wrote to the church at Rome that “[nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Now, it had become clear to Paul that that’s not all. The Lord has even more in store for those who count on him. Not only will nothing separate them from God, but nothing will separate them from each other.


Re:Verse passage – Philippians 2:5-11 (day three)

“[Christ] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.”

Paul could have demanded that Philemon free the enslaved Onesimus. He could have leveraged his formidable political clout to eradicate his opposition in the church at Corinth. He could have availed himself of the perfect sign-from-heaven opportunity the earthquake afforded him to bolt from jail under cover of chaos and darkness. He could have done all those things, but he did none of them. In the face of enticement to wield power over others, he refused. He had been, remember, a pupil of Jesus himself, who taught him the gospel in all its facets. He learned directly from the leper-touching, foot-washing, silent-before-Pilate Savior that life disintegrates when grasped, clutched, or forced. Instead, eternal life consists in inviting, asking, listening. To live eternally is to live with others, not over them.


Re:Verse passage – Philippians 2:1-4 (day three)

“Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Paul’s training in the eternal kind of life came not from just any man, but from Jesus himself. That’s what Paul told the church in Galatia. Paul’s point was not bragging rights. As a Pharisee, he knew firsthand how people attempt to augment sacred revelation. It’s what happened with the law of Moses. Paul was not going to be an interpreter of Jesus’s teaching, but a conduit. He wasn’t going to expand, but remind. That determination is the purity present in Paul’s thought. To the Philippians, therefore, he echoes precisely the words of our Lord’s Golden Rule: Understand the unique needs of others, and do that for them. His words are a tell that he had been taught by Christ.


Re:Verse passage – Philippians 1:27-30 (day three)

“…in no way alarmed…”

Did Paul ever panic? He never mentioned it if he did. But before he began learning from Jesus how to live, he demonstrated behavior that looked an awful lot like alarm or consternation, panic’s close cousins. He responded to the Jesus Way by attempting to eradicate it with terror – violent arrests, imprisonments, the casting of votes for death sentences. The safeguarding of his life’s foundation was a high priority. It is for you, too. And there are so many things which seem to threaten that foundation. Jesus knew that, of course. He taught Paul – and he teaches us – that when the terror rises, look at the birds, see the flowers. Feel the turning of the earth marking your days. The universe has been founded securely by God. So has your life. So has the church.


Re:Verse passage – Philippians 1:20-26 (day three)

“To live is Christ.”

To comprehend, help, create, build, dream, celebrate, give, remember, participate, laugh, gather, hope, work – in short, to live – is possible because of the universe’s originating and animating presence, which is Christ. It is true of all persons, from the staunchest skeptic of God’s existence to the tiniest trusting child: Christ is behind all the living and moving and having being. The very act of disbelieving is possible because Christ has made it possible. And the act of asking, “What must I do to be saved?” is possible because Christ has made human beings with the capacity to see and yearn and wonder. Paul eventually learned that the one who enabled Stephen to die with such confidence is the one who enabled him (Paul) to live with such grace. So it is for us all.


Re:Verse passage – Philippians 1:12-19 (day three)

“What then?”

Paul’s question is often your own when difficulties appear. You might not ask it in the same way. Perhaps you say, “What am I supposed to do now?” Or the question might arise in your mind as more of a statement: “Everything is falling apart.” It’s easy then to envision a range of very unpleasant outcomes. Not Paul. Faced with horrific suffering, he says, “Anything’s possible from here.” Paul was ordinary. He suffered, wept, worked, and felt the sting of injustice. But he had learned from Jesus that we don’t live in a deterministic universe. He had learned from Jesus how to expand his understanding of what is possible. That’s how joy took root in his life.


Re:Verse passage – Philippians 1:1-11 (day three)

“You all are partakers of grace with me.”

Paul began to see that the kinship of those awakened by Christ from the sleep of folly and illusion created something far greater than a crowd or a faction or a caucus or a movement. Here was a new kind of life which saw people nurture one another, honor the least among themselves, and which was perfectly suited for its environment. This kind of existence found expression in the metaphor of body – every part functioning for the good of all other parts. Therefore Paul, while acknowledging the profound hardships he endures in incarceration, doesn’t fail to notice that he is not the only one suffering: Paul has been deprived of his civil freedoms, and the church has been deprived of the presence of someone it loves. They suffer as one because they are one.


Re:Verse passage – Galatians 5:22-25 (day three)

“Against such things there is no law.”

All good things seem to run up against a law of limits. We’ve never seen patience that won’t run out, peace that can’t be disturbed, joy than can’t be killed, love that someone can’t fall out of, faith that can’t be broken. But if these characteristics are only available while supplies last, then what we’ve called patience, or peace, or joy are not, in fact, those things. The real things do exist, though, and they are infinitely abundant. Paul says these traits are actually descriptors of life within the Trinity. They describe the way God lives. They are how the Father treats the Son, how the Spirit points to the Father, how the Son speaks of the Spirit. This is the life you have been called to learn. Do not be afraid. You’re God’s star pupil.


Re:Verse passage – 1 Thessalonians 1:2-6 (day three)

“…constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope.”

Physicists have observed a state of existence called quantum entanglement, in which determining a particular characteristic of one particle will tell the observer specific details about the corresponding characteristic of another particle without the observer’s ever having to examine that other particle. The two particles are said to be “entangled,” even if they are light-years apart. All phenomena in the material realm have their antecedents in the spiritual realm. Human beings have a will because God has a will. Human beings draw life from community because life comes only from God, who exists in eternal community. And if hope sprang up in Paul continually, if love enfolded  him constantly, if faith buoyed him incessantly, it’s because dear friends in Christ entangled their lives with his.