“Re-Joice … again, Re-Joice … in the Lord”
Trinity Sunday, 05/27/2018
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Through the Written Word,
And the spoken word,
May we know Your Living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
[Open with the joke about the man on a deserted island with three buildings, and why I’m not going to start with that joke ….]
We’re near the end of our sermon series working our way through the New Testament book of Philippians. In fact, what we read last week sounded like it could have been the end of this letter – but … it was not! Almost like Paul thought of one more thing that needed to be addressed, he adds this last page to his epistle. This last page starts with a word about a crisis in the Philippian Church – an argument between two women in the congregation – a dispute between two church pillars.
Remember that Paul and a crew of travel partners first visited Philippi 10 years earlier, but what we learn from Acts 16 and I Thessalonians 2 is that Philippi is a city where Paul and Silas had a particularly difficult experience:
- Paul and Silas go to Philippi against their own plans, because that’s where God directed them
- The first recorded European baptism takes place in Philippi – Lydia
- Paul and Silas are arrested and imprisoned for their Christian faith
- While in prison, they pray and sing, and God opens the doors and loosens the shackles
- The jailer gets baptized – the second European baptism on record
- Paul and Silas create an opportunity to share the Gospel with the Magistrates as well
Philippi gave Paul some success stories, but it was not a fun place for him to be.
After the opening greetings, Paul gives some comments about how everyone is of equal value in God’s eyes – that Christ died just as much for the criminal on the cross right next to Him as He did for Rich Wilson; just as much for you as for Your most admired Christian spokesperson, Billy Graham or Ravi Zacharias; just as much for the sinner on the street or your least favorite neighbor as He did for you!
Then Paul tells these Christ-followers in Philippi, that since that egalitarian perspective is true, we ought to serve each other rather than expect to be served! Paul identifies himself as a “servant of the Lord Jesus” as he addresses the overseers and bishops and church elders here. Then, Paul says that even Christ, who is God of Gods, true God of true God, humbled Himself by becoming a human, a slave, who would die as a convicted-but-innocent man on our behalf; therefore, we, too, should humble ourselves and offer ourselves on behalf of others! Furthermore, he says, in the midst of your struggles, your difficulties, your losses, your trials … REJOICE in the Lord! Then he almost closes the letter with a harsh criticism of human pride vs. God’s grace.
But wait – there’s this one last thing – listen – Philippians 4:2-9 (page 832 in the pew Bibles) …. —-
2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. [So, after a wonderful 3 pages of Pauline theology and Christian doctrine – he suddenly announces out-loud an argument that everyone in the church knows about but no one dares mention – and he names names! Euodia and Syntyche apparently are in the middle of some kind of cantankerous debate – we’re not told any details, and it really doesn’t matter – probably fighting about what color carpet the Fellowship Hall should have, or what brand of coffee should be served after worship in the foyer – but did you hear what Paul said? If this was every church’s, and every church member’s, approach to cases of church discipline we’d be in a far better place – he tells Euodia and Syntyche to “be of the same mind in the Lord!”! He did not say, agree about which Bible translation is the best, or about whether the Pastor should wear a Geneva Robe or coveralls, he says, “Agree in the Lord!” … Now keep listening:]
3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. [Paul calls these two women out – names them outright, and then immediately calls the church to gather around them and help them “be in the Lord”! The word he uses for “help” is “syllambano”, “lift them up”, work together to encourage their faith in the Lord – and then he reminds everyone how these women, along with someone named Clement, too – another person caught in the fray? – how they have been on the same team together! – along with all the un-named people who maybe have gotten involved in the uproar over hymns versus praise songs, the “rest of my co-workers” … “whose names are in the book of life”. A colleague of mine illustrates this conflict and how to treat it with this story – he says, “Suppose you’re a manager of a company but you have two employees who are constantly arguing over silly things, but their arguing disrupts everyone’s work day. Then, one day a Rolls Royce pulls into the parking lot, and Mr. Rolls steps out of the back seat and enters the office – and you learn that Mr. Rolls owns the company! So you treat him with extra honor and respect – and then he pulls out his wallet and shows you some pictures of two nephews who will inherit the company after Mr. Rolls retires – and you instantly recognize the boys in Mr. Rolls’ wallet as your two jokers who are always causing trouble. Instantly, you change your attitude about them and work hard to help the whole business surround them and support them, because one day, soon, they will be your boss!”My colleague says, “That’s what Paul is saying here – Euodia and Syntyche and Clement and the rest have their photos in God’s wallet!” They, along with you, will inherit the Kingdom – serve them and honor them! Do you see how he comes back to what he has said in previous Philippian sermons? – Their names are in the book of life! Euodia’s name is in the book of life!! Honor her in the Lord!]
Then, verse 4 is many people’s favorite verse – we’ll be singing it before we leave today:
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! [So, we all know by now that Paul always centers his teaching, his faith, his joy … “in the Lord”! We have seen that in just the opening first 20 verses there were SEVEN places where he talks about JOY! So, why here, why does he give the doublet commandment here? Actually, it’s almost like FOUR times, right? JOY, and RE–joice, and again another JOY and RE–joice! Why do these Philippians need that much instruction to find joy in the Lord? Here’s what I think – these Christians were in no mood to rejoice at all! Their dirty laundry just got publicly aired out! Euodia and Syntyche’s squabble is now named out loud … in a letter by St. Paul! And not only that, but these two little cantankerous old ladies just got their names … in the Bible! Right? There are two reasons your name gets in the Bible – either because you are someone super special in the Kingdom story, Mary, Martha, Elizabeth, Joseph, James, Peter – or you have to have done something really bad, Herod, Judas, Euodia, and Syntyche! (But, again my colleague, honorably retired Pastor Earl Palmer, says that we got even with these two – no one names their baby after Euodia or Syntyche!)]
5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. [He could have named any Christian character trait, any fruit of the Spirit – he chose “gentleness”! In the midst of your congregational storm, the bruhaha over who didn’t put the coffee pot away clean, let everyone see your “gentleness”, because “the Lord is near” – whether he means that Jesus is coming back soon or that Jesus lives in your hearts and minds and lives, the Lord is nearby, so remain gentle, be calm, in the midst of your melee, have Shalom…. Then he explains with a couple lists of attitudes and behaviors:]
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. [Remember a couple weeks ago we read where Paul says, “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling”, and we commented that the Greek word order makes that command much clearer – “fear and tremble, the salvation, yours, work it out!” Here he says, what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, praiseworthy – think! And DO IT!
And the blessing is that the God of peace will be with you!
Let me close today by offering a few thoughts and conclusions from this passage, a few ideals about what it means to live as followers of Jesus in stressful, turbulent, dangerous times:
- Who are your Euodias and Syntyches? We all have someone with whom we just disagree, or who gets on our nerves, who is that for you? Pray to find a way to “agree in the Lord”! – When you encounter that person, imagine her photo in God’s wallet, and recognize that she is a child of God, his name is in the book of life! Find a way to say THANK YOU for how even your Syntyche is ultimately on the same team as you in the Kingdom of God!
- Name the thing in your life that makes you want to grumble! In the middle of that, can you rejoice in the Lord!? – When you want to gripe or complain, sing your favorite hymn or praise song – and watch as rejoicing in the Lord actually gives you joy in the Lord!
- Choose three specific items from Paul’s list in the closing paragraph of this passage, pick any three things – and think on them, and do them! – Observe an area in your life that needs more God, reflect on that listed virtue that requires attention, discuss it with a friend, make a plan to address it, ask your friend to hold you accountable, and then do it! Think on and do these things! And the God of peace will be with you!
May we hear God’s grace and receive His love … right now, and for-ever. Amen.
Hawthorne, Gerald F.; Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1983; Pp. 175-192.
Martin, Ralph P.; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Philippians; Wm. P. Eerdman’s Pub. Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; 1983; Pp. 165-173.
Palmer, Earl; Building a Robust Faith: A Study in Philippians, Session 5; Essential Media Services; 1995.