bible blog 1290

This blog offers a meditation on  the Common lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:


Philippians 4:1-19

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)

Therefore, my brothers and sisters,[a] 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,[b] 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[c] in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.[d] 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 passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved,[e] whatever is true, whatever is honourable, 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[f] 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.



There’s a lot to like in this passage, given here in a very literal translation, which preserves the intimate terms of Paul’s affection for his converts in Philippi. The relationship between Paul and these believers seems to have been special; he expresses his love and gratitude to them; they continue to support him financially in his work elsewhere. Of course one could find a modern word or phrase for the archaic “beloved”, but it would lack the simplicity and directness of Paul’s Greek. Just a look at some modern versions of this passage shows what we lose when we limit our vocabulary to that of our popular culture. Obviously no-one “rejoices” in 21st century English. But how are we to speak of a certain kind happiness without this word? 

Commentators note the importance of two women who have shared in the “work of the gospel” and Paul’s description of them as co-workers. It’s hard to reconcile this openness to female ministry with Paul’s assertion of male authority in the church, but of course we lack altogether the clear narrative of Paul’s life and work which might provide us with greater understanding of such contradictions.

Joy and gentleness are real marks of goodness. I’ve known people who showed these qualities and am forever grateful to them. If more of us displayed them, faith communities would have a better name.

Anxiety focuses on anything whereas prayer brings everything to God. True prayer is not looking for miracles but expressing the trust that, beyond understanding, the One who is beyond all universes cares. God is silent, not because he doesn’t exist, but because He is listening. Paul doesn’t argue for this trust; he simply encourages it. “The peace that passes understanding” has become a cliche and a joke; but it is a a reality for all who who are touched by true goodness, regardless of their professed faith or lack of it. Faith can be therapeutic. It should never be promoted as a substitute for psychiatric help, but neither should it be dismissed as of no value to the believer’s health. Contact with the divine goodness may not always lead to happiness but it always leads towards wholeness of character.

Divine goodness reflected in human goodness

Divine goodness reflected in human goodness

This contact with God’s goodness is not unmediated. It is encountered by Paul in Jesus Messiah. But in contrast to to those who make Christ the sole mediator of God’s goodness, Paul points people to human goodness as a channel of God’s. Grateful meditation on the goodness we have known in others, and the practice of the goodness we have learned through faith, open us to God’s presence.

If I didn’t use the Christian scriptures I don’t know where I’d find spiritual counsel of such humanity and depth.


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