Sermons

Summary: The apostle Paul highlights what makes for a healthy, mature Christian community. A sermon for II Advent, based on Phil 1:3-11.

Sermon for II Advent Yr C, 7/12/2003

Based on Phil 1:3-11

Grace Lutheran Church, Medicine Hat, Alberta

By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

The apostle Paul’s letter to the congregation at Philippi in Macedonia, is “filled-to-overflowing” with joy and love. Some passages of scripture communicate very troubled messages of: suffering, conflicts and divisions, persecutions, anger, frustration, and so on. But Paul’s letter to the Philippians is one of the most, beautiful, upbeat books of the New Testament. As one reads today’s passage, one becomes deeply moved by the love and joy; the unity and goodwill; the deep, intimate relationship, which existed between Paul and the Philippians. This joyful, loving, caring relationship between Paul and the Philippians is every pastor’s dream of “the perfect congregation.” Paul’s pastoral relationship with this congregation may also be every Paul and the Philippians remembered and supported one another in prayer. A joyful, loving, and caring church is one which keeps each other in prayer. Oftentimes, we fail to be a joyful, loving, caring Christian community because we fail to remember and support each other in prayer. There are many missed opportunities because we are not listening to God with an open mind and heart in prayer. Christian community without prayer is not possible. It’s like trying to cook a good meal without the necessary equipment; or fix a car without the necessary tools and repairs—it is not possible. Prayer not only gives us the necessary resources to be the community God wants us to be and accomplish the tasks God wants us to do; prayer also changes our impossible situations into possible ones. More importantly, however, prayer changes us. Prayer works on our negative, doubting, critical, apathetic sinful attitudes and behaviours. It transforms such harmful attitudes and behaviours into a joyful, loving, caring Christian community. So as Paul would say, never underestimate the power of your prayers—God works miracles through them. Also, pray without ceasing, as Paul instructs us to do.parishioner’s dream of “the perfect pastor.” In any case, it provides every pastor and every congregation with one of the best biblical examples of joyful, loving, caring Christian community. Here is Christian community at its best.

How is such ideal Christian community possible? What makes this congregation at Philippi so joyful, loving, and caring? What can we learn from this congregation that would help us to grow more mature in our joy, love, and caring?

Well, for starters, our passage today, which is in the form of a prayer or blessing, tells us that both

Paul and the Philippians remembered and supported one another in prayer. A joyful, loving, and caring church is one which keeps each other in prayer. Oftentimes, we fail to be a joyful, loving, caring Christian community because we fail to remember and support each other in prayer. There are many missed opportunities because we are not listening to God with an open mind and heart in prayer. Christian community without prayer is not possible. It’s like trying to cook a good meal without the necessary equipment; or fix a car without the necessary tools and repairs—it is not possible. Prayer not only gives us the necessary resources to be the community God wants us to be and accomplish the tasks God wants us to do; prayer also changes our impossible situations into possible ones. More importantly, however, prayer changes us. Prayer works on our negative, doubting, critical, apathetic sinful attitudes and behaviours. It transforms such harmful attitudes and behaviours into a joyful, loving, caring Christian community. So as Paul would say, never underestimate the power of your prayers—God works miracles through them. Also, pray without ceasing, as Paul instructs us to do.

Another reason Paul mentions in our passage as to why the congregation at Philippi was so joyful, caring, and loving is stated in the following phrase: “your sharing of the gospel.” That English word, translated “sharing” here, is a loaded one. In the Greek it is koinonia. Koinonia has several meanings in the Bible. Among them are: sharing, partnership, fellowship, communion, community-building, witnessing. Paul speaks well of the koinonia present among the congregation’s members at Philippi. He complements them for their: sharing, partnership, communion, fellowship, community-building, and witnessing. For Paul and this congregation, the gospel was not something static—nor was it meant to be “the best kept secret.” Rather, they believed the gospel was alive, dynamic, something worth getting excited about—it was meant to be shared with everyone, the whole world. That meant it went with the people in their thoughts, words, and actions during the week. For Paul and the congregation at Philippi, the gospel, along with the help of the Holy Spirit, made it possible for them to be a koinonia Christian community. In this way, the ministry was a growing, healthy, and flourishing one since everyone pulled together and shared the work. So, the koinonia congregation is one which reflects the unity and harmony of God, as brothers and sisters of one happy family in Christ.

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