Happy new year to everyone, and I hope you are enjoying the beautiful scene of snow swirling today.
Here at church, we began our new year by delving into a new book of the Bible: Paul's letter to the Philippians. I say, "book," but as we explored yesterday, Philippians is actually a letter written from perhaps Christianity's most well known Christian missionary and preacher, the Apostle Paul.
Paul wrote this particular letter while "in chains," under the watch of the Roman imperial guards. This wasn't the first time or the last time that Paul's bold preaching of the gospel was to land him in trouble with civic authorities. Yet, as we discovered yesterday by reading and listening to Paul's letter, he was a man far from feeling trapped or confined. Even facing the stringent limitations of being under watch, Paul was a man fully confident about his future and fully secure in the place God had him at that particular moment.
I have been reading Wendell Berry of late. He is a writer, farmer, father, husband, but also poet, and in one of the more recent poems that I read from him, Wendell Berry said that perhaps the most important thing we come to as we age and mature is not having more things or even more love given to us, but - rather - what matters more is a sense of deep gratitude for the love and gifts that have been given to us. His own musings make me think immediately of Paul's own life, a life that is saturated in gratitude: for the second chance given to him by Jesus Christ, for the immeasurable gifts he knew he had to gain as a child of the covenant, for his friends like Timothy and Epaphroditus who were there to share in his work, and for his friends like Lydia and the other women in Philippi. He even was grateful for the chains around his wrists, knowing that his imprisonment was just one more way God was spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ like yeast in dough.
We are going to be exploring this letter for the next several weeks, so I hope you will take advantage of the opportunity to turn your attention again to the one good and central word: the joy of knowing Christ Jesus, and to find our life in his life.
It's a great way to start the new year, and I look forward to reading Paul's letter with you in the coming weeks.