Worship Time is not Downtime Philippians 1:1-18

1 From Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus.
To all of God’s people who belong to Christ Jesus at Philippi and to all of your church officials and officers.
2 I pray that God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you and will bless you with peace!
3 Every time I think of you, I thank my God.
4 And whenever I mention you in my prayers, it makes me happy.
5 This is because you have taken part with me in spreading the good news from the first day you heard about it.
6 God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that he won’t stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns.
7 You have a special place in my heart.
So it is only natural for me to feel the way I do.
All of you have helped in the work that God has given me, as I defend the good news and tell about it here in jail.
8 God himself knows how much I want to see you. He knows that I care for you in the same way that Christ Jesus does.
9 I pray that your love will keep on
growing and that you will fully
know and
understand 10 how to make the
right choices.
Then you will still be pure and innocent when Christ returns.
And until that day, 11 Jesus Christ will keep you busy doing good deeds that bring glory and praise to God.

12 My dear friends, I want you to know that what has happened to me has helped to spread the good news. 13 The Roman guards and all the others know that I am here in jail because I serve Christ. 14 Now most of the Lord’s followers have become brave and are fearlessly telling the message.

15 Some are preaching about Christ because they are jealous and envious of us. Others are preaching because they want to help. 16 They love Christ and know that I am here to defend the good news about him. 17 But the ones who are jealous of us are not sincere. They just want to cause trouble for me while I am in jail. 18 But that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that people are telling about Christ, whether they are sincere or not. That is what makes me glad.

I will keep on being glad…
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This passage reads like a love letter. That’s because it is a love letter. Paul wrote it to the congregation in Phillipi while he was in prison.
This letter is so beautiful. It’s the same letter I would write to you if I were in prison.
3 Every time I think of you, I thank my God.
4 And whenever I mention you in my prayers, it makes me happy.
5 This is because you have taken part with me in spreading the good news from the first day you heard about it.
Paul is consoled in prison by the knowledge that the church thrives. It reminds me of people who are happy that our church is thriving.
What does it mean for a church to thrive? Paul says:
11 Jesus Christ will keep you busy doing good deeds that bring glory and praise to God.
How do we “keep busy?” How do we find the motivation, the purpose, the energy to do good deeds?
Paul explains what we have discovered for ourselves:
9 I pray that your love will keep on growing and that you will fully know and
understand 10 how to make the right choices.
We don’t naturally make right choices. When we are presented with choices, some are wise, some are obviously wrong, and some require careful thought. In fact, sometimes we have to take risks.
How does a congregation make good choices? How does a congregation take risks without hurting itself?
That is where love comes in. As our love for each other grows, we share in each others lives. We get to know each other. We learn the vulnerabilities and the strengths of each person. At the same time, we intentionally study the word of God. We pray. We read. We worship together. We listen to Scripture and sermons together. We learn together. We grow in wisdom. We learn to love. We take risks for each other.
Outsiders may be surprised to learn that worship activities are not meant to give us a break for a busy week. This one hour on Sunday is not meant to calm us down or help us forget or to entertain us. We are not here for the fun of it. We are not here to escape the world.
We are here to prepare for the week ahead. People will tell me sometimes that the week just doesn’t seem right if they don’t start the week with worship, with the fellowship and the study that worship provides. It’s like studying for a test or going to the grocery store before we bake Christmas cookies.
We are here to strengthen ourselves for the week ahead. We are here, not to escape from the world, but to prepare ourselves to return to the world., to be a force for good, a force for reason, a force for love, in the world.That means we are preparing ourselves to take risks. Sometimes we take risks for ourselves or our family members or our friends. But as Christians, we also take risks for those who are at greater risk than ourselves. We step in to lessen the risk, not because we might have something to gain, but because, out of love and concern, we are willing to lessen the risk of a fellow human being.
Christians take chances. We take chances when we donate to a food pantry. We risk giving food to people who don’t agree with us. We risk giving food to people who are cheating the system.We take chances when we write letters to the editor, when we volunteer at a fundraiser, even when we speak up in a conversation to question a point of view. When I write aa letter to the editor, I risk my reputation, I risk my friendships, and I make myself a target for criticism.
That might be the scariest thing we have to do within the comfort of our own culture, especially in these polarized times.
Here’s an example: When you hear a racist or sexist joke, do you question the person? Do you know how to do that? Here’s what I learned from my daughter. Step 1 Listen to the joke. Do not be disrespectful of the person telling the joke. Step 2 Pretend that you don’t get the joke. Step 3 Ask the person to tell why the joke is funny. Step 4 Be kind as the person explains the racist or sexist premise that makes the joke funny to some people. Keep asking the person to explain until they have discovered for themselves why the joke is racist or sexist. Step 5 In rare instances you might want to explain why you find that information hurtful. Step 6 Thank the person. It sounds complicated, but usually all you have to say is “I don’t get it” or “Explain it to me” and the person understands why the joke is not funny anymore.
That is risky, isn’t it? What could you do that is less risky? I think it is risky to be a Christian, because so much of culture ridicules what we believe. Where does this risky behavior lead? Paul says:
Then you will still be pure and innocent when Christ returns.
And until that day, 11 Jesus Christ will keep you busy doing good deeds that bring glory and praise to God.
We aren’t pure and innocent. What does it mean to be pure and innocent? My go-to image for pure and innocent is a baby lamb. Maybe I confuse cute with pure and innocent. One of the uncomfortable facts about being Christian is that we acknowledge that we are born sinful. When I think of the babies in my life, I remember that the innocence didn’t last more than a couple years. We call that next stage of life “the terrible twos” because two-year olds have found their independence; that independence leads to sinfulness. It never goes away. The older we get, the more ways we learn to sin.
But here, today, we have the opportunity to renounce our sinfulness. Today, we have the opportunity to strengthen ourselves, the opportunity to face risks that reflect the love and wisdom Jesus provides.
Perhaps an outsider thinks that we read nice stories about a smart guy named Jesus who blew his chances by dying on a cross.
We know that those nice stories are our own fountain of wisdom. We know that Jesus took a chance on us, and risked dying, in order that he might conquer death, not just for himself, but for all of us.
We all, in this room, share in the gospel. It is the foundation of our relationship with each other.
Paul equates good relationship with God and Christ with a good relationship among Christians here and now. I propose that we carry that idea into the world to build good relationships with the non-Christians, with thinking-about-it Christians, with used-to-be Christians. How do you do that? Pray about it. Trust the Holy Spirit to show you the opportunities, the openings, the needs, the silent requests.
This passage reads like a love letter. It’s the same letter I would write to you if I were in prison.
3 Every time I think of you, I thank my God.
4 And whenever I mention you in my prayers, it makes me happy.
Likewise, I would have the same expectations for you:
9 I pray that your love will keep on growing and that you will fully
know and understand 10 how to make the right choices.
Then you will still be pure and innocent when Christ returns.
And until that day, 11 Jesus Christ will keep you busy doing good deeds that bring glory and praise to God.
Amen.