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Lenten Reflection: Feb. 19

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Texts: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Philippians 4:1-9; John 17:9-19

Philippians 4:1-9

While the Apostle Paul often gets the credit for the spread of Christianity into the larger Mediterranean world, this passage reveals Paul’s awareness of the many colleagues sharing in the work of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ for the kingdom of God. Although he rarely mentions anyone by name, he identifies his partners in the gospel as Euodia and Syntyche as well as Clement and “the rest of my co-workers.” Compared to the other Pauline letters, this is an unusual moment.  While some have construed the naming of the two women as something negative applied to restrict gender roles or to provide a rationale for denying women any leadership in the church, in this passage Paul does not seem to have any of this in mind. Rather he appreciates the faithful work done by those women who have struggled beside him and encourages further collaboration.

Likewise, those who work for the glory of God do not labor alone because God gives co-laborers to share in the work of the gospel. We know some of them by name but others labor silently without recognition. We give thanks for all who are engaged in building up Christian communities worldwide, however flawed and broken.

Finally, believers who wish to be co-laborers in Christ do three things. First, they look for reasons to rejoice. Second, in order to remain steadfast in the Lord, they replace worrying with praying. Some say believers ought to bother God with only big important decisions but we are told that “in everything” we are to make our requests known to God (v.6). Third, they fill their minds with whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent or praiseworthy. In doing these things, we are witnesses to the reign of God and realize God’s peace, not as the world understands a temporary relief from conflict, but the everlasting peace of God which surpasses all understanding and guards your hears and minds in Christ Jesus (v. 7). May you recognize this peace as you acknowledge those who work alongside you for the good of the church, society and the world.

Dr. Chung-Kim is Assistant Professor of History of Christianity at Claremont School of Theology and Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church.  Her book on Reformation Debates over the Eucharist titled Interpreting a New Ancient Tradition (Baylor University Press) is forthcoming at the end of this year. She resides in Upland, California with her husband and two sons. More information can be found at: http://www.cst.edu/academic_resources/_faculty.Kim.php

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