Scripture - Philippians 4:11-13
Philippians 4:11-13 (The Message)
I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.
I was scrolling through Twitter a few weeks ago and came upon this question that I found really interesting.
It was: what have you been able to do that you wouldn’t have done were it not for the pandemic?
In other words, what did the pandemic enable you to do or experience that it would have been hard to make space for otherwise?
Responses to this question were wide and varied. Some talked about the quality of time with their children as business trip after business trip had been cancelled. Others talked about the pandemic pushing them to finally get into therapy or recovery. Some reconnected with an estranged family member or old friend. Some talked about the ability to declutter their life. Tried new recipes. Others talked about the gift being able to slow down and take note of the small things.
There’s no question that these past eight months have been full of heartbreak and grief for many - the grief of losing loved ones to a virus, the grief of cancelled plans or delayed dreams, the hardship of enduring lockdown or economic uncertainty, of not knowing when it will be safe to visit family or friends again without the logistical nightmare of a 14 day quarantine for a weekend getaway. There is no denying that life has been hard here in the northeast since March -- much earlier than that in other parts of the country. And there’s no denying that we are all experiencing COVID fatigue heading into the holiday season where we’ve all just had enough.
That’s why this question, I think, is helpful right now to center ourselves a bit again - not just in the difficult circumstances we continue to be in as a country, although that is important to acknowledge. It’s important as well to remember what the interruption to our business-as-usual life gave us space to realize and experience.
The scripture from Philippians we heard read demonstrates this principle so well. Paul here writes about being content no matter the circumstances, whether he has much or little, whether imprisoned or free, however he finds himself, no matter the hardship. Such a perspective is not said lightly, however. Paul wrote this letter to the church at Philippi while he was in prison, after much suffering. This isn’t just the power of positive thinking or a cliche saying without the weight of experience behind it.
As we approach Thanksgiving, I want us to share about the things we are grateful for - specifically as we consider the past several months, the way our lives have changed, and what that has enabled us to do or experience as a result.
I’ll put the question in the chat box for us to share around - but let’s take some time - even as we find ourselves riding the ups and downs of pandemic life - and consider what we can be grateful for.
What have you been able to do (or experience) that you might not have otherwise had the opportunity to do because of how your life has changed in response to the pandemic?
I want to close with some other words from Paul - written right before the verses we read this morning:
4-5 Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!
6-7 Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
8-9 Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
We can be thankful that through it all - Jesus has been with us. Jesus walks alongside us, Jesus is the center that grounds us - Jesus brings us through and works a sense of God’s wholeness in and through our lives, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. So as we approach this Thanksgiving, let it be with gratitude for what God has worked in us - how Jesus has brought us safe thus far - and how the Spirit will continue to bring all things together for God’s wholeness and redemption in the world. Let us be God’s thankful people together. Amen.
Pastor Melissa Yosua-Davis has been serving the community of Chebeague and its church since July 2015. She currently lives on the island with her husband and three year old son and 6 month old daughter, along with their yellow lab. Read here recent sermon excerpts, thoughts on life and faith, and current announcements for the church community. She also blogs at Going on to Perfection.