A Study of the Church: The People of God in Context – Day 32

Wounded prophets – the church – Day 32
(the church = the people of God / followers of Jesus Christ)

The Apostle Paul writes from his own prison cell in Rome to the church at Philippi. He writes of his suffering as being opportunity to share the gospel message of Jesus’ suffering death and glorious resurrection – Jesus’ defeat of death itself. Paul writes with words of encouragement, challenge, and hope to the first-century Christians in Philippi. He writes as one who knows suffering himself. Paul writes from the perspective of a wounded healer – and he writes to offer hope and light into darkness. Following in the footsteps of Jesus, Paul was a wounded prophet and a wounded healer.

Philippians 1:12-2:18 –
12 I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, 13so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; 14and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.

15 Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. 16These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defence of the gospel; 17the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. 18What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will result in my deliverance. 20It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, 26so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

27 Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, 28and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. 29For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— 30since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

2:1 – If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8   he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. 

12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

14 Do all things without murmuring and arguing, 15so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. 16It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you— 1

 

We, the church – the people of God – followers of Jesus Christ – are so blessed to have Paul’s words that speak light into darkness, and hope into despair. Each one of us experiences suffering and in our suffering we, too, can rejoice knowing that we are not alone, for God is with us and never forsakes us. We, like Paul, can proclaim the gospel message even in the midst of our suffering. We, like Paul, are called to be wounded prophets speaking words of hope and light into a world of despair and darkness. We, like Paul, are called to be wounded healers of our relationships – with our innermost selves, with our families and friends and strangers, within our communities, our nation, and the world.

Paul reminds us how to become what the prophet Isaiah calls “repairers of the breach” …
4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Sisters and brothers – when we live our lives as wounded healers coming to the aid of all those in our midst – then our own healing will begin, too, as we become repairers of the breach …

Isaiah 58:6-12 –
Then – our healing will spring up quickly
for the glory of the Lord will guard us and keep us –
the Lord will go before us and guide us …
and we will be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water whose waters never fail.

Then – we will become the foundation for our children,
our children’s children,
their children,
and generations to follow.

Then – we will be called repairers of the breach,
restorers of streets to live in.

We’ve been blessed with God’s grace through faith –
not of our own doing, but by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
We are the church – Christ’s body in the world.
We are the wounded healers God in Christ Jesus calls, equips, empowers,
and sends forth to become repairers of the breaches for everyone we meet
and each relationship we enjoy.

Let us go forth today knowing we are sent by God.
Amen.

 

Rev. Susan Carter Wiggins