Philippians 4:1-9 (NRSV)
Chapter 4Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. Verse 2I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Verse 3Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. Verse 4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Verse 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Verse 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Verse 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Verse 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. Verse 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.
Our last couple readings have featured lavish banquets celebrating the care and promises of God. But not every day is a party, and our rejoicing won’t always look so exciting. Nevertheless, because “the Lord is near,” that means we can “rejoice always,” even in the ups and downs of daily life.
One thing that helps is realizing that we have a lot of control over our own thoughts. There’s plenty of ugliness in the world, and we certainly won’t avoid it all. But it’s not our duty to welcome all that ugliness and give it a permanent home in our minds. In fact, St. Paul calls us to think about just the opposite: whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy.
When we know God and God’s holy word, there is no shortage of good and true and beautiful words and images for us to call upon to shake off the bad and false and ugly thoughts that cross our minds— and that’s a lovely way to live rejoicing.
God of joy, you surround us with goodness and beauty, even as we also encounter sorrow and strife. Turn our thoughts always back to you and your promises, and help us to find daily joy in your presence; through our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.