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Happy I am, all on a new day

by davesandel on May 18th, 2020

May 18, 2020               (today’s lectionary)

 

Happy I am, all on a new day

The wind blows them gently along, and we hear laughter below decks. The food is good, and the company is better. The sailors wondered how they could be so happy, since they weren’t gambling or getting drunk or fighting.

We couldn’t help smiling. Are we laughing at them or with them, we asked.

Everywhere we go with Paul and Silas, we make other people happy too. Troas (where Luke joined us), Samothrace, Neapolis … day after day another port, another prayer, more happy people. And now we have settled in Philippi, where we met Lydia, a woman born a Gentile but worshipping as a Jew, a buyer and a seller of purple fabric, who opened both her heart and her home to the travelers.

“She was baptized and her household as well.” Paul was very happy. We can really build a church here. He must be thinking big. And Luke, who will stay with Paul until the end, also learns to love this city. If not at Antioch, Philippi could even be where he grew up and went to medical school. God is opening doors for his messengers. All is well. All manner of things shall be well.

Yesterday Philip the Evangelist, a “lover of horses,” baptized Samaritans, and today Paul is baptizing Philippians. The great Greek conqueror Philip the II must be raising his dead-but-still-magisterial head, and taking notice.

We are not kings, and we are not conquerors with blood on our hands and chains in them. But we are happy!

“The Lord honors the poor with victory, with the praise of God in their mouths and a two-edged sword in their hands, to execute the judgments decreed for them.”

Would Paul have been a conscientious objector? Charles Spurgeon (along with St. Augustine) moves this metaphor along a non-violent path:

“Our weapons are not carnal, but they are mighty, and wound with both back and edge. The word of God is all edge; whichever we turn it, it strikes deadly blows at falsehood and wickedness. If we do not praise we shall grow sad in our conflict; and if we do not fight we shall become presumptuous in our song.

“At this hour, under the gentler dispensation of grace, we wrestle not with flesh and blood; yet is our warfare none the less stern, and our victory none the less sure … the powers of evil cannot bind OUR king.”

 

OUR king! He who speaks in strength to his disciples as he is about to be arrested, put in chains, covered by his own blood, and killed. He who has led his followers through three years of thick and thin, and loved them. They have laughed together, and wept. They have built up followings, and lost them, they have challenged every false prophet, every legalist, every demon. And above all, they have become like little children again. Always they have urged others to do that too. “Find your way back to innocence, and stay there. God is in charge, and magic is afoot. There is no longer any hurry. You are free to live forever. Your body no longer holds you captive.” And so on. It turns out the prophecy was wrong: “All good things come from Nazareth” is more like it.

“You have been with me from the beginning. The hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God. But they have neither known the Father nor me. And you, my friends, will remember that I told you.”

Surely we will not die, but our bodies will certainly fall away. Philip the Apostle, for example, was crucified upside down (or beheaded, take your pick) in Hierapolis. His probably grave was found in 2011.                 (Acts 16, Psalm 149, John 15)

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