17 January 2020

Welcome to Friday’s foundation podcast. Our reading today is Philippians 2: 1-4. We’re going to focus on verse 2: Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

REFLECTION:

This week, we’ve been focusing on the encouragements Paul brings the church in Philippi through his letter. Today is our final focus area – the encouragement to learn what it is to love.

Love – If you were listening last Thursday you will know that Mick unpacked this word for us again in his podcast. Love – this core value which is right heart of the better life which Jesus comes to bring us. Do take the time to listen back to that again if you can.

Today, as we read Paul’s words to the Philippian believers the encouragement, indeed the thing that would bring him the greatest joy, is that this community learn more and more what it is to really love. Because, it’s in this way, Paul knew, that God intended to grow the church and to build his kingdom here on Earth.

The greatest command Jesus gave his disciples – that first community of followers – was this: “love one another as I have loved you”.

Love – it’s above all else what should define our church communities. Indeed, it’s the place where we learn how to love. John Wimber (the great pioneering leader of the Vineyard movement) used to say that “the church is the training place for the market place.’ Our communities are the training grounds for love. The places where we are equipped and sent out from to go and love those who don’t yet know Jesus. In another of Paul’s letters, he puts it like this….Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.

Love is a choice. It’s an action. It’s something that takes practice. And what Paul is saying here in Galatians and in his letter to the Philippians is this…practice on each other. Above all else he’s saying…learn how to love each other as Christ loved you. On Monday, Alan picks up the podcast baton and we’ll hear again a beautiful passage, a poem really which illustrates the extent to which Jesus went to – to show us that love. This sacrificial, deep, it’s not about me …love. And it’s the same love that Jesus calls us to live a life of. A life we learn how to live as we grow together in our communities.

I think about how Jo and I have experienced love in community here at STC: through food rotas when we first had newborns and life was crazy, unexpected gifts like flowers on the windowsill, a beer on the doorstep when we had a rough day, the offer of prayer and a chat when we needed guidance, the provision of finance when things were tight and even a house removal team when the big day had arrived. Our community has been the place where we have and are still being trained and encouraged to practice the way of love.

And why is Paul bringing the Philippians back to all of this? Why is he in effect saying, ‘Look if there’s one thing that should unite all of you together – its love.’ It’s because it’s the way God intends to grow his church and build his kingdom. The great commission Jesus gives us – to go and make disciples. It’s a call to go and love.

This love we experience and grow in through life in community is not just meant to stay there. God wants us to take what we have learned and practised and live it outside of our communities – in class, the staffroom, at the school gates, in a lecture theatre, on the sports field, down the pub. This love Paul talks about is a give-away love. A love that puts others’ needs before our own. It’s a compliment at work, an encouraging text to a parent who we know is struggling, an offer to help someone with a project or even a smile at a bored shop assistant.

I know I can sometimes think – ‘Man, I should be doing more’. I should be talking about Jesus more. And do you know what?  I should! I think many of us would say that. But it’s love – everyday, you-before-me, I’ve got time for you, love which opens the door so that more of God can spill out in our conversations and interactions.

As I finish, it’s important to remember also that there is great power in this love. This same love overcame the Roman Empire. It’s why Paul is so adamant to the Philippian believers – keep at it! And it’s that encouragement we now hear again ringing in our ears today. The call to be in community and the call to practice the way of love.

PRAYER:

Thank you Father that you have loved us with an unfailing love. That when we look to you Jesus we see that to love is to choose the other. Help us this day Jesus, through the power of your Spirit, to grow closer in love for those in our communities and to be equipped to go and take that same love and share it with the people you place around us. Amen.

BIBLE READING: Philippians 2:1-4

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.