Notes from Leigh McAfee's homily on Philippians 2:19-30 from Sunday, July 15:
In our booklets this section is called “The Homily.” I looked up the definition of “homily,” which the dictionary defines in a few ways. One is “a usually short sermon” another is “a commentary that follows a reading of scripture.” So that’s what this is, a usually short sermon reflecting on the scriptures.
As I reflected on Philippians 2 and this passage in particular, I admit to a bit of jealousy. The previous sections of Phil. 2 have section titles like:
Christ’s example of humility
Lights in the world
Simon spoke beautifully last week of gardening and sanctification. Good stuff.
The header for this section of scripture is:
Timothy and Epaphrodites
Not exactly as inspirational. If you’re like me, these are the parts you usually skip over.
“Names...Paul is still in prison...more names...stuff is happening…” Righteousness Through Faith in Christ (that’s the header for chapter 3, a little preview of next week) --“There’s the good stuff again!”
But at a second and more generous reading of Paul’s words to the church at Philippi, and God’s Word to us, it struck so close to a core part of who I am.
For those of you who know me well this won’t be a surprise at all. And for those of you who are just getting to know me well...it may not be a surprise either. I am deeply practical. My MO at meetings is to ask, “How are we going to get that done? Who is going to take what step, when, with what deadline, communicated to whom, and…” you get the idea.
So what I absolutely love about this passage is that it shows God and Paul’s love to this church in concrete, tangible, practical ways. Timothy and Epaphroditus aren’t an abstract concept. They are flesh and blood who will arrive, in person, soon to be genuinely concerned for the Philippians’ welfare, so that the people may rejoice at seeing them.
Psalm 46:1 says that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
But there are times when He doesn’t seem very present at all. When I am lonely, sitting in my room, with no one around, having gone a whole day without physical interaction with another human, Jesus seems really far off up in heaven. And yet, I know that on Sunday evening I will arrive at a place where I am greeted with joyous hugs and kisses. Where I am cheered by seeing your faces. Where I will pass the peace spiritually and physically. We all have need for community, and God gives us one another as a real and present manifestation of His love.
As a church, we have many real and present needs, too. I want to count just some of the ways that God has filled them. First, before Incarnation, before a South Arlington church plant, four years ago, Restoration’s vestry and staff spent much time in prayer and thought on a strategic plan that included church planning as a key goal. As we neared the end of that planning time, several of us gathered on a team to pray and dream about what that could actually, concretely look like. And then, God sent Liz, acting in obedience to His call, to this crazy idea. And then called more. So we could title our own section header by any combination of our names: Ashley and Ken, Mandy and Eric, Logan and Nora.
He provided this house for Simon and Liz, and homes for many of you in South Arlington: brick and concrete structures with running water and verified South Arlington addresses. He sent Greenbrier Baptist Church and its beautiful people who are welcoming us into their physical space. Someone has bought all our sound equipment! Izzy and Josie’s church provided a box of manipulatives, including little wooden sheep and a shepherd that children can touch to get a closer sense of who our Good Shepherd is.
When I’ve shared with people that I’m part of a church plant, people often ask, “So you’re building a church?” And I explain that planting a church isn’t about constructing a physical location. It’s about the people. And that’s what God has provided here with each other. And it’s what we pray He will provide in September -- people to be genuinely concerned for each others’ welfare (v20), seek the interest of Jesus Christ, not their own (v21), serve alongside each other in the gospel (v22), minister to each others’ needs (v25), rejoice at seeing one another (v28), and receive each other in the Lord with all joy (v29).