Friday 19 September, 2014
Philippians 4:4-9JOY BEYOND WORDS
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.(part vs 8)
For at least fifteen terms of my schooling, the headmistress read this famous passage at the last school assembly of term. Rejoice? We certainly did, end-of-term report permitting. Did we know joy? I don’t think so; we were too young.
Joy is a deep thing, more akin to a state of being rather than just an emotion or good feeling. It has a sense of permanence and security that, even when life has gone all pear-shaped, noisy and horrid, it can still be there buried inside us and giving us hope of better things to come. St Paul has come to experience this and wants to share it.
Joy is a facet of peace, that deep peace mentioned in verse 7: ‘the peace of God which transcends all understanding’ and which can be won only by hard work, sweat and tears (Churchill). How can we too come to find the joy he alludes too? As plants grow and naturally turn towards the light, so must we keep our eyes on Jesus and the path to God, concentrating beyond ourselves and not turning our gaze inward to inspect any progress we may or may not have made. The important part comes after all the words are read and we begin to practise and live them so they become alive and real in us.
As St Benedict writes in the Prologue to The Rule, ‘through the continual practice [of monastic observance] and the life of faith, our hearts are opened wide, and the way of God’s commandments is run in a sweetness of love beyond all words’.
Prayer † So many people in the world feel no joy, O Lord. Help each of us to be able to communicate and share its secret to just one person we will meet today. Amen.
The World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) is a fellowship of 75 million Reformed Christians in 214 churches in 107 countries. Its member churches are Congregational, Presbyterian, Reformed and United churches with roots in the 16th-century Reformation led by John Calvin, John Knox and others. WARC has a small secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland.