Why do we believe?
Over the years, I’ve had many friends ask me how I could believe in God. How can I believe in the bible? Why do I believe?
These are good questions that I don’t always have an answer for. I just do believe in God. I just do believe in the word of God as found in the Bible. I just Believe. I just “Stand Firm in the Lord”.
Philippians has always been one of my favorite books of the bible. I love a good Journey story to an awesome location. What a better place to visit than Macedonia. Just the name alone makes me want to pull on my hiking boots and throw my backpack on and travel to this far off place.
I have had the good fortune to be able to travel around the world. I still have many places on my bucket list, and I may never get to those, but the places I have journeyed to, I have enjoyed immensely.
I like to take my time when I travel. I don’t go with tour groups. I study an area first, and through research and sheer luck, I have often found myself traveling to one geographic location and just planting myself there for weeks if not months on end.
Paul too, would find himself, in one place or another for extended periods of time. When you visit a place like that you get to know the land and its people. You get to know what the Heart and the Soul of a culture is of a particular place.
Paul’s ministry fascinates me as do his letters to the Philippians, which he wrote near the end of his Roman imprisonment sometime around AD 61-62. Paul had ministered at Philippi during his second missionary journey, spending about three months in the city.
He did not write Philippians in response to a crisis, as he did with Galatians and Colossians. Instead, he wrote to express his appreciation and affection for the Philippian believers. Paul learned to appreciate the Spirituality of the people of Philippi and ironically, this included both strong religious men and strong religious women.
In our second reading today, Paul writes these simple words: “Stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. Stand Firm in the Lord.” Such a simple phrase, with such deep meaning.
One of my all time favorite places is Berwick Upon Tweed. I am probably partial to this walled seaside city in Northumbria is because I have family roots there. This is an area in the Border Country where the land has gone back and forth from England to Scotland too numerous times to count.
The People are warm and friendly. They are inviting and generous. And most importantly, no matter how many years between visits, they still remember me. The Yankee Lass from Washington.
One summer I joined the Northumbria Community, which is a monastic community dedicated to the obedience of God. I was blessed to be able to participate in several short pilgrimages throughout Scotland and England. I spent lots of time in the places where St. Cuthbert lived and where St. Aidan wandered about on Lindisfarne Island. It was a magical and spiritual summer and that feeling I embraced deep in my heart has managed to remain with me every day since.
I believe that this is the sort of experience Paul had when he visited and really lived in Philippi.
Paul knew that his brothers and sisters in Philippi were committed to the Lord. They were believers. They were gentle, Christian people, who simply loved and served God.
Paul reassures them in his letters that God is with them. God loves them and that God is very near them. And they just believe even if they can’t see God in the flesh. They just stand firm in the Lord.
So today, and every day, we are encouraged and reminded by Paul and all the Saints to Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say Rejoice. To Keep on doing the things that we have learned and received and heard and seen.
And to always know that the Peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in the Love and Knowledge of Christ Jesus.
May the Little but Mighty congregation of St. Marks, in Montesano, Washington be looked upon as the Philippians were of Macedonia. Standing Firm in the Lord, doing his great works of love and compassion.