Joy in the Gospel
This is a sermon preview for Sunday April 16th, 2023. It is the 1st week of the Eastertide sermon series “Easter Joy: A Walk Through Philippians.”
“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
I admit it: I’m a bit of a mindless social media scroller. I don’t post much, but I’ve almost always got some platform pulled up, ready to like all the cute dog posts I can!
Admission #2: I never start scrolling with faith in mind. But maybe I should, because lately I’ve seen quite a few theologically charged posts that force me to think about God’s character and action in the world. I guess it’s been a good reminder that the “sacred” and “secular” parts of our lives aren’t quite as segregated as we often try to make them.
Just yesterday, I came across someone’s Instagram reflection. This person is a Christian, but shared how they genuinely struggled to celebrate Easter. They question on demand: “How am I honestly supposed to have joy in Christ’s resurrection when I’m still stuck in a world surrounded by death?”
It’s a fair question! And deep down, maybe it’s one you have, too. Christ is risen–yet this week there were two mass shootings in Louisville, KY this week. Christ is risen–yet there is ceaseless violence continuing in Ukraine and the Middle East. Christ is risen–yet there are countless loved ones in our very community that struggle to find affordable housing or enough food to eat. Where is Christ’s joy after the resurrection???
It’s not an easy question, and one which certainly cannot be answered satisfactorily in a blog. But it’s also not a new question.
Paul was no stranger to this tension of the Kingdom of God being “already but not yet”-meaning that Christ’s resurrection is both already victorious and yet still in the process of reviving the world. Paul was no stranger to the death and darkness in the world, yet Christ’s resurrection joy radiated from him through his preaching and writings.
The book of Philippians, in fact, is often nicknamed “the letter of joy” because of how Paul constantly points back to the contentment, confidence, and hope we experience in life when we’re abiding in Christ. From the very beginning of the book, Paul sets the record straight: he prays with joy because the Philippians’ faith in the gospel message means that Jesus Christ is continuing to do good works in their community–even good works of resurrection that they do not yet see.
Christians around the world continue to celebrate Easter for 50 days following Easter. At FBCM, we will join these Eastertide celebrations with a new series called Easter Joy, where each week we will walk through Philippians and learn where and how to see Christ’s resurrection all around us. We hope you will worship with us as Easter people who are known in the world by our unmistakable and counter-cultural joy.
What in your life or your community are you still waiting for Christ to resurrect?
Where do you see God continuing a good work in your life or in your community?
How can you follow Paul's example this week to pray with joy in this "already but not yet" Kingdom of God?