A long time ago, Paul wrote a letter to the Christian community at Philippi. He told these good people: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)
Remarkable words, especially since Paul was probably imprisoned when he wrote them! I wonder if Paul wrote them just as much for himself as he wrote them for the Philippians. Sometimes we may need to tell ourselves and those we love that God is near and we need not worry alone. Sometimes we may need to push ourselves to rejoice. For God is good all the time. And all the time, God is good.
Not sure where and when, but these wise words once came to me–gratitude is the art of paying attention. When we look up and look out to truly see the world around us, what do we notice? To whom and to what are we paying attention? When we look out in the greater Boston area, we regularly see miles and miles of traffic and angry drivers! When we look out in our society, we see example after example of racism, sexism and many other social injustices. How can we honestly “Rejoice in the Lord always?”
What Paul’s reminding himself, the Philippians, and us is that the peace of God is right there within our grasp, waiting to strengthen us for the struggles ahead. We can perhaps rejoice despite the obstacles in our paths because “the Lord is near.” We can let our requests be made known to God. The peace of God can “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It’s not easy, and we won’t always get there. Though we are not alone, and that’s a comfort.
In practice, we can take moments throughout the day to look up and look out. These pictures are taken from inside the church I serve–looking out onto our community outside these church walls. We can see God at work in our world. We can pay attention–feeling grateful. And we can rejoice, for God is near.
So the day after I originally posted this I went out to my car to find a man in our front yard taking pictures. We spoke briefly and he said, “Can you just imagine living in one of these houses across the street and seeing this beautiful church every day?” Thanks, God, for the reminder to look up and see the beauty all around!