Our Commonwealth Is In HeavenFr. Barnabas Powell
“What you need is an attitude of gratitude.” The trainer was teaching us new salesmen how to keep positive in the face of rejection. You see, it’s being told “no” over and over again that usually brings somebody’s sales career to an end. If you don’t know how to stay positive and focused and motivated, you won’t be a good salesperson. I quit two weeks later!
What did me in wasn’t that I couldn’t be positive. It was that I couldn’t maintain my positive outlook about the product I was suppose to sell! I didn’t believe in it strong enough to do the hard work of pressing past the rejection to keep going! That happens when you don’t hold on to the belief in the product, the idea, the person; you see where I’m going!
Look at our lesson today in Philippians 3:20-21; 4:1-3
Brethren, our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brethren, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. And I ask you also, true yokefellow, help these women, for they have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
St. Paul wants these Philippians (and us) to stick with the Faith and he really gets personal with them, even mentioning two ladies in the Church who are bickering with each other! We’ll get to that in a minute. First I want you to notice how Paul starts the passage. He starts by insisting the Philippians understand their ultimate destiny! And their destiny is not merely in this life.
He starts by referring to the believers as “brethren.” My destiny isn’t by myself. I am not saved alone, but in a community, a “commonwealth.” The modern religious notion of “me and Jesus got our own thing going” isn’t just wrong; it’s dangerous! And the danger comes to me, personally, because I need my “brethren” to be fully Christian. It’s why Orthodox insists on calling our central act of worship “Eucharist.” We who are many drink from one cup and eat from one loaf (are you proud of me for avoiding making fun of those who use “wafers” in their worship?) Big Grin! This whole emphasis on being a commonwealth is never reduced to the merely political (too small!) but insists that I take seriously the hard work of communion. It is precisely that very hard work that creates the character of christ within me!
Paul then goes on to flesh out what he means when he shares with these believers just how dear they are to him. Philippi had been a particularly difficult missionary effort for Paul. In fact, he got run out of town by the powers that be because of his missionary work. How humiliating. And yet, these Philippians not only didn’t abandon their disgraced apostle, they went on to be huge supporters of the rest of his ministry! Paul loved this church and they loved him right back. And it was that very close relationship that Paul used as a powerful example about staying faithful! You guys never abandoned me, so don’t abandon Christ when the going gets tough!
Finally makes this cosmic theology of the Church even more personal by dealing with two ladies in the Church. Euodia and Syntyche were leaders in the Church of Philippi and their disagreement threatened the very unity Paul was trying to teach these folks would keep them strong and faithful. That’s why bickering is so dangerous, it saps faithfulness and spiritual strength! Paul wants these ladies to mend their relationship because their problems were never going to stay between them. Their problem was endangering the whole Church! Paul is very hard on disunity in a local parish because he knows that this disunity strikes at the heart of a parish’s ability to life a life together of gratitude. By the way, do you have bickering in your parish? Watch as it erodes generosity, peace, and faithfulness! Very dangerous!
Today, do you get why being grateful makes you strong and faithful? Well, if it works for a person it will also work for a parish! A grateful parish is a peaceful parish. A grateful parish is a generous parish. A grateful parish is a growing parish! When we are Orthodox on Purpose we embody the reasons why we are to be grateful and faithful!
P.S. I’m grateful for you. We have a big announcement coming soon and I want you to know ahead of time how grateful to God I am for your love and support! God bless you on this Thanksgiving Day!