Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
There’s a post that comes up periodically (and repeatedly) on social media entitled ‘Very British Problems’ which pokes gentle fun at our embarrassed approach to life, worrying unnecessarily and awkwardly about things that really don’t need to be worried about!
But another of the characteristics associated with our British mores that is valued still is politeness – a characteristic that, sadly and heartbreakingly, seems to have gone out of the window in many circumstances following the Brexit Referendum.
But politeness is far from a solely British characteristic and one that is clearly evident in all Paul’s letters, even in his one to Galatian churches where he is about to set off both barrels of criticism. He starts by writing, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ …”
But it’s about more than politeness, it is about that word that is in both this and the Galatian letter, not to mention elsewhere in bucket-loads of Paul’s writings. It is about Grace.
Approach people with grace and faithful love (characteristics that are massively evident in the works of God and in the words and actions of Jesus), and there is a more than average likelihood that they will listen, take on board what you say and act in, yes, a grace-filled and loving way. As Paul began his letter, that is what he was hoping anyway, so that the Philippians will indeed gather the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
As we begin to explore this beautiful, and beautifully written, grace-filled letter, may we gather some of that harvest too.
God of grace, love and peace,
may we learn to control our urges to interrupt,
criticise and / or take umbrage.
As we greet, initiate and share all we know of
and understand about Jesus,
may we do so with mountains
of that same grace, love and peace.
The Rev’d Peter Clark is the Minister of the Bridport & Dorchester Pastorate