Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will result in my deliverance. It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.
Paul shares the message of Jesus Christ for the benefit of all who will hear it. He faces persecution because of it. He is imprisoned. Yet here, in today’s reading, he tells the Philippians, “Whatever happens – I live or I die – I’m going to be okay. However, if I live, all the better for you and people like you, because I can keep telling folks about Jesus” (my paraphrase). After weighing up what to hope for, Paul chooses life. What might that mean today to choose life as Paul does?
Choose life. Choose risk. Choose possibly saying the right thing, to the wrong person. Choose prison. Choose not knowing if you will be freed in this life or the next. Choose love. Choose to love God enough to give God all of your heart, soul, mind and strength. Choose to love your neighbour as yourself – no – better than yourself. Choose to love each other especially when you disagree. Choose to share the good news to anyone who will listen. Choose Christ. Choose the narrow gate, to follow the Shepherd’s voice, to be found when you stray. Choose sinners. Choose to eat with, to chat with, to laugh with, and to cry with those people the religious elite have warned you about. Choose to expect the dead to be raised to new life. Choose community. Choose inviting everyone. Choose the refugee and the migrant. Choose sharing. Choose that you might lose your shirt. Choose gaining your soul instead. Choose the Earth. Choose less plastics and petrol. Choose being a good caretaker of Earth for future generations’ sakes. Choose to follow the life-changing Messiah. Choose God’s community building project marked by “fruits of the Spirit” at work within it. Choose not to “rage against” whatever for the sake of raging. Choose an intentional life that builds God’s community. Choose life. Choose Christ.
God in the prison,
help us to choose the life-giving ways of Christ.
Help us who experience freedom to seek freedom for those held captive unjustly.
Help us to use our freedom to speak Christ’s words of grace with boldness.
For the sake of Christ and all of His body,
The Rev’d Angela Rigby, Minister, Christ Church URC Tonbridge and St Johns Hill URC Sevenoaks