This morning we begin a new series on the book of Ruth. This book takes place during the summer and is traditionally read during the Jewish season of Shavuot, which Christians celebrate as Pentecost. Let's set the stage. I'd like you to imagine a small country where the rule of law is weak, and strong men prey on weak women and children. Security is found in networks of extended family who try to care for one another as best they can. The people survive mainly on what they can grow and earn from day to day. And then an even greater disaster: a famine.
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This is our final week in the letter from Paul to the church at Philippi. Last week we talked about how God invites us to be motivated by love and not by fear. We are called to follow the example of Jesus who modeled God's righteousness, extending love to all. As we wrap up this letter, we will consider what our life together looks like when put together all these themes of joy, gratitude, unity, humble love, and God's righteousness.
This morning's passage is from a letter from the apostle Paul to the Christians gathered in the city of Philippi. For several weeks we have been exploring the themes of this letter: joy, gratitude, unity, humble love, righteousness. This morning is part two of the Scripture we looked at together last week. If you missed it, that's OK. We're going to read the whole passage with last week's verses to hear the progression of Paul's thoughts. As this letter builds in logic and intensity, these Scriptures are the high point.
This morning we continue with our series studying the letter from the apostle Paul to the Christians gathered in the city of Philippi. As I have mentioned, this was not a church comprised of Jewish Christians, but of non-Jewish or Gentile Christians, people who did not grow up following Jewish laws. Ironically, Paul is in prison but he's writing to encourage them! In this letter he encourages them to choose joy regardless of their circumstances. He invites them to transcend their differences by being like-minded in their commitment to Jesus as Lord.
Our guest preacher today is Reverend Gwen Thomas, an avowed Liberation Theologian and Womanist. She is ordained by the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries and licensed in United Church of Christ. Gwen serves as an associate minister at Rehoboth Fellowship Atlanta UCC. At Rehoboth, Gwen is a part of the Worship Planning Team. She also facilitates leadership development training. Additionally, Gwen is the former Conference Moderator and ONA (Open and Affirming) consultant for the Southeast Conference of the United Church of Christ.
This morning we're taking a quick break from our series on Philippians to explore the passage that goes with today's celebration of Pentecost. We're heading back to the book of Acts where we spent a few weeks considering how we can be the church in the world now. All of those great stories that we heard a few weeks ago were sparked by the story we are going to hear this morning. It's the story of when the followers of Jesus are filled with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.
We continue this week with a series on the apostle Paul's letter to the church in the very Roman city of Philippi. We think this church was mostly made of Gentile converts because this letter really doesn't contain any Jewish imagery or Old Testament references. This is a letter of consolation, written to help the church learn how to have joy in all circumstances. Last week we talked about how the healthiest practice of our faith is a practice of interdependence.
This week we begin a six week series on the short book of Philippians. Sometime in the next week, I encourage you to sit down and read this book for yourselves as a refresher, and then bring your Bibles with you on Sunday morning. This is a letter written by the traveling evangelist Paul to the Christians in the city of Philippi. If you remember from a few weeks ago that church was founded by a woman named Lydia who heard Paul and his companion Silas sharing the good news of God's love.
BIG IDEA: When we live as part of the Body of Christ, there is no difference between our worship and our service. While our worship may feel deeply personal and meaningful, what I believe the text is suggesting to us this morning is that our service can be equally as life-giving as our worship.