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Epistle: Philippians 4:4-7 (added verses 8 and 9, 21-23)

4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about[f] these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Final Greetings and Benediction

21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The friends who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of the emperor’s household.

23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

The joy that God gives us is not just for the individual, but for the community. Rejoice together. Be God’s people together!

I added on to the assigned reading some additional words from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians at the end of his letter. At the end of his letters, there is always a personal greeting of some kind. In each of them, there is a yearning to be together once again, face to face.

We know that feeling all too well. The past 21 months have been filled with that yearning. I am sure you have had many conversations over these months with friends and family who have all expressed the desire to greet one another face to face once again. So much of who we are as the church – the body of Christ – is being in contact with each other.

Things are getting better, I agree. But I still long to preach to a congregation sitting shoulder to shoulder, masks no longer needed, singing praises to God with loud voices and freely spewing aerosols without fear. How I miss seeing us all together. I know I am not alone when I say that.

But I also will confess that I have not taken the time to reach out to those I miss. Not always.

So today, I invite you to join me in an exercise of community. As the body of Christ and individually members of it, let us build each other up by reaching out to each other in genuine love.

Take a moment and close your eyes (well, wait till I tell you what to do when you close your eyes before you actually close your eyes) and recall sitting in worship. Pick a Sunday, or a special service day like Christmas Eve, or a special service that was meaningful for you – a pre-COVID day. Consider that day, and when you close your eyes, look around in your memory and see who’s there. Who do you see? Who do you miss?

First of all, I invite you to offer a simple prayer. “Dear God, thank you for …..” If you want to add more to the prayer, this pastor is not going to stop you! Thank you God.

But don’t stop there. I challenge you today to send a text or email or (okay Boomer) pick up the phone and call or write a note and stick it in the mail, and let that person know that today you are thinking of them. And if you wish to let them know you are praying for them (not simply saying that you are praying for them but that you actually ARE praying for them), let them know that too.

God creates us to be community. We need it to survive. No wonder St. Paul always ends with this recognition.

I miss you. I thank God for you today.

Let us pray: Almighty God, we rejoice and give thanks for our brothers and sisters in Christ. May we build up one another in love. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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