Podcast

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, Rejoice.
Reflections for a Church in Lockdown

Finally my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is not troublesome to me and for you it is a safeguard.

‘Don’t you realise, Paul, how tired we are now? How much we’ve faced over the last few months? Has no-one told you about the closure of our churches, about the fear gripping the world, about the recession and the mental health crisis, about the risks of infection? Has no-one told you that we are not even able to sing? This is your message for us in the midst of a pandemic?…’

In this, the final episode of series 4, Bishop Steven explores how to live out this extraordinary command to rejoice.

Questions for discussion from Philippians 4:

  1. Read back through the letter and highlight the many different references to joy and rejoicing. What are the obstacles to joy which Paul confronts?
  2. Look back over the last four to six months of the COVID pandemic. Where have you found joy even in the midst of trials and difficulty.
  3. Write a prayer or a psalm along the lines of Habbakuk 3 describing the call to rejoice despite outward circumstances.
  4. How has the experience of lockdown changed your life and your discipleship? What lessons are you taking into the future?

Image: Shutterstock. The short music clip is taken from an exquisite live recording of ‘Ode to Joy’, here on YouTube

Finding strength from the centre
Reflections for a Church in Lockdown

We come to Chapter 3 of Philippians and Paul takes us deeper still in this lockdown journey: to the very core of his inner strength and resilience, to the convictions and the revelation which have shaped his life. He is helping us to travel back to the centre, to find strength again and to understand what gives him the power to run.

Questions for discussion from Philippians 3:

  1. What does the autumn season look like for you and how will this impact your energy and discipleship?
  2. Where have you found strength over the last few months? Where are you finding space to regroup and recharge?
  3. Paul’s relationship with Christ is at the very centre of his life and values. How can we help each other to draw such strength from the gospel?
  4. What are the spiritual dangers and temptations facing your own church community at the present time? Are there any similarities to Philippi? How can you counter them?

How to face enormous problems
Reflections for a Church in Lockdown

The more I’ve read Philippians over the last few weeks, the more I’m seeing it through the lens of anxiety. The Church in Philippi is a fearful and anxious church: a small community in a hostile and difficult place, worried for their own future, concerned for Paul, who taught them their faith and concerned for their future. Paul does everything he can in his letter to calm this anxiety, but he offers them something much more important than an answer…

Questions for discussion from Philippians 2:

  1. What are the significant choices which face your own parish and benefice around the re-opening of churches for physical worship? How likely is it that there will be conflict?
  2. Read carefully the encouragement to unity and to humility. How best can you take notice of this appeal and this lesson for your local church?
  3. This episode mentions three key questions for humanity in the next decade: the environment; equality and diversity questions and living well with technology. How will an understanding of Christ as God taking human form help to address these issues?
  4. What are the ways in which you have learned humility and seek to live your life after the pattern of Christ?