We have just finished our Lenten series on "the wheel of life", with Christ being the "hub" of our very being to whom the various other "spokes" of our lives are connected and transformed (marriage, family, work, finances, our bodies and minds, etc). In response to that, it seemed fitting to me to then look at our life together...as a church...and how we might become better "partners" in proclaiming the Good News (Gospel) of Jesus Christ through our words and actions. I have chosen to spend the next seven weeks working through Paul's letter to the church in Philippi. Philippi (in northern Greece) is widely regarded as the first place in Europe where Paul proclaimed the Good News. And it is arguably the church that was dearest to Paul. His letter to them ("Philippians") is filled with his joy and gratitude...hardly what you'd expect from someone writing from prison...which is exactly where Paul was.
What were some of the reasons for Paul's joy and gratitude for the Philippian church? He states it right away: "...because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now." (1:5) The word "partnership" used in the English Standard Version (ESV) is translated as "fellowship" in other versions. The Greek term is "koinonia". "Fellowship" has come to mean, in some churches, simply hanging out and perhaps eating together. That fails to capture the full meaning of the term. Here's how New Testament scholar and Anglican theologian N.T. Wright puts it:
"...this letter is all about 'partnership' - one of the big, important words in Paul's vocabulary. It's sometimes translated 'fellowship', but it clearly has a practical, even financial, implication which our word 'fellowship' doesn't always carry. In fact, though it develops particular Christian meanings, including the delighted sharing of worship, prayer and mutual support and friendship which is what 'fellowship' normally means today, in Paul's world it was the normal word for a business partnership, in which all those involved would share in doing the work on the one hand and in the financial responsibilities on the other. The Philippians, then, are 'partners in the gospel'...they are in the gospel business...and their gift proves it."
How fittingly on "Income Tax Day" when we remember (some more than others) the cost (and benefits!) of living in this state and nation, that we consider the cost (and benefits!) of being citizens of the Kingdom of God, where our contributions of work and wealth are given by faith (not by law), because we believe that the Gospel, not the Government, is the hope of the nations and worthy of our 'partnership'. This week we will begin to explore this more fully. So...who's in?