Little clown, my heart Spangled again and lopsided, Handstands and Peking pirouettes, Backflips snapping open like A carpenter’s hinged ruler,
Little gimp-footed hurray, Paper parasol of pleasures, Fleshly undertongue of sorrows, Sweet potato plant of my addictions,
Acapulco cliff-diver corazón, Fine as an obsidian dagger, Alley-oop and here we go Into the froth, my life, Into the flames!
Paul’s letter to the Philippians is a gem. From the very beginning, it is evident that Paul and the community of faith at Philippi share a mutual affection not present in other Pauline epistles. In today's reading, Paul gushes about his love and joy for this community, almost to the point of embarrassment. Previously, Paul had spent significant time in the Macedonian city of Philippi as he traveled the Via Egnatia across Greece. There, he and his companions were well received and supported. Over time, Philippi even served as a “home-base” for Paul’s missionary work in the region. This time clearly left a lasting impression on Paul, and it’s clear that he misses the Philippians. The letter focuses on thanksgiving, shared joy, and an appeal to continued righteousness and unity. Paul also wishes to alleviate the concerns the Philippians have for his wellbeing, as he is now in prison.
Maintaining connections through written correspondence was a vital part of Paul’s ministry. Paul and the communities he shepherded wrote back and forth often. Unfortunately, we only have Paul’s side of these connections, but there are many. By his hand, or by an amanuensis, he is responsible for as many as 14 New Testament’s books in the Bible. Today, biblical scholars see books like 2 Corinthians and 2 Thessalonians as collections of letters. Still, Paul has other letters that we know have been lost to history.
Many of us are learning new ways to connect. My children use Zoom to meet virtually with their classes, WhatsApp to talk with their cousins and Facetime to have their evening story read by grandpa. We use GoToMeeting at UCH to host community check-Ins and will celebrate Palm Sunday this Sunday using the same platform. I tend to be a Luddite with technology, but I am calling folks more, texting more, and emailing more.
We are still community but in different ways these days. The affection of Paul’s letter demonstrates a closeness that cannot be disrupted by long distances apart. Paul’s friends in Philippi make him happy, and he shares his feelings in words.
Who could use words of joy and a reminder of our deep and joyful connection today? Take some time to reach out to someone that makes you happy and let them know it.