Paul helped found the church at Philippi in Greece, during his journeys as a missionary. The people of Philippi had no synagogue, but met together for prayer out by the river bank. Many were baptized by Paul and when he left Philippi there was a congregation that would live and grow. Paul wrote to them when he was a prisoner. This letter was Paul's farewell message to the church which perhaps above all others was dearest to his heart. He was not sad, but joyful. He will depart and be with Christ. He wrote about what Christ had meant to him and can mean to all who try to follow him. "I can do all things in him who strengthens me" and because the Christians in Philippi can have that same trust he says to them, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice".
The people in Philippi could not concentrate. Paul is in prison. What about our church? What will happen to our fellowship? What about us? Paul led us to Jesus. How can we manage without him? He was our founder, our teacher, our pastor and he is behind bars. Will we see him again? What will happen to our church with no Paul to guide us?
The church at Philippi felt like many of us when we became empty-nesters. There is a gap in the congregation and in many hearts and minds whenever the pastor leaves. Why is our beloved minister gone. How are we going to manage? What is going to happen to our church? Will our church go down the tubes? Will people stop coming to our worship or bible study?
Then, Paul wrote to the church. Get your mind off me. I'm not the center of the church. I'm doing fine. I'm ready to live or die. If I die I'll be with the Lord. And I'm ready for that. If I live God may have some other work for me to do. Stop your fretting. Your church is not about me. The church is about Jesus Christ. I may be away from you, but Jesus Christ is not. He is present in your midst and He is the Lord of the church.
Christ was in the midst of the first Christian church in Philippi in the year 50 A.D. and He is still in the midst of the Watkins Glen Presbyterian Church in 2015. As long as two or three meet in His name in this place, He is in your midst. Last week, this week, and next week when you gather it is in His name.
Paul challenged the church at Philippi. Don't drift off because I'm not with you. Stick together. Be forever in prayer, in worship, in witness, in caring. This church is the body of Christ in Watkins Glen.
You need one another.
This community needs you.
The broken world needs you.
God has put you here for a reason.
He needs and wants you here.Hear the good news!
- Karen Rhodes, Clerk of Session