But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice. – Philippians 2:17 (NRSV)
Pastor Paul is having a year. Locked up, he’s forced to communicate with the Philippians at a distance. He has loved, hugged, eaten with, baptized, and blessed these people in their time together. Now he can’t even hold the hands of the sick or dying. He has his own feelings and anxiety about what’s happening, no doubt, but he spends all his time helping the Philippians deal theologically with their own.
All this is so hard on Paul that he feels like he’s being poured out … and might just wind up getting completely emptied. He assures them he’s happy for it to happen, of course. But you have to wonder: is he truly OK with being emptied for them, or does he just think it’s his job to say so? Does he have someone he can unburden himself to? Or is his life force slowly emptying out, with no one to tell?
Do the Philippians hear the strain in their pastor’s voice, the sloshing of the half-empty vessel? When they write him back and blithely remind him to be sure he makes time for himself, will they also outline how they are going to make the space for him to do so? Will they bombard him with strongly worded opinions about how and when they ought to get back together? Or will they write with forbearance and wisdom and grace? Will they tell him that no matter how hard things are, he shouldn’t have to empty himself for them and that they will help him get filled back up? Or will they wait and see if their pastor’s good to the last drop?
O God, let the reader understand. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.