May 12th was Emery’s birthday. He is 13, a newly-minted teenager.

This is a special day for us, in part because we weren’t always sure that he would survive and be able to celebrate it. Emery has Down Syndrome, and one of the typical characteristics of DS is a short life span.

Coupled with that was the fact that he was born six weeks early and weighed just under four-and-one-half pounds.

So we’re grateful. 

And we sang Happy Birthday to Emery with an extra splash of gratitude.

Several years ago a Christian named Paul was put under house arrest for his faith.

With nothing to do and nowhere to go he decided to keep himself busy by writing a handful of letters to some churches and believers that he knew.

These are special letters, in part because there is no good reason they should have ever survived.

The letters were penned during a time and in an area ruled by an emperor named Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus. You probably know him better as Nero.

Yes, the Roman emperor who murdered his own mother, and killed his first and second wives. The guy known for feeding Christians to lions and lighting his garden parties with burning carcasses of Christian human torches.

That’s actually where we get the name for the popular handheld firework, the Roman Candle. At least it isn’t where we get Birthday Candles from!

The Apostle Paul came to Rome, not as someone free to go about his ministry, but as an apostle in chains whose activities were limited because he was being held under house arrest.

In the year A.D. 62, four men left Rome bound for the area we now call Turkey. Each of these men carried a letter written by Paul to their particular church.

Nobody comprehended the significance of these writings by an unknown prisoner.

These four letters are commonly referred to as the Prison Epistles, because Paul wrote them while imprisoned in Rome. We know them best as four books of the New Testament in the Bible: Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon.

Found in one of these letters we find these instructions:

Encourage each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord. Always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:19-20 ERV

Where is Paul’s focus? Not on his imprisonment, but on other Christians who need encouragement. On our own hearts. On being grateful to God.

Today, sing with an extra splash of gratitude. Sing a song to the Lord. Whether out loud or quietly in your heart.

And give thanks for everything—everything—to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

That’s worship.

–Pastor Steve.