I Thank God Every Time I Remember You
The lectionary text comes to us today from Philippians chapter 1:3-6--a passage that is included in the greeting portion of Paul's letter to the church at Philippi. This part struck me this morning:
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.I've had occasion to preach from this passage on more than one occasion during the twenty-odd years I've been pursuing this odd and wondrous calling to pastoral ministry.
But now this passage takes on all new meaning for me, especially in light of our current situation.
In this passage the Apostle Paul is reflecting on the time he spent with the church he founded in the city of Philippi. Paul is imprisoned as he writes this letter, and eventually will be taken to Rome where he would later be tried and executed by the Emperor Nero.
In this verse you can feel the longing that Paul has to see his people. He finds himself wondering if he will ever be with them again, and he begins to reminisce a bit as he greets them.
"I thank my God every time I remember you..."
Our current crisis has necessitated our isolation---some of us more than others. Every single one of us has people in our lives that we wish we could be with in person right now.
We long to be able to share a bagel and coffee with our co-workers before the morning meetings that we used to dread.
There's that group of friends we get together with once in a blue moon for a glass of wine and some good cheese. And we wish we could gather with them right now.
Or the neighbors we would be spending the weekend with, grilling, swimming in the pool, just having face-to-face conversation while the kids played and splashed.
For some of us it's the longing we feel over not being able to touch a newborn grandchild.
Or say goodbye to a loved one who is passing away.
As we remember the people in our lives that we miss being with during this time of social distancing, self-quarantine and shelter-in-place orders, it is right and good for us to offer thanks for them.
It's also good for us to trust them to God's care in the knowledge that God loves them far more, cares for them far more than we could ever care for them.
But what I pray will come of all of this is a newfound joy in the simple acts of being together. My prayer is that when we finally come through the other side of this we will learn not to take one another for granted.
There is good work happening here among us if we are open enough to receive it. Christ has begun a good work, and will see it through to completion if we are brave enough to keep stumbling after him.
May you find hope in this today, and may you find ways to reach out to your friends, your co-workers, your loved ones... and let them know how much you miss being with them...
And what joy it will be when you are able to be together face to face.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.