As I was making a variety of home visits over the past couple days, I started thinking about how privileged I am – that you have entrusted me to serve as your representative, and our Savior’s ambassador – in all I do as pastor of STL. Thank you – for the privilege … the trust … the opportunity to do so many things in your name and in the name of Jesus. You fill my days with both purpose and pleasure.
Here are a few ways you have ministered to our Lord’s flock this week through me. Two morning visits taking communion to those who cannot easily get out of their homes. A Lenten service that had one side of the communion rail filled to overflowing by those who stayed after to receive the body and blood of their Redeemer. Communion brought to three people who lived in three different forms of assisted living. Another Lenten service with five more lingering after for the Sacrament, and a later in the day visit to a home that brought the Gospel to one who seeks direction in life.
And to this we must add a wide variety of conversations – some in person, others over the phone, many through a variety of electronic media. I heard stories of God at work in marriages, in those who grieve, and those who are in a time of transition. I spoke with people recovering from surgeries, set up additional appointments for this week and next, and put plans in place for interested individuals to be drawn closer to Christ. Yes, your ministry is touching many, and diverse, lives this week. And, now as I write this early Thursday morning, I find a text received overnight from a man whose life is filled with many challenges and disappointments.
So, once again, thank you for the privilege, the opportunity, the trust. St. Paul expresses my thoughts better than I can. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace. … And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1.3-11)
I know that is a long quote, but I am finding that, like Paul, when it comes to my appreciation of you and my prayers for you, the lists keep getting longer and longer. I go over these lists in my mind as a part of my early morning routine … starting with family (and those who are like family), then staff and leaders. From there Pandora’s box is opened to all the people connected to the first three paragraphs.
And what does God have planned for our joint ministry over the rest of this week? Well, I can tell you what I see – though you know full well he may have something completely different in mind. I see preparations for life after Easter, a half dozen visits with people going through a myriad of different life transitions, a couple other items I want to squeeze in, and some relaxing social engagements (these are important, too, you know). And then comes another week of mysteries and opportunities
So now I am wondering what you anticipate God doing directly in and through you in the days ahead. Who are the people on your prayer list? How will you be ministering to yourself and your family? In what ways will Jesus be reaching out through you to others? The possibilities are endless as to how you may be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory ad praise of God.” (Philippians 1.11)
A Psalm of Ascents puts it this way: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever, …” (Psalm 136) The psalm then adds another twenty repeats of “for his steadfast love endures forever” before closing with “Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
I always say there are three important ingredients in thankfulness. One is knowing what you are thankful for – and today, in case you missed it, I am particularly thankful for the trust, privilege, and opportunity you give me to minister the Gospel in your name. The second is knowing where to direct the thanks (who you are thanking) – and always, the bottom line is, the “God of gods, Lord of lords, the God of heaven.” And the third is expressing this thankfulness in a way that will make a difference.
My prayer is that these few words will make a difference in your life this day.“Remember,” Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4.13-15)