The first reading reveals the heart of a pastor. The apostle Paul writes to brothers and sisters who know Jesus because of his ministry. He begins his letter by referring to himself and his co-worker, Timothy, as “slaves of Christ Jesus.” Then he pours out his love for them. He blesses them. He gives thanks for them. He joyfully prays for them. He refers to them as partners in his ministry which is to defend and confirm the Good News of Jesus Christ. Perhaps the most powerful thing he does in his letter is to reveal his total and absolute confidence in them. I remember the day that my local pastor pulled me off to the side and told me that he had great confidence in me, that God had given me gifts that I needed to use for his glory, and that he saw me one day as a devoted, faithful, and able teacher of the faith. I was 18 years old then but even forty years later it still seems like just yesterday. Paul assures the Philippians that God is at work in them, God knows how to finish the job, and that he has every confidence that they will be pure and blameless on that great Day. May all that we ever say and do be for the glory and praise of God through Jesus Christ.
The psalmist sees God the same way. God’s works are great. He has won renown for his wondrous deeds. He has revealed the power of his works to his people. And what are those powerful works, those wondrous deeds, those actions of God that are “exquisite in all their delights”? God’s justice, his grace and mercy, his gifts to his people – those are the works of God that endure forever. We may forget our commitment to God but “he will be forever mindful of his covenant.” Yes, indeed, “How great are the works of the Lord!” Exactly how does one respond to a God like this? “I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart in the company and assembly of the just.”
One might think that the followers of such a gracious and merciful God would do likewise but, alas, it has not always been so. There were those in the days of Jesus who were so concerned about keeping the law not to violate the sabbath that they totally forgot that the sabbath was for the good of God’s people. Jesus saw a man who suffered. He demonstrated the grace and mercy of God to him. Yet, it irritated him that there were those who thought it was wrong to cure someone on the sabbath. They were not just wrong; they were hypocrites for they certainly would help their children or even their farm animals if one of them needed help on the sabbath.
Paul loved the brothers and sisters at Philippi. Jesus loved the suffering in his midst. They reflected in their lives the grace and mercy of a God who works for his people. They had great confidence in God. Do we have the same confidence? Do we believe that, in the midst of financial and economic crises, God is at work within us, is faithful to his covenant, and knows how to finish his work and bring us pure and blameless into his presence for all eternity?
Banks and financial institutions fold. Governments fail. Kingdoms are shaken. The glitter and glamour of the world turns to dust. Yet, how great are the works of the Lord! His justice endures forever.
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