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By Bishop Todd Townshend

Philippians 1: 3-6

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.  I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 

Beginning on September 20, the lectionary gives us four Sundays in a row where we hear from the letter of Paul to the Philippians. I’m glad because I’ve always really loved this letter, and today, it is encouragement for me.

As I write this, it’s late summer and we are looking forward to the cautious, gradual opening of our church buildings for worship and the other central activities of our life together. I am also thinking back to the half-year of COVID that has been.

Paul’s words remind me that his letter to the community in Philippi was written to bridge the distance between them. In those days, a letter was the next best thing to being there. Much of Paul’s ministry was by mail—out of necessity—and we are far richer for it. It has become scripture for us.

I’m also noticing that, after a greeting, Paul begins with thanksgiving. In one of the most beautiful but simple verses in the whole bible, he says to them, “I thank my God every time I remember you . . .” That is central to who we are and what we do. It is also my own sentiment every time I remember all of you. I am more grateful for the church, this Anglican church in particular, than I ever have been. We are the ones whom God has drawn together in this time and place to share in the gospel. So many of the leaders and elders of our churches have taken such good care of us over these six months, sometimes with letters, sometimes phone calls, sometimes with tangible help, sometimes electronic worship opportunities, but always in prayer. I thank my God for every one of them.

The God who has begun a good work in us will bring it to completion. There are so many opportunities in our near and distant future. I pray that the Holy Spirit will be with you through this difficult time and that we may find our hearts thankful even in the midst of it.

May the grace and peace of Christ be with you all.