I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress. You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone.
For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs more than once. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit that accumulates to your account. I have been paid in full and have more than enough; I am fully satisfied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
There is a Eucharistic hymn which goes, “Strengthen for service, Lord, these hands which holy things have taken.” I thought about that hymn and the notion of strength in the Lord when I read today’s scripture from Paul’s letter to the Philippians in which he shares, ” I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” It poses the question for us, “Where does our strength come from?” Or to say it another way, “On what do we trust in this life? “
There is the secret that followers of Jesus know about strength and servanthood. I remember a story about a medical missionary in Indonesia. She ran a clinic which ministered to the indigenous people. All day long she had to unwrap infected and gangrenous wounds, clean them out, and re-wrap them. A journalist who happened to be watching her one day said, “I wouldn’t do that job for a million dollars.” “I wouldn’t do it for a million dollars either, but I would do it for him,” responded the missionary as she gestured to a picture of Jesus on the wall.
When Jesus comes near to us and we experience the grace and power of God in a numinous way in our lives, we want to spread that grace and love as broadly as possible. We want to join Jesus in his ministry of service for which he strengthens us. It is in his service that we learn the real meaning of our lives. As Palm 46 reminds us, “God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble.”
O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength; by the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.