By the Rt. Rev. Robert L. Fitzpatrick
Paul writes to the Church in Thessalonica with great love. These are his people and he cares for them. In the opening of Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, he celebrates a community close to his heart. He sees God in them through “works of faith and labor of love.” These are a persecuted people who as the “imitators of the Lord” are an example to others. They serve the “living and true God.”
Paul planted the Church in Thessalonica, but now God’s people in that place show him what faith means. This is the pastoral experience of many who have served congregations as priests and pastors. The people of God help the priest/pastor to see faith lived out in the world and by that have their own faith strengthened. Faith in Jesus Christ is experienced and witnessed in the everyday lives of God’s people. It is an understanding of faith planted in the local gathered community.
On the other hand, in today’s lesson from Psalm 24, God is encountered as Lord of the entire World. God is ensconced on the holy hill. Only those with “clean hands and pure hearts” can trek up the hill to the Temple to join the “King of Glory” as the holy One passes through the gates. This is a mighty God. This is the King of Glory entering the beauty of holiness.
God is known through the people and God worshiped in splendor. Both encounters with the holy are found in the Biblical witness. Like Paul, we often meet God in the touch, loving care and witness to service of a local community of faith. We also encounter God at worship in “his holy place.”
Where do you most readily encounter God? Is it in a community amidst a people who serve the living and true God, or in the wonder of worship in his holy place?
Have you known a community like that described by Paul that witnesses to a vibrant faith in Jesus Christ?
Grant, Lord Christ, that I might encounter you this day whether it be in your people gathered in faith, in the wonder of the worship of God, in a holy place, or in the silence of my prayer. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
The Rt. Rev. Robert L. Fitzpatrick is Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Hawai’I and the Episcopal Church of Micronesia