Thursday, 16 April 2020

On How God Provides

The below is an excerpt from an email written for the congregation where I am one of the pastors.

We know that God can provide miraculously. He’s done it on several occasions: manna in the wilderness, oil in a jar that doesn’t run out, small amounts of bread and fish which feed thousands...

Amazingly, though, in the normal scheme of things, he chooses to provide through a combination of the turn of the seasons, the rhythm of sowing and reaping, and a lot of hard work. It’s just as miraculous in its own way.

So, we pray ‘Give us today our daily bread’ (Matthew 6:11), but we don’t expect the bread suddenly to appear in the bread bin. (If it does in your household, please let us know!) God is still the ultimate giver of the bread, of course, but he provides it through a combination of farmers, bakers, truck drivers, and shop keepers. There’s a similarly long line of people between the rain that falls in the reservoirs and the fresh, clean water that comes out of our taps. No bread or water comes to our tables without the work, time, skills, and gifts of people who work on our behalf.

The 16th-century reformer Martin Luther recognised this, insisting that the farmer shoveling manure and the maid milking cows please God through their work as much as the pastor preaching or praying. As Luther made clear, ‘God is milking the cows through the vocation of the milkmaid’. He knew that so-called ‘ordinary’ men and women are agents of God’s providential care in the world. Our work – your work – is one of the ways God himself works in the world.

In these recent weeks, this has been pressed home to us with even more force.

If ever there was a time we needed dedicated doctors, paramedics, nurses, healthcare workers, microbiologists, economists, government leaders – and many others like them – it is now. They deserve our respect and admiration as well as our prayers at this time. But it’s also a time when the significance of the apparently more ‘mundane’ jobs has come to the fore – the people who stock the shelves and serve us in shops, the people who deliver our post, the people who empty our wheelie bins. God uses them all, working through them to bring about his own good purposes for society.

For us, too, whatever we find ourselves doing in this season, God continues to work through us to benefit other people – as husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, grandparents, friends, neighbours, and colleagues. Through us, in spite of the current situation and however we might feel about it, God is at work each and every day.

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