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  • Writer's pictureFr. Gustavo

"Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow"

People praising God
Praise God!

Today we gather to sing the Lord’s blessings, and to wonder at His loving embrace in the words of Psalm 9:2: “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be gland and rejoice in you. I will sing praises of your name, O Most High.”

The King of kings, God’s very own Right Hand is the One who came to serve and not to be served. He did come as a small child in humble shed. He came as the Master of Galilee, with a heart of the Good Shepherd. And, surprisingly, He came in the face of those in prison, the sick, the sidetracked, and the hungry.

As we just sung, He is the One who gently bears us and rescues even from ourselves. He is the One who is swift to bless and whose mercy is everlasting.

Thanks be to God for His Son, our Savior and Redeemer, the Lord Jesus, the Christ for all nations.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving that we just celebrated, today and using today’s lessons as my launching pad, I would like to highlight some reasons for being thankful but for which, somehow, we sometimes overlook.

First, let us offer our thanks to God for the Church.

After some preliminary remarks in his letter to the church in Ephesus, St Paul wrote, “Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you.”

As we know from the letter, the church in Ephesus was far from perfect. And yet, here St Paul offers thanks to God for them. When St Paul prays for their continuing growth in wisdom and understanding, it meant that, as we know, they needed to shape up. Yet, let me say it again, still Paul offers thanks to God for the church.

Ephesus, like most churches, got some things right and, in some areas, they missed the mark. Paraphrasing the great preacher Charles Spurgeon, “Perfection in the church ends with the arrival of its first member.”

I, for once, I need to say that I need to learn to be grateful for the church. Not only for St David’s, or the churches in our Diocese, but even for those churches that “Have not gotten it as right and nice as we have”.

Let me suggest that the only way to be grateful for the church is to keep present what Paul’s understanding of the church as the Body of Christ, and where Jesus is the Head.

And if Jesus has anything to do with it, let us be assured that sooner or later things will be alright. Jesus has not quit or abandoned his church. It is His church.

In Argentina there was a presidential election, and the current president was showing up the official residence to the president elect. And he said, “Funny – I feel like a Realtor showing up my home to the new owner.” And the President Elect said, “No. I’m just the new tenant.”

I believe that we need to remember that the church, is God's. We are just but tenants. For Jesus is the Head – never mind the current occupants. We are just the members. Or in other words, we shouldn’t be trying to wag the head, as we so often do. So, whenever we remember that the church is in God’s hands, then we can surely offer thanks to God for the church.

Second, let us offer our thanks for the opportunities to serve.

At the heart of service is the realization that in those whom we serve in their hour of need, Jesus is present in those whom we are serving. In today’s Gospel we just heard Jesus saying, “I was one of them.”

I am recalling the story of the lady who poured out perfume on our Lord’s feet. The hosts saw her as a nuisance. They rolled their eyes and said, “Go away! You do not belong here, woman.” Yet, Jesus welcomed her and accepted her act of kindness. And then He blessed her. And until today, we still recall her story.

Now, how often is that when in dealing with some people, we may kind of roll our own eyes, and wonder how come they cannot get themselves straightened up. Or how come they do not know any better.

But here is the thing. In the Gospel Jesus challenges us to find Him in the presence of the pesky homeless or those who out of nowhere knock at the door of our lives – perhaps when we already have a lot on our plates.

Jesus saw the multitudes – even those who had no idea who Jesus was and those who wouldn’t care less – as sheep of His own fold. “I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak.”

And if God goes out of His own way to seek the lost, we should too. So, as the Scripture encourages us, “Let’s not get tired of doing what is good.” (Galatians 6:9)

So, let us be thankful for the opportunity to serve, keeping our eyes open to find the Lord Jesus in those whom we may be called to serve.

Finally, let us offer our thanks to God for the opportunity to know Him better.

In 1817, Thomas Jefferson in advocating for the establishment of the UVA, wrote about the need to perceive some “important truths, that knowledge is power, that knowledge is safety, and that knowledge is happiness.”

Of course, he was half-quoting Francis Bacon and using his understanding about the need of education for the progress of the young nation. And for sure, he was not quoting Scriptures. In fact, he had his own views about the Scriptures, even to the point of writing his own version of the New Testament! But, nevertheless, he was right in his assertion.

Writing to the church in Ephesus, Paul prayed that his brothers and sisters may grow “in wisdom and understanding”.

If you recall the Old Testament, God revealed to Moses as the One who had no name, the One who couldn’t be see, and the One whose purposes where hidden.

As Paul would make it even more clear further in this letter to the Ephesians and even more so in his letter to the Colossians, now, however, the apostle offers a different perspective. In Jesus, the Man from Galilee, inhabited the fulness of God, and in knowing Him, we will come to know who God is and which his plans are. Amazing, isn’t it?

When Paul visited Athens, in his sermon Paul made a reference to a statue to the “Unknown God.” And this “Unknown God” is the One that he is announcing. He is not the God that would come in wrath to exterminate his creatures. He is the God that has come to offer loving grace and to embrace his creatures – as wayward as they may have been – back to Him.

“Having past the times of ignorance, God calls all creation to come back to Him,” Paul preached with great conviction in Athens. And for such life-changing insight, and the possibility of gaining it, we need, indeed we must be grateful.

For in knowing Jesus, and in making Him the companion of our way, the inspiration of our lives, and the friendly shoulder to cry on when the going gets tough, we will find the power of the resurrection, we will find ourselves safe in His love, and the inner joy that our souls need.

As we close this year, let us thank God from whom all blessings flow, the lover of our souls, and the fountain of life everlasting.

And now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or imagine, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Fr. Gustavo

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