All Saints Day

All_Saints_of_Trier-TrevesAfter this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes”

There has been an All Saints’ Day from at least the beginning of the 3rd century, and probably before that, from almost the beginning of the Church. The Western Church settled on the present date, November 1st, in the 9th century, where that Anglican’s have always had it.

There is much modern confusion about the meaning of the word “saint.” This confusion is due, in part, to movies about the Roman Catholic “canonization of saints,” as well as to a resurgence of interest in books about “the lives of the saints” or painted pictures of the saints such as icons.

But in reality, a saint is simply a human being, living or dead, that God has chosen for eternal life, and upon whom God has lavished his grace. We are all Saints in the making. We should find comfort in the continuous keeping of a holy day this old, as we consider our God-given hope and our call to saintliness in Christ.

We should remember with joy and thanksgiving the generations before us that answered Christ’s call and received the grace to become his saints. When we are afraid, we can ponder the fact that there is no trial or tribulation that we can face in our own lives that some Christian before us has not conquered gloriously.

As we praise God for the victory that he has given to the saints now gathered around his throne in heaven, we can imagine some future All Saints’ Day, if our Lord does not return to end the business of this world during our lifetime on earth, when our descendants will praise God in heaven for the lives we are living now, and for the victory that Christ began to give us openly on the day of our Baptism, and continues in us today, if we are faithful.

Humility about ourselves is a great virtue, but humility about God is a great sin. We may be as humble and modest about ourselves as we like. In fact, there is probably something dreadfully wrong with us if we can’t find a great deal in our lives to be humble and modest about.

As Christians, however, God is the great, beating heart of our lives. God is our life itself. It is from God that our lives have come, and it is to God that our lives are going. Christians ought to boast about God: to boast about God’s greatness and mercy; to boast about what God is doing in our lives as he restores them according to his purposes.

This kind of boasting is not only permitted by our religion, it is actually required. This kind of boasting is a witness to the Truth: to the truth of God in the Church; to the truth of God in the Scriptures; to the truth of God in the lives of the saints in heaven and in the lives of the saints on earth

And lest anyone should get the notion that Christians are swell-headed for claiming to be witnesses to God’s Truth, it is worth observing that the word for “witness” in the original Greek of the New Testament is “martyr.”

It is frankly impossible to talk about God and his saints without also talking about blood—not simply because so many that we revere as saints have witnessed unto blood to the Truth of Jesus Christ, at the cost of their lives, but because holiness and blessedness are themselves matters of blood.

The word saint is the English form of the Latin word for “holy,” which comes from the same Latin word as sacrifice. These words translate the Greek word for “holy,” used before Christians spoke either Latin or English; and it is, itself, only a translation of the Hebrew word used in the Old Testament.

What all these words have in common is that whoever or whatever is “holy” is set apart for the exclusive use of God, is consecrated to him, is God’s possession, and is meant to be as separate from the fallen and profane world around us as God is.

While it is the action of God, the Holy Ghost, that makes a person or thing holy, the outward and visible sign of this spiritual reality is blood. Sacrifice means “to make holy”; and the word blessed, used so many times in this morning’s Gospel of the Beatitudes, comes from the English word blood, as a form of the English word bloodshed, and means literally “to consecrate with blood.”

The Old Testament tells us that the blood is the life (Deut. 12:23), and that it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul (Lev. 17:11). In the New Testament, the Epistle to the Hebrews combines these facts to remind us: “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). Blood, literally “washing with blood,” is the outward sign of holiness.

“Holy” isn’t something we become through our own good works, or through anything else we can do for ourselves. Holiness is a gift from God. We are made holy by Christ, as he pours out his own Blood to cover our sinfulness and weakness.

In the vision of heaven from the Revelation of St. John with which we began, there is one thing only that unites the saved multitudes of all nations, kindreds, and peoples, and tongues before the throne of God. All in that multitude have been washed in the Blood of Jesus Christ; all have been made holy by the grace of God; all are saints in Jesus Christ.

A saint, then, is only this: a human being who belongs to God, who has been set apart from the world by the Blood of Jesus Christ, shed on a cross and received in the Holy Communion. Nobody else is a saint, and there is no other qualification. We are holy because of God’s action in our lives, or we are not.

Please today, let us remember all of the Saints in our lives.

Christ the King

This is a special Sunday, a High Holy Day. If you didn’t know about this Sunday, don’t feel too out of place. “Christ the King Sunday” or “Reign of Christ Sunday” is something that many Churches have been ignored.

How do you picture Jesus? As the Good Shepard of Ezekiel? As a friend of children? The one who stills the storm? The one who heals? The teacher? Do you often picture Jesus as the Judge?

We don’t often imagine Jesus as judge. Perhaps that’s why we don’t often name our churches “Judging Jesus Holy Church”. We think of Jesus as a good friend, as redeemer, as the one who affirms us, but rarely do we think of Jesus as judge.

Possibly we do not speak of Jesus this way because “Jesus as judge” is connected almost exclusively with today’s scripture; the Last Judgment. And the last judgment is something that many people in our time find incomprehensible or offensive. That some would find themselves cast into hell seems inconsistent with a loving God.

However this scripture passage was chosen for this Sunday primarily BECAUSE of recent generation’s hellish experience. This Sunday, “Christ the King Sunday”, was created by the Church just 60-80 years ago.

The text calls us to be, a people who are awake! Eyes open! The first commandment of Jesus is to “be not afraid.”, for if we fear others we will avoid loving them, but perhaps there is something as important. That is being able to see. That is why the Bible tells us that we are blind.

Jesus said, “Those who say they see are blind. And those who say they are blind, see.” There is a prayer, from Singapore “Forgive us Lord when we only see ourselves.” To know you are blind is to begin to see. But then how do the blind see.

Jesus’ judgement shows us the way to see. Those churches who are judged as goats and cast out of God’s kingdom are ones who don’t see Jesus in the poor and the outcast. “When did we see you suffering?” “When did we see you naked?” “When were you a criminal in prison?”

It is interesting that the sheep, the righteous ones, they also don’t see Jesus. These Churches who do good to the hungry and care for the needy, notice that they don’t say, “Amen, Jesus.

Jesus is, the truly human one who sees with love and rules with love. Not the one who sees the suffering of the world and seeks to escape to a distant Heaven. No, this Jesus brings Heaven to the Earth.

The one who rules us, if we will let him, does so not from a distance powerful throne on clouds, away from the pain and terror, but is one who rules amid the suffering on a cross shaped throne. This is the King who enters INTO hell to claim the lost and even call the sinner to share in his cross shaped mission as a beloved friend.

And, God knows that a people of the cross are so much needed in our world in where fear of terror seems to be ruling. However, fear not, and see that there is much Good News in today’s text. A final judgment is coming, and may it come soon. For Christ’s judgment will cast out fear, and war, and terror, and poverty, and inhumanity.

And because that day is surely coming, we can continue to live our lives with hope. Having children and baptizing them into the mission of Christ, sharing with them the stories and the life of faith, so they might tell others that there is indeed a leader who is worthy to give our true allegiance to.

And we may face death with hope, knowing that it is Jesus Christ who will complete the work of the Church and the mission of the Kingdom of God, and that one day, in the twinkling of an eye, we will be raised imperishable, to share in a new Heaven and a New Earth.

For we have faith in the one with the nail pierced hands and feet who walks among those who suffer, pouring out a promise made in his blood, that all of the creation will be set free from slavery to fear and death. Believe in Jesus the Christ, our Judge and our Hope!

Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

Trinity 20
Ephesians 5:15-20
(Taken from Calvin’s commentaries)

If believers must not neglect to drive away the darkness of others by their own brightness, how much less ought they to be blind as to their own conduct in life? What darkness shall conceal those on whom Christ, the Sun of righteousness, has arisen?

Placed, as it were, in a crowded theater, they ought to live under the eye of God and of angels. Let them stand in awe of these witnesses, though they may be concealed from the view of all mortals. Dismissing the metaphor of darkness and light, he enjoins them to regulate their life circumspectly as wise men, who have been educated by the Lord in the school of true wisdom. Our understanding must shew itself by taking God for our guide and instructor, to teach us his own will.”

By a consideration of the time he enforces his exhortation. The days are evil. Everything around us tends to corrupt and mislead; so that it is difficult for godly persons, who walk among so many thorns, to escape unhurt.

Such corruption having infected the age, the devil appears to have obtained tyrannical sway; so that time cannot be dedicated to God without being in some way redeemed. And what shall be the price of its redemption? To withdraw from the endless variety of allurements.

Let us be eager to recover it in every possible way, and let the numerous offenses and arduous toil, which many are in the habit of alleging as an apology for indolence, serve rather to awaken our vigilance.

He whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates in it day and night,”  (Psalm 1:2,) will triumph over every obstacle which Satan can oppose to his progress. When it comes that some wander, others fall, others strike against a rock, others go away, — but because we allow ourselves to be gradually blinded by Satan, and lose sight of the will of God, which we ought constantly to remember? And observe, that Paul defines wisdom to be, understanding what the will of the Lord is.

To psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs. These are truly pleasant and delightful fruits. The Spirit means “joy in the Holy Ghost,” (Romans 14:17;) and the exhortation, be ye filled, (Ephesians 5.18,) alludes to deep drinking, with which it is indirectly contrasted. Speaking to themselves, is speaking among themselves. Nor does he enjoin them to sing inwardly or alone; for he immediately adds, singing in your hearts; as if he had said,

Let your praises be not merely on the tongue, as hypocrites do, but from the heart.” What may be the exact difference between psalms and hymns, or between hymns and songs, it is not easy to determine, though a few remarks on this subject shall be offered on a future occasion.

The appellation spiritual, given to these songs, is strikingly appropriate; for the songs most frequently used are almost always on trifling subjects, and very far from being chaste.

Giving thanks always. He means that this is a pleasure which ought never to lose its relish; that this is an exercise of which we ought never to weary. Innumerable benefits which we receive from God yield fresh cause of joy and thanksgiving.

At the same time, he reminds believers that it will argue ungodly and disgraceful sloth, if they shall not always give thanks, — if their whole life shall not be spent in the study and exercise of praising God.

Not given the times we are in, concerning the Church (Christ’s Body) and the turmoil it is in, it is interesting that most of this Sermon came form John Calvin, written in the mid 1500’s.

As St Peter said: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.

By the waters of Babylon we sat down, and wept: when we remembered thee, O Sion.

Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. 1 Chron. xxix. 11.

9th Sunday after Trinity

Trinity IX.

The Prodigal Son, also known as the Lost Son, is one of the best known parables of Jesus. Yet it appears only in the Gospel of Luke. It is read on this Sunday as a reminder of God’s mercy, taught to us in the lesson of Lent, and the great incarnation of Easter. A refresher course, if you will.

It is the third and final member of a trilogy, following the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost Coin.

This makes up a dual plea for repentance to the audience of Publicans and sinners and a rebuttal to the listening Pharisees.

The Pharisees’ accusation to Jesus had been: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” They may have been referring obliquely to Psalm 1:1:

Blessed is the man

who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

or stand in the way of sinners

or sit in the seat of mockers.

Their reaction to Jesus associating with sinners was equivalent to the reaction of the faithful son in the parable.

In Pope John Paul’s Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy) discussing Jesus’ teachings on mercy. He puts forth the Parable of the Prodigal Son as an especially vivid illustration of God’s mercy for man. John Paul stresses the interior need of the son that brings about his need for reconciliation.

Above all, he enlarges on the reaction of the son’s father, who welcomes him with unbounded merciful love, rather than a mere insistence on justice. John Paul points out that the father’s reaction is based on more than mere sentiment, but on a deeper understanding of what his son really needs:

“Notice, the father is aware that a fundamental good has been saved: the good of his son’s humanity. Although the son has squandered the inheritance, nevertheless his humanity is saved.”

The Pope makes the point that this parable illustrates that mercy is best judged not from the mere externals, but from a deeper examination of what it does to the interior of man.

One common kontakion hymn (for the Eastern Othodox Church) of the occasion reads;

I have recklessly forgotten Your glory, O Father;

And among sinners I have scattered the riches which You gave to me.

And now I cry to You as the Prodigal:

I have sinned before You, O merciful Father;

Receive me as a penitent and make me as one of Your hired servants.

So what does all this mean to us?

If we are truly sorry, in our heart of hearts, for our sins and misgivings, we will be forgiven, no questions asked. On the spot we will be welcome into the Kingdom of Heaven, if we are truly sorry.

The penalty is our rewards will not be as great, but all of the benefits will still be there, if we are truly repentant.

AMEN!

St Michael and all Angels

Michael the ArchangelOn the Feast of Michael and all Angels, we give thanks for the many ways in which God’s loving care watches over us, both directly and indirectly, and we are reminded that the richness and variety of God’s creation far exceeds our knowledge of it.

The Holy Scriptures often speak of created intelligence other than humans who worship God in heaven and act as His messengers and agents on earth. We are not told much about them.

Jesus speaks of them as rejoicing over penitent sinners (Lk 15:10). Elsewhere, in a statement that has been variously understood (Mt 18:10), He warns against misleading a child, because their angels behold the face of God. (Acts 12:15 may refer to a related idea.)

In the Hebrew Scriptures, it is occasionally reported that someone saw a man who spoke to him with authority, and who he then realized was no mere man, but a messenger of God. Thus we have a belief in super-human rational created beings, either resembling men in appearance or taking human appearance when they are to communicate with us.

They are referred to as “messengers of God,” or simply as “messengers.” The word for a messenger in Hebrew is Malach, in Greek, Angelos, from which we get our word “angel”.

By the time of Christ, Jewish popular belief included many specifics about angels, with names for many of them. There were thought to be four archangels, named Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel.

Michael (the name means “Who is like God?”) is said to be the captain of the heavenly armies. He is mentioned in the Scriptures:

Daniel 10:13,31; 12:1 (where he is said to be the prince of the people of Israel)

Jude 9 (where he is said to have disputed with the devil about the body of Moses);

Revelation 12:7 (where he is said to have led the heavenly armies against those of the great dragon).

He is generally pictured in full armor, carrying a lance, and with his foot on the neck of a dragon. (Pictures of the Martyr George are often similar, but only Michael has wings.)

What is the value to us of remembering the Holy Angels?

Well, since they appear to excel us in both knowledge and power, they remind us that, even among created things, we humans are not the top of the heap. Since it is the common belief that demons are angels who have chosen to disobey God and to be His enemies rather than His willing servants, they remind us that the higher we are the lower we can fall.

The greater our natural gifts and talents, the greater the damage if we turn them to bad ends. The more we have been given, the more will be expected of us. And, in the picture of God sending His angels to help and defend us, we are reminded that apparently God, instead of doing good things directly, often prefers to do them through His willing servants, enabling those who have accepted His love to show their love for one another.

What Is a Seraph?

Seraphim are mentioned in the Bible in Isaiah’s vision of the heavenly throne-room (Is 6:1-7), where the Lord is seated between two seraphim. Each has six wings, and with two he covers his face, and with two he covers his feet, and with two he flies. Later writers identify these functions with poverty, chastity, and obedience.

What Is a Cherub?

Cherubim are first mentioned in the Bible in Gen 3:24, where Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden, and two cherubim are set at the gate to guard it, so that no one may enter.

The Lord be with you,

O everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the Ministries of angels and men in a wonderful order: Mercifully grant that, as thy holy angels always serve and worship thee in heaven, so by thy appointment they may help and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen

St Matthew

One day Jesus was walking and saw a tax collector named Matthew sitting at a tax collection post, and said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew stood up and followed Him, and became one of His twelve apostles.

Tax collectors in those days were social outcasts. Devout Jews avoided them because they were usually dishonest (the job carried no salary, and they were expected to make their profits by cheating the people from whom they collected taxes).

Patriotic and nationalistic Jews hated them because they were agents of the Roman government, the conquerors, and hated them with a double hatred if (like Matthew) they were Jews, because they had gone over to the enemy, had betrayed their own people for money.

Thus, throughout the Gospels, we find tax collectors (publicans) mentioned as a standard type of sinful and despised outcast. Matthew brought many of his former associates to meet Jesus, and social outcasts in general were shown that the love of Jesus extended even to them.

The identity of Matthew the Evangelist is complex for a number of reasons. The gospel to bear the name “Matthew” was written anonymously, with tradition ascribing authorship to Matthew at a later date.

Both the style of Greek used and the means of describing events lead some to conclude that the author of the gospel was not a companion of the historic Jesus. Some use the designation “Matthew the Evangelist” to refer to the anonymous gospel author, and “Matthew the Apostle” to refer to the Biblical figure described. Christian tradition holds that they are the same person.

St. Matthew, one of the twelve Apostles, is the author of the first Gospel. This has been the constant tradition of the Church and is confirmed by the Gospel itself. He was the son of Alpheus and was called to be an Apostle while sitting in the tax collectors place at Capernaum.

His apostolic activity was at first restricted to the communities of Palestine. Nothing definite is known about his later life. There is a tradition that points to Ethiopia as his field of labor; other traditions mention of Parthia and Persia. It is uncertain whether he died a natural death or received the crown of martyrdom.

St. Matthew’s Gospel was written to fill a sorely-felt want for his fellow countrymen, both believers and unbelievers. For the former, it served as a token of his regard and as an encouragement in the trial to come, especially the danger of falling back to Judaism; for the latter, it was designed to convince them that the Messiah had come in the person of Jesus, our Lord.

Writing for his countrymen of Palestine, St. Matthew composed his Gospel in his native Aramaic, the “Hebrew tongue” mentioned in the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Soon afterward, about the time of the persecution of Herod Agrippa I in 42 AD, he took his departure for other lands.

Another tradition places the composition of his Gospel either between the time of this departure and the Council of Jerusalem, i.e., between 42 AD and 50 AD or even later.

Definitely, however, the Gospel, depicting the Holy City with its altar and temple as still existing, and without any reference to the fulfillment of our Lord’s prophecy, shows that it was written before the destruction of the city by the Romans in 70 AD, and this internal evidence confirms the early traditions.

Matthew, the son of Alpheus (Mark 2:14) was a Galilean, although Eusebius informs us that he was a Syrian. As tax-gatherer at Capharnaum, he collected custom duties for Herod Antipas, and, although a Jew, was despised by the Pharisees, who hated all publicans.

When summoned by Jesus, Matthew arose and followed Him and tendered Him a feast in his house, where tax-gatherers and sinners sat at table with Christ and His disciples. This drew forth a protest from the Pharisees whom Jesus rebuked in these consoling words: “I came not to call the just, but the sinners”.

Of Matthew’s subsequent career we have only inaccurate or legendary data. St. Irenæus tells us that Matthew preached the Gospel among the Hebrews, St. Clement of Alexandria claiming that he did this for fifteen years, and Eusebius maintains that, before going into other countries, he gave them his Gospel in the mother tongue.

Ancient writers are not as one as to the countries evangelized by Matthew, but almost all mention Ethiopia to the south of the Caspian Sea (not Ethiopia in Africa), and some Persia and the kingdom of the Parthians, Macedonia, and Syria.

Matthew was assumed to be the youngest of the apostles, as evident by his quick and succinct style of writing. He gave up everything he knew, and had to follow our Lord and spread his word.St Matthew

This is a model that we must all have, and live by. Amen

Trinity XV

No man can serve two masters

Serving God And Mammon

Jesus pointed out that no man can serve two different masters. “Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” He then completes the thought by adding, “You cannot serve both God and Mammon” (Matthew 6:24).

Here Jesus sets before us two masters who desire our allegiance and obedience. The identity of God is simple and straightforward, but who is “Mammon”? This word is translated as “Money, or Riches” but that may be an over-simplification of the “god” that competes with the Almighty Jehovah for our affections.

Matthew Henry explains Mammon this way: “Mammon is a Syriac word that signifies gain; so that whatever in this world is, or is accounted by us to be, gain (Philippians 3:7) is mammon. Whatever is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life is mammon. Self, the unity in which the world’s trinity centres – sensual, secular self – is the mammon which cannot be served in conjunction with God.”

This shows that Mammon is the spiritual embodiment of all that we pursue in this life that caters to our creature comforts and sets itself up against God. Paul also says in his letter to the Ephesians, “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure, or greedy person – such a man is an idolater – has not any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (5:5).

Devotion to God, and the pursuit of His kingdom, will constantly lift our eyes and desires toward heavenly things. The practical worship of Mammon, and all that it embodies, constantly drags our thoughts and motives down into this fallen, earthly sphere.

As Paul shows, this will lead us into a life of immorality, impurity, and greed. Such a way of life cannot be joined to following the glorified Christ in a life of discipleship.

Since Money and the possession of it is the way to attaining all the greatest and latest “creature comforts,” mankind is driven by the desire for economic success like never before. Practice in politics, education, much religious activity, and more is now assessed and determined by economic considerations and possibilities.

This has filtered into the events of everyday life and has invaded our thinking on practically every level of existence. When this becomes an obsession and the goal, if you will, we are not working for God, but against him.

The Bible indicates that this obsession with financial gain will be the dominant mark of the antichrist and his attempt at global supremacy. He will use his economic and technological power to extort obedience from the nations (Revelation 13:15-17).

His great city, will be the most productive financial centre the world has ever known – buying and selling everything imaginable, even the bodies and souls of men (Revelation 18:11-13). As the “state of the market” becomes the chief consideration in many decisions and actions, the world moves ever closer to this final stage of Satan’s attempt to control global affairs.

As this condition of greed grows and intensifies, moral principles and God’s laws are easily cast aside as men willingly sacrifice individual souls and lives, and the welfare of nations, on the altar of Mammon, their god.

It is no wonder that “the voice from heaven” calls out to the people of God, saying: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes” (Revelation 18:4-5).

The situation referred to in Revelation may require a literal physical removal from the city and empire of Babylon at that future time, but today we are called, just as urgently, to be separate in spirit from the world and whatever is driving it toward the idolatry that will climax in opposition to God and all that is associated with Him.

Trinity XIV

022And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.” Luke 17:17,18

Ten Lepers met Jesus one day as He journeyed south to Jerusalem. All sought His mercy and were given the same instruction: “Go show yourselves unto the priests.” As they obeyed His word, all were cleansed. Yet only one, a Samaritan, returned to give thanks to Jesus.

The failure of the nine to do so brought the above remarks recorded by Luke. What of the other nine? Were they grateful for their healing? Or did their joy in the gift cause them to quickly forget the giver? Yes, it is possible even for those who have received so much, to take God’s favors for granted.

Thankfulness and genuine gratitude, is considered a mark of maturity and sophistication among all honorable people. But even then, it remains only a gesture unless it comes from the heart in real appreciation of the goodness of the giver. The one leper, when he realized that he had been healed, deliberately turned back to where Jesus was. Heedless of all about him, he praised God with a loud voice. Falling on his face at Jesus’ feet, and thanked Him publicly.

There is lesson of thankfulness here for all people. It is not surprising to find numerous scriptural injunctions to Christian thanksgiving — for all things, at all times, in all circumstances. Indeed, the Christian life is to be one of thankfulness, for “what has thou that thou didst not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7) The words in Psalm 107 are relevant to every believer in Christ Jesus:

Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men. Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing.” The Psalmist associates the qualities of praise, sacrifice and witness to others with the discharge of the debt of gratitude.

The writings of the apostles make it clear that the giving of thanks is an essential accompaniment to all other aspects of Christian living. But first of all, there must be a heart of gratitude within, a full recognition of the bountiful grace of our Heavenly Father and an appreciation of all His gifts.

We read in James 1:17 that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” What, then, of His “unspeakable gift”? How can we adequately thank God for His so great love in the gift of His dearly beloved and only-begotten Son? Surely we can offer nothing less than lives of thankfulness in every part.

But is it possible to maintain a spirit of gratitude to God always and in every situation? While it is certainly not in our fallen and imperfect human nature to do so, the Christian perspective should be a different one from that of the world. One of the great axioms of our faith is presented in Rom. 8:28: “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.

It is God’s will that we show forth His praises in lives of inner peace, ready for all His perfect will. Let us be truly thankful for all that He has done for us in Christ — for rich blessings already received, and for the even richer blessings still to come.

Consider that perfect example of thankfulness in our loving Savior. He through whom and for whom all things were created, and in whom all things consisted, always gave thanks to the Father for the daily fare He shared with the disciples. He gave thanks for those whom the Father had given to receive of His word (Matt. 11:25, John 17:6), and for answered prayer. — John 11:41,42

Each one of us has much for which to be thankful. And all His exceeding great and precious promises are yea and amen in Christ Jesus. They are certain of fulfillment because of the faithfulness of our dear Lord and Savior. How can we be other than a thankful people when we remain mindful of the riches of His grace toward us already experienced! Each prayer should be first an offering of praise and thanks as it says in Psalm 100 -

Of course our expressions of thankfulness should not be limited to our loving Father. Let us never take for granted and let pass un-noted the generosity and kindness of others; it is good to be grateful for all such loving assistance. And it is important that we let them know of our appreciation. Our quiet sincere expression to benefactors may be to them a needed tonic of encouragement along the narrow way. And our spirit of gratitude will be a factor in that character development which God desires in us.

May our lives be lives of thankfulness and praise in every part: first to our Heavenly Father for all the riches of His grace; to His dear Son, our Savior, who loved us and gave Himself for us; and towards all whose love and kindness enrich our lives.

St Augustine of Hippo

Collect

Oh Lord God, who art the light of the minds that know thee, the life of the souls that love thee, and the strenghth of the hearts that serve thee: Help us after the example of they servant St Augustine, so to know thee that we may truly love thee, so to love thee that we may fully serve thee, whom to serve is perfect freedom; Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

St Augustine of Hippo was the heart of early Christian theology, and the ‘modern’ father of the Church.

In the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, he is a saint, a pre-eminent Doctor of the Church, and the patron of the Augustinians. His memorial is celebrated on 28 August, the day of his death. He is the patron saint of brewers, printers, theologians, the alleviation of sore eyes, and a number of cities and dioceses. Many Protestants, especially Calvinists, consider him to be one of the theological fathers of the Protestant Reformation due to his teachings on salvation and divine grace.

We give thanks to God this day for his contributions to the Church.

Food for thought….

The author of the New Testament “Letter to the Hebrews,” was apparently writing at a time, like ours, when there was great disagreement, both within the church and the wider culture, about the character and identity of the man called Jesus, attempted to clear things up when he wrote: “Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, today and forever.”

The apostle Paul poured out his life to present the Christian message. He traveled from country to country, braving storm and death, trying the keep divided churches together, but no sooner had he squelched one controversy than another sprang up in its place.

New teachers and prophets appeared everywhere. There were factions and splinter groups everywhere. From the outset, church leaders saw the need for organization, for this new religion was literally bursting at the seams.

By mid-second century Alexandrian exegetes had placed Hebrews among the letters of Paul, though they recognized that it was so different in language and style from that of Paul that some special account of Hebrews authorship was required.

Thus it was thought that Luke might have translated the letter for Paul into Hebrew, this was proven wrong, as the translation could not have been from Greek. In any case, Hebrews 2:3-4 suggests that the author comes form a generation after the apostles.