Loving God, give us grateful hearts for all your goodness, and steadfast wills to use your bounty well, Amen
I once knew an Anglican priest who loved to use Easter hymns at different times of the year, and not just during the Easter season. The idea he was trying to convey was that every Sunday is a resurrection Sunday and so resurrection hymns are always appropriate. He had a point but it has never encouraged me to try this out on you.
To take that idea a little further, perhaps we should use Thanksgiving hymns (or Harvest Thanksgiving if you prefer) more often than just on the second Sunday of October. For if every Sunday is a resurrection Sunday isn’t it the case that every Sunday is a Thanksgiving Sunday as there are always a myriad of things to give thanks for to God. In a sense there is never enough thanks and we should practice the art of giving thanks. The thing is when we do we will never be disappointed, particularly if we do not automatically expect thanks in return.
The Israelite people have always taken seriously the idea of the sanctity of the land, which stems in part from the first reading we heard this morning. This is one of the quintessential stewardship readings; for it reminds that whatever we have is given to us by God, and it is right and proper that give a portion of the fruits of our labour back to God in thanksgiving. As the passage suggests, this should never be what is left over, but the ‘first fruits’ of the provision that God provides. So in terms of stewardship we offer to God of our financial resources, our time and our skills and experience to further God’s work through the Church. This Church exists and thrives, as I never tire of mentioning, because of the sacrificial generosity of the congregation. Without your giving, your service, your time and energy this church would be a shadow of itself.
Last Sunday, we heard about how important Rosary is to the woman and men of the Chaldean tradition who come here three times a week to pray for the world, the Church, their families and those who are sick and suffering. This morning we heard from Doni about how the Pastoral Care group and the Outreach groups work to support those inside as well as outside our community. In the coming weeks we will hear about the running of our Church (the Administration) as well as the trials and tribulations of seeking to build a new Church. Each and every one of these topics relate to the heart of the mission and ministry of our Church of the Epiphany, and how it develops and grows because of the time and energy people put into this house of prayer.
Today’s second reading is also closely related to the idea I was sharing earlier as suggested by the opening words: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always’. It is a hymn of praise that inspires us to live life to the fullest and to concentrate on all that is honourable, just, pure, pleasing and commendable. Yes we can easily look at the world and see terrible things happening, or we can try and look for all that is good, like the beauty of creation, the love and support of our families and/or our friends, the care that God has for each one of us, often manifest in the support and concern other members of this Church offer to us.
And where does all this lead us: well to Jesus Christ (as the gospel reminds us) who reminds us that he (though God) is the bread of life; he is what we need for sustenance, to feed us and to quench our thirst through the challenges and joys of life.
On October 4 (this past Monday) the Church keeps the feast day of St Francis of Assisi. This week I came across this quotation from Brother Geoffrey Tristan, SSJE, who says this about Francis which also speaks to our celebration today:
Open your eyes and look around you, just where you live ... But look at it again as Francis would see it. Francis was continually overwhelmed by the beauty of the world; and not just trees and flowers, but also the wounded, the broken, and the sad. He saw them all as transfigured by God’s love. He had a vivid sense of the sacramentality of all of creation. All things reflected their creator’s love and filled him with wonder and joy. So maybe ask God to renew your vision, to see the ordinary and familiar as ‘charged with the grandeur of God.’