Sunday I was invited to attend the first communion of my two little great nieces. Oh how gorgeous they looked in their snow white dresses! For my own granddaughter, the Bible scenes portrayed on the tall, stunning stained glass windows prompted all kinds of questions from her young mind. I have to admit that I love the sacred awe that such a house of God inspires. The last time I had been in that splendid ol’ sanctuary, built in 1848, was over 50 years ago when I was in my cousin’s wedding. That was a long aisle then for a nervous young bridesmaid and it didn’t look any shorter now. When the girls got to the altar they literally vanished from view. If it hadn’t been for the priest’s microphone the onlookers in the congregation near the back like us would have had no clue as to the proceedings.
It was a full mass I believe and truly quite lovely. Several children lined up to take part and receive the host while a lady sang, “into my heart, into my heart, come into my heart Lord Jesus…” However at the very end of the service the priest announced the name of each child as they again went to him one-by-one to receive a special gift. Naturally my ears perked up when he spoke my nieces’ names. As I said we could not see from so far in the back.
He spoke Stella’s name but immediately added, “oh you are very welcome” and I instantly realized Stella had been the only one who had said thank you. Of course I asked later at dinner if anyone else had noticed this and we all agreed we were very proud of her.
This made me think of another incident in Luke 17:11-19 where 10 men with leprosy were healed but only one went back to thank Jesus.
“15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?”
This behaviour begs the question, are we more concerned about the gift than the Giver?
Believe me, I know we humans are a needy lot. We have very real concerns that we bring to the Lord daily, not to mention our genuine emergencies. These are sincere petitions.
However, I notice a lot as I read about positioning ourselves in such a way as to gain God’s favour and his blessings. But I see a problem with this. When we focus primarily on the desired gift, do we not make our relationship with our Father more and more me focused…and less about him? Is the majority of our communication with him about what we might gain, what we need or want? Greediness springs to mind and this is not what he teaches us.
To shift into a place of favour also implies that there may be some way I can maneuver or position myself, that there is something I can do to receive God’s blessing. While I do think God asks and expects certain things from us, (Romans 6:4) I also believe he is the Master Potter. The blessings he gives us are more a matter of Grace.
His Grace is free! Ephesians 2:8-9.....but it cost Jesus his life (Romans 5:15[U1] ) As Rick Warren says, it is free but not cheap. And don’t confuse it with faith. Faith is developed and does requires action on my part to activate it. Unlike Grace, Faith is indeed up to us.
Peter had to get out of the boat in order to walk on the water.
Abraham led his son up the mountain to the altar of sacrifice.
Joshua marched around Jericho in obedience just as the Lord had instructed.
Moses raised the rod to part the sea.
Faith is very different from Grace. Faith is incumbent on us. Grace is a gift my Father gives me purely out of his love for me. Do my prayers and praise reflect that knowledge? Do I say, “Lord, use me to change the world around me”, or “Lord, please, you gotta fix this”? Do I radiate God’s love and light, or do I just come to him when I have a request?
God does have only good gifts for us and His gifts are good even when it feels like they are not as he works out what is ultimately best for us. Therefore, Faith believes he is the omniscient-all knowing, omnipotent-all powerful, and omnibenevolent-all supremely good One!
When I wonder why God said that David was a man “after his own heart” (I Samuel 13:14), I read about how David sought out God’s plan first, not his own, and how God saw inside David’s heart and mind. David was the originator of choirs and orchestras, singing, dancing and rejoicing before the Lord. These pure acts of worship and praise poured forth from a heart of profound gratitude. David put worship first born of a heart that knew who God is. He recognized the Giver above all else.
In the Giver we already have more than enough!
So now with all our endless reasons to love and worship him for what he has already done for us, do we not see it is all about the Giver, not the gifts?