Acknowledging That All Things Come From God
“Acknowledging That All Things Come From God”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
21st Sunday of Ordinary Time
November 5, 2017
Readings: Micah 3:5-12, Psalm 43
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13, 17-20
As the weeks go by, we see that our fathers have given us lessons for us to learn the ways of God and order our lives accordingly. Scriptures tell us to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. When we stop to realize the value of the life that God has given us, we are challenged to awaken to the reality that nothing exists that did not come from Him. We can’t claim anything as coming from us because everything that exists has its origins in God through Christ. We read from Scriptures that all things are from Him, through Him and to Him, yet we try to order our lives to attain success and bring praise to ourselves. We use the educational system to build up ourselves and get more credibility, honor, respect and make more money. We set these things as the most valuable things in life when in reality, not one of these will make us really successful. The only thing that will make us successful is a relationship with Christ and walking in the life He has given us.
Scriptures talk about the Pharisees and scribes taking for themselves the seat of Moses. They thought that by doing so, they would have the authority to act like God and so set a course and direction that would bring slavery and bondage to the people, instead of freedom. I mentioned last week that in the Old Testament, God gave the people the Ten Commandments, but the Pharisees expanded that to over 600 because they wanted everything to be under their control; they wanted to be the boss. This is the attitude we have in our own lives. We want people to see us as being powerful and look up to us in admiration. We will all end up in dust, though. We have nothing of ourselves that give hope except Christ. How foolish we are to entertain so many ideas that we think will make us famous and successful. Look at the commercial world today. There was a time when the big corporations were at their height but many of them are collapsing today or have already collapsed. This should make us realize that what God has given is the most valuable thing in our lives, and we should use it to bring glory and praise to Him, not to us. We human beings are very self-centered. We want people to admire us and recognize our abilities and accomplishments.
It would seem that today’s Gospel is talking to leadership, but everyone of us in the Kingdom of God is a leader. We have a responsibility to the world around us. No one is without a God-given ability that will cause great things to happen. Why did Jesus give us the parable of the mustard seed – the smallest seed that produces the tallest tree? He was speaking about us, about the humility and openness that should be seen in us because they are qualities that will enable us to accomplish great things for God. This is the opposite of what many people display today – the appearance of having the answers to everything. There’s the Internet which gives us instant information about anything at our fingertips. But they aren’t always true and accurate. In my college days, my physics professor said that some things will never happen, but now they’re here. It wasn’t because he was lying but he didn’t understand that with God all things are possible. Those that seemed most impossible are what we see and experience today. I now know that someone’s watching me, either from my phone, TV or computer. I remember a book written in 1985, “Big Brother Watching”, and we laughed at it because it’s ridiculous. Now it’s true. Every communication, whether thru email, voicemail or what ever is recorded somewhere in the world as evidence against us, or to determine where we are and what we do. One time I was driving somewhere in Manila when my phone came on and said, “There’s traffic jam ahead”. How do they know where I am? They know. But someday all of these will fail because they are not of God. God intended us to have freedom. He alone is the One to lead and guide us and give hope to us. But we have to be able to listen to Him, to be in tune with Him, know His voice and understand what He has given us.
I want to go back to what I said in the beginning because I believe that if there’s anything that must be entrenched within our being, it is that we must understand that everything comes from God and He has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness. He gave us not only life itself but also holiness and righteousness. He paid the price for this life to be the evidence of everything He has given us. Shouldn’t we then be so thankful that we would want to live it out and let it be seen? Sometimes you do things for people and bend over backwards to make sure that everything’s going right for them; then they betray you or turn their back against you and you get hurt. Yet we do this to God. He gave us life like His when He created us in His image and likeness and yet many times we say, “I can’t” to situations we find ourselves in. You never hear God saying, “I can’t”. He created us to be like Him. Are we demonstrating this? Are we showing the world what God has done for us and what our life is like because we listen to Him, follow His guidance and walk with Him? How many times have you heard me say that you’ll never find a university with a Department of Wisdom? Wisdom comes from only one source – God. He created everything. Only He knows the principles that govern everything and He alone can tell you how everything functions. It may not be the way man sees or understands it but it doesn’t matter; listen to Him. He will not fail us.
What He’s looking for in our live is our recognition and acknowledgment that everything that we are came from Him; that we own nothing; that we are just His caretakers and how we handle what He has given us reflects our dependence on Him and His wisdom. I’m so thankful that God is patient, loving and kind. He would far rather that we repent and go back to Him than that we would die. When I say die, I don’t necessarily mean physically dead. There are so many in the world today who are like those in a popular TV program – Walking Dead. They walk around as if dead because they have no life in Christ. They think they are so wise and they can handle anything, then things fall apart. If you don’t walk with God, things won’t work well. Over the past few years, abortion has become legal in many countries. They have legalized the murder of innocents – lives that God gave us to protect and bring to fulfillment. Do we look to fulfill the plans and purposes of God for our lives? Several years ago, someone told me that some people were leaving the Cathedral because I was too hard, demanding so much. I wasn’t demanding. I wanted you to know the principles of God. Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden light”. How can we say that His ways are hard for us? He makes everything work beautifully. He causes things to bring forth what we can’t do on our own. And for all that He has given us, all that He’s looking for is some recognition from us that all these things came from Him and we acknowledge it.
In Malachi 3, God is saying, “You rob Me. You don’t give Me the credit that belongs to Me. You don’t acknowledge Me as being the Source. I’m the One who gave them to you but you don’t give Me the credit”. We take the credit for ourselves. We put our diplomas on the wall so people will see how great we are. Yes, we are great fools because we rob God. Can you get away with the crime of robbery? That verse of Micah 3 says that because we don’t acknowledge God, we’re under a curse. Why do things go wrong? 1) because we’re not walking where God wants us to walk; and 2) the problems are there for us to take authority over them so that we’ll realize that when we resist the devil, he will flee from us. Don’t submit to the devil by taking the easy way out. Face the issues because God will cause the enemy to flee and you’ll come out victorious.
The Gospel in Matthew 23 talks about leadership, how that the scribes and Pharisees wanted the people to notice them so they wear big garments and sit on the high places. Whenever they would attend a banquet, they would sit at the most important seats. They were looking to bring praise upon themselves, but God says that that isn’t how He is honored. He is honored by the humble, by the servant, by the one who does the work. “The greatest among you shall be your servant.” Paul brings this out in his letter to the church at Thessalonica. He says “I want you to understand that I want to help you but I have to take care of myself so that I won’t be a burden to you. I don’t want to put you under slavery and bondage. I’m sharing with you the principles of God because I want you to be glorious. I want you to see that what I’m giving you is not to build me up but to build you and your relationship with God”. This is to be our goal in life. Whatever we do, we should do for others, not for ourselves because what we do for ourselves eventually fails. On the other hand, what we do for God and for others bring glory to us and to God. Paul said, “You are my praise and my glory”. He did his work for the people and this is what a leader must have as an attitude. Everyone of us in some capacity works as a leader and we do our best. We demand our best. If you want the best for God, you want to do more. It’s self-centeredness that prevents people from bringing out what God has given them. We don’t do things half-heartedly. We have to give our all to God because this is what Christ did for us. He left His throne in heaven and took upon flesh so He can lift us up. This should be the attitude of our lives, that in everything we do, we do for the upliftment of those around us, not their destruction. We’re not perfect; we’re still human but we should aim to do the things that will bring hope to mankind. We should adopt an attitude of humility and servanthood; not demanding but giving; not destroying but building. This is what God has done for us. We’ve turned against Him many times but He doesn’t turn against us. Can you imagine giving your life for a people then having these people turn against you and crucify you, yet you don’t get angry at them but ask God’s forgiveness for them?
The readings today tell us that God expects of us an attitude of thanksgiving. Do we pause from all the things we’re doing to thank God for what He’s done for us? When you drive and don’t figure in an accident, you thank God. Whatever your situation may be, know that God is there. Even when things go wrong, thank God because in the midst of it, God will do something good. It’s easy to get offended, but our attitude should be that it doesn’t matter what others do. What matters is what we do and our relationship with God. They may try to destroy you; it’s okay. Look at what happened to Christ when they tried to destroy Him by crucifying Him. He ended up seated at the right hand of the Father. You may get upset because I seem to be harsh with you, but I’m not being harsh. I’m just sharing what God has given to us and what we can do with what He’s given. Some people want their leader to say, “You’re blessed. God’s going to take care of all your needs. Don’t worry about anything. Do whatever you want. God will forgive you”. This may be true to a sense but there’s also the side of responsibility to demonstrate our gratitude. We’re not perfect; far from it. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need God. What He has given us has been given to make us like Him, and He’s perfect, so we have that hope that someday we can be what He intended us to be. It’s a challenge and responsibility.
These lessons on this Sunday of Ordinary Time are again confronting us, challenging us and helping us set a course in our lives to be like God. Sometimes we become suspicious of people and things. We have to stop doing this and start believing that God will do what’s right. If we’re walking right with God, we’re going to be on the better side of life. We let Him be Lord of our lives. How foolish we are to put all our efforts into creating a good “me” when God has already created us to be good. The world around us is telling us that we have to do this and that to be good, when all we need to do is listen to God. He has the wisdom and understanding. Let’s not be deceived by what others say. The most important thing in our lives is hearing God and knowing that He approves of us. When it comes to the end of my life, I want to hear God saying to me, “Well done”. I’m far from perfect; I make mistakes, but I want to do what He wants done. Let Him be the One to bring hope to us. He will not fail us. He will not forsake us. We only have a few weeks left in Ordinary Time but we have to shake it up. God knows. The church fathers knew, but we still don’t get it, so we start all over again. When we learn the lesson, we won’t have to do it again. In school they promote you to the next level if you pass the tests. In life you go from one level to another as you pass each test. We want to pass the test so we don’t have to repeat a class again. Wouldn’t it be neat if we don’t have to go through Christmas, Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Ordinary Time again because we’ve learned all these and get them deep in our hearts and live it everyday? That’s what God wants. He wants you and me to be like Him. He has given us the ability to do this so let’s work towards that goal.