As occasionally happens in life, sometimes we are so conscious of how much God has done for us that we can’t help but be grateful. To have been created; to have the chance to inhabit the universe; to live in a world full of oceans, mountains and forests – and other humans; and to be known, welcomed and redeemed by our Creator is the common blessing that God has given to every human. Even more than that, God blesses us with the particulars of our lives: opportunities to grow, significant people who love and challenge us, and food and shelter. All this comes from a heavenly parent whose son faced the pain and brokenness of our world to free us from sin and death. I, for one, don’t stop often enough to be grateful for all that God has done for me and for us.
This week’s lectionary readings offer several opportunities to reflect on how God abundantly blesses us more than we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
The passage from Isaiah this week is another “servant song” (Lectionary blog: Jan. 12), in which God describes, through the prophet, the activities of the Lord’s anointed servant. The servant was called to do God’s work even before birth (Isaiah 49:1, 5). But after disappointments in the ministry, the servant wondered if it had all been for naught (4). God responded by telling the servant that God would redeem the House of Jacob from exile and raise up and restore the people of Israel (5-6). If being the savior of Israel weren’t enough, God would also cause the servant to be a light to all the gentile nations, so God’s salvation would reach the ends of the earth (6). God cast a vision of not only a profoundly successful mission to redeem Israel, but to also include all the people of the earth.
God is in the business of blessing us more than we can even understand.
The pattern of God giving more than could be asked or imagined continues in Psalm 40. The psalmist felt stuck in a difficult situation and had been patiently crying out to the Lord for a long time (Psalm 40:1). Eventually, God rescued the psalmist as if drawing him out of a miry bog or desolate pit, placing his feet upon a rock-solid foundation (2). Not only did God rescue him, but God overwhelmed the psalmist with such joy that he couldn’t help but sing a new song of praise (3). We read in this psalm that God has multiplied wonderous deeds toward God’s people, blessing us abundantly (5).
In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul reminded the new Christians of the grace that God has given to them (1 Corinthians 1:4). He argued that the Corinthian congregation had been enriched in every way: through powerful speech and knowledge (5), with spiritual gifts (7), through perseverance (8) and finally as recipients of God’s faithfulness (9). Paul didn’t want the believers in Corinth to lose sight of all the ways that God had been blessing them. Through these verses, the Spirit reminds us of how much God has already done for us as well.
Finally, the gospel text reminds me most forcefully that God is in the business of blessing us more than we can even understand. John the Baptizer baptized with water for inclusion in the work that God is doing (John 1:31). That is good and beautiful, and it would certainly be enough to cause us to be grateful. But we also believe that Jesus did, and continues to do, the work of baptizing us with the Spirit, causing God’s presence to come and abide with us, to counsel, to inspire, to encourage and to reform us (33).
Again and again, God blesses humanity—but then goes over and above the original gift of grace to provide even more than we could ask or imagine. In so doing, not only does God show how generous, merciful and gracious God is, but also how dearly beloved we are as God’s children. We are the beneficiaries of this divine kindness. For this we say thank you and Amen.