A Blog by Rev. Susan Smith-Allen
Like many folks, I truly love classical music, especially Baroque. So I have the PBS Classical Music Station on a great deal of the time, and always in the car – probably to the annoyance of whichever poor soul is riding with me – and my secret hope is that this stunningly gorgeous music will somehow eventually render me at least quasi-sane. Hope springs eternal. . . I do sometimes wonder whether there’s any significance to the cat’s apparent enjoyment of the music.
Anyway, the station has just wound up one of their fund drives, and I notice they frequently appeal for what they refer to as ‘sustaining members.’ This, of course, means folks who arrange for a monthly sum to be drawn from their account. I agree that this is reasonable, especially as they do not sell advertising time on their air space, and provide, in addition to the glorious music, considerable community information. But still, I began to contemplate that word ‘sustaining.’
A form of the word ‘sustain,’ sustaining has some critical connotations for most of us, particularly given its connection to the word ‘survive.’ All God’s critters, in addition to having a place in the choir, require, at various intervals, sustenance. After parents have exhausted themselves providing the necessary sustenance for us to survive, we generally venture out the door to endeavour to supply ourselves with whatever we deem necessary for our continued survival; and generally, with considerably more than what would literally be requisite for the continuing maintenance of human life. There is, however, far more necessary for living a life that could be termed ‘truly human’ than what we can obtain for ourselves.
If, and when we eventually realize that God is the Ultimate Creator and Sustainer of all living beings, we see that God richly provides for creation. And we, in addition to being amazed at our great good fortune, realize that so much of what enhances our lives is not of our own provision, and we respond to our God with thanksgiving. As our perception of what God has done for us, not only in terms of eternal survival, but in terms of the incalculable richness of our daily experience, intensifies, our gratitude expands, and we seek more effective ways of saying “Thanks be to God!” We recognize that our survival is a multi-dimensional reality, We see that we have been benefited by more than our own efforts, and that this has been true from before our birth. Our sense of gratitude begins to expand, as does love, exponentially. Now we contemplate an appropriate response to the Lord our God.
When a friend sends flowers, or takes us to dinner, or proffers to us any of the myriad of kindnesses that people extend to one another, we respond. We seek to ‘return the favour. ‘ But God doesn’t need any meals bought or carried in, our God provides food. God doesn’t need flowers, God invented them. Sometimes we are moved to say to a benefactor, “you’ve saved my life!” God saves us on an all-encompassing basis; and as for our lives, God has created all life, and gifted us with our lives. So what is to be our response to this Creator Who gives AND sustains life?
Our Lord Christ, Incarnation of the Living God, provides an answer in the Gospel according to Matthew, 25:40. It seems that whatever kindness we extend to all living creatures, in an attempt to thank God for all God’s incomprehensible goodness to us, God accepts as having been done for God’s Own Self. So might it not be that God, in providing so amazingly well for us, desires that our thanksgiving to God would take the shape of emulating God’s goodness and care for us, and thanking God by offering to other folks what God has given us. “All things come of Thee, oh God, and of thine own have we given Thee.” What an amazing privilege is ours, yet one more example of God’s great provision for us,
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