The first verse of Psalm 111 is one of those things repeated all the time in Christian circles everywhere, “Praise [or thanks] be to God”! In my birth land for instance, the sentence translates to “Graças a Deus”. The meaning is the same. It is an enthusiastic expression of gratitude for the unexpected, or long expected, good works God performs in our midst in all kinds of situations.
School is over, praise be to God!
Someone is OK after an accident, praise be to God!
Power is back on, praise be to God!
The letter of college acceptance just arrived in the mail, praise be to God!
Good news from the doctor’s office, praise be to God!
Got a job, praise be to God!
Christmas was good for our congregation, praise be to God!
Sometimes I hear these expressions of joy or relief from people who claim no longer to be religious or even faithful. I smile inside. Perhaps it is true when we say faith was sealed within a person with the Holy Spirit through the mark of the Cross of Christ. The flame may dim, but it may be that it never
quite gets extinguished
Back to point, spontaneous expressions of acknowledgement to God’s faithful acts in our lives is awesome to witness from a minister’s perspective. It does tell me that no matter how we may insist to ignore God’s agency, neither God nor faith are dead, not at all.
No need to say, too many times things do not go our way. God seems to be against us and not for us. So much so, that a conviction of God’s way could be easily achieved in the court of public opinion, guided by the wisdom of human beings. In theology we call these the alien works of God, alien to our limited minds, things we can’t possible comprehend.
But then, something unexpected or long awaited happens. Against all odds, defying the understanding of mere mortals, the fullness of God’s presence is felt not only among the faithful, but also among those claiming no longer to believe. Throughout the community, among all the saints in Christ, the Holy Spirit of Truth moves from heart to heart. What was broken or set apart is again bound together. The knowledge of God is awakened. Hope and faith in God’s promises are restored.
I wonder what may have happen in the life of the psalmist to ignite such a beautiful work of praise and thanksgiving. My family and I have experienced such things since we came to this community, with gratitude we say praise be to God!
Peace and a Happy New Year,
Pastor Mauricio Vieira