“Count your blessings. Name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done.” When I sang that old hymn as a boy, I wondered what it could mean. After all, how can you count your blessings? There are so many. All you’d do is count all day long. But maybe that’s the point! If we learn to focus on our blessings maybe we won’t let what we don’t have poison our lives.
That sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? But, our ability to appreciate what God has done for us presupposes a level of insight many struggle to have. I’m convinced one reason why so many are ungrateful in their lives is because they are deceived into believing that they, in fact, don’t have any blessings. Their gross misinformation tarnishes their ability to see what is already theirs. I’m also convinced this is why many refuse to embrace a life of faith. They don’t know what they don’t know! And what you don’t know surely CAN hurt you!
Look at our lesson today in Ephesians 1:7-17:
BRETHREN, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us. For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory, In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.
This powerful letter, written to the Church at Ephesus by St. Paul, a Greek settlement on the coast of what is now Turkey, is a letter that was probably meant to travel around to several churches that had been started by St. Paul in the area, the Ephesian Church being the first stop for the letter. St. Paul emphasizes the Church as the Body of Christ and he gives specific wisdom in the letter about family relationships, getting along with folks in the parish, lessons on how to use your gifts for God, and how to fight the spiritual battles that keep you focused on the Faith. All good stuff.
But today we see Paul attempt to help the believers by emphasizing just what God has given those who love Him. And all that He has given us is “for the praise of his glory” a phrase Paul repeats in the passage to emphasize the purpose of all these blessings. And then he says that we believers were “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.” Wow, what a sentence.
When someone is baptized and chrismated into the Church, the Church gives each one their personal “Pentecost” when the priest anoints the new believer with the oil specifically set apart to represent the gift of the Holy Spirit given to the Church by Jesus Christ. And what do we say when we chrismate someone? As I anoint the believer on his forehead, eyes, ears, chest, hands, and feet, I say “Sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit” and the congregation replies “Sealed.” This powerful divine mystery is meant to drive home the reality that this new believer now becomes a fellow inheritor of all God gives to His Church, the Body of Christ. Far from this diminishing any of the inheritance we each already possess, this new addition to the Church actually INCREASES the inheritance for us all, as we actively add new converts to the Body of Christ!
So, Today, are you awake to the spiritual inheritance you already possess by being a part of the Church? Perhaps it’s time to start unpacking the spiritual treasures given to you by the Lord and beginning to learn how to “count your blessings.” Only then will you ever understand why it’s worth being Orthodox on Purpose!