Sermon, Thanksgiving (C), Sunday April 7, 2013.
4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
Friends, it is good to give thanks to God for all that we see here. It is good to give thanks to the Lord for our life, our possessions, work, our many good gifts.
It is good to give thanks to God because giving thanks to God brings good things to bear in our lives according to the bible readings today.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Paul says that a thankful heart towards God brings several very good things into our lives. Thankfulness brings;
• “Gentleness” There is no need of anger of harsh words and behaviour when you are thankful for life and relationships
• Lack of worry: Stress levels decrease and the need to worry about your life, your health, your job, your finances and etc seem to take a back seat when we are thankful to God for our very breath and all we know and won.
• Prayer – you pray to a God whom you are thankful for
• Peace: That deep peace of knowing for sure that the Lord has you and that nothing will undo your relationship with him and the great reward of life with him.
• And then Joy – the peace, the gentleness, the lack of worry, that prayerful conversation you share with your Lord all build joy – joy in life. Joy in being a member of the household of God, the family of saved sinners wrapped in God’s grace in the resurrected Jesus.
It is a great picture – but only if it was more attainable! It is hard to be thankful all the time. Even the most positive person can struggle with being thankful.
Can you really be thankful for everything? Can you really be thankful for rain on dry clothes, mud on clean carpet, soggy sandwiches at lunch time, news of another Aussie Cricket defeat or an increase in taxes?!
I heard a story about a guy who lived a long time ago who helped me see the gift that being thankful is. His name was Martin Rinkart. He was a pastor in the city of Eilenburg, Germany during the first decades of the seventeenth century. This was during the devastating Thirty Years’ War. Eilenburg, as a walled city, was often overcrowded with refugees. This often led to famine and disease. Conditions were so horrible in Eilenburg that thousands of people died, and, for a season, Rinkart was the only minister in town.
During this period of time he performed up to fifty funerals in a single day. Over his lifetime he officiated at over 4,000 funerals. We can only imagine the horrific suffering Rinkart experienced. In the midst of this ordeal, he wrote several hymns. One caught on among German speaking people and, in translation, among English speaking people as well. What was this popular hymn? It begins:
Now thank we all our God
With heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom this world rejoices;
Who, from our mothers’ arms,
Has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours today.
Strange how it takes something really hard, or even life-threatening to help us know the gift of thankfulness… Why is this guy thankful in such extreme darkness, death and sorrow?
Because in it he is trusting in God’s presence with him now and the future. So is St Paul.
Paul says that thankfulness is possible in all situations, not because of our ability to feel thankful or show our thankfulness but because of Jesus’ death, his resurrection and his rule over us now and for all the future. We can be thankful when the world says we shouldn’t be, when our emotions tell us we can’t be, when other people say we shouldn’t be. Not because we make this thankfulness happen, but because Jesus is ours and we are his.
And speaking about emotions and thankfulness: Is being thankful in the bible an action not a feeling? Yes. Just like love is much more a verb than a word describing an emotion – so, being thankful also not merely a feeling of appreciation toward God but actually doing acts of thankfulness regardless of the feeling.
Like Jesus can say “Love your enemies” because love means serving, doing generous acts, saying positive and helpful words even to enemies because love is a doing thing, not only a feeling thing – so thankfulness is the same. Thankfulness is a doing thing, not only a feeling thing.
So when it is hard to be thankful emotionally, the bible says “do thankful” anyway – not necessarily feel thankful, but say, do, act, think thankful.
Thankfulness can be done in a variety of ways, regardless of how we feel at any given time.
Paul says it so well,
“Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Phil 4:8).
Moses talks about financial Giving as a doing of thankfulness to the Lord
“… take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. (Deut 26:2)
Speaking the Faith/Sharing the story of God
Moses also talks about sharing and/or passing on the faith to people and especially children as an act of thankfulness to God.
“you shall make this response before the LORD your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous” (Deut 26:5).
Of course, worship is in part a doing of our thankfulness toward the Lord.
You shall set it (your first fruits) down before the LORD your God and bow down before the LORD your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house. (Deuteronomy 16:10-11)
Singing, praying, kneeling, standing, greeting each other, listening, laughing, reflecting, baptising, sharing Holy Communion, receiving the word of forgiveness, even signing ourselves with the cross….. – these are physical actions of worship and they also a way to “be thankful” or “do” thankfulness.
Friends, as we keep doing our thankfulness to the Lord for our live together in him, whether we feel thankful or not, whether we are suffering, or worried or hurting or lonely and generally feeling “unthankful”, he will bless us with a new heart and a new thankful heart. That is his promise today.
From faith in Jesus’ grace and love comes many good things.
• We have an overarching story of God in which we live. We are not strangers to him or each other. We are a part of a broad and wide community who share a common bond of peace in Christ.
• We have a place here. We have a task, a purpose – the share the love and hope of Jesus with everyone as we do our words and actions of thankfulness.
• We have a life from above within us that will see us through the darkness of ill-health, depression, illness and death.
• We have a sure hope that is not a bet on the footy result, but a sure promise of God our Creator and Saviour.
• We have power to overcome our sin, our weaknesses, our troubles.
• We have a Counsellor, a Helper a Guide that keeps our heart on Jesus and our ears on his voice so that we are sure that we are being faithful to our Good God and true to each other.
DO YOUR THANKS
Think on the good things of God in your life.
Deliberately give back to the Lord a portion of your best stuff – the first part of your pay, not the left-overs in a regular planned way. In practicing giving to the Lord you become the person you are called to be – a fully functioning servant of Jesus for others.
Tell the story of you. The story of how God has been good to you and in this you will infect others with a thankfulness or challenge them to seek God’s goodness for themselves.
Worship all the time. Listen, pray, speak, receive the gifts of the Lord with you faith family in worship and at home and the gifts of less worry, more peace, more gentleness, more prayerfulness in our lives.
As we do our acts and words of thankfulness to God in these ways we will not always be “working for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you”, says Jesus. (John 6:27).
Thankfulness brings joy into our lives and helps us experience the closeness of the Lord and the hope we need to be his people in mission in our everyday life.
“Rejoice in the Lord always, friends, and again I say rejoice”
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Read the Philippians 4 passage and note down all the good gifts that are associated with and come from thankfulness to God.
What are you most thankful for now – make a list of three and share these
What makes it hard for you to be thankful to the Lord? Make a list of three and share. you coud use that last part of the Philippians reading – what is noble, beautiful, excellent, praiseworthy in your life at the moment…..?
Share a story of a time when you or someone you know was very grumpy and not very nice to be with and how thankfulness to the Lord (in actions and words) did or may have helped that person either become thankful to the Lord or hear a challenge from God to thank him for life and health and everything.
Grab a hymn book and sing “now thank we all our God”!