Sermon, Thanksgiving Day
Sunday April 8, 2018, St Petri.
1 Timothy 2:1-7, Matthew 6:25-33
1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone…….., that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Saviour. 1 Timothy 2:1-7
I heard an interesting conversation on the radio this week. Two social commentators were discussing the Christian practice of saying grace at meal times. They used to do that when they were kids and have notes other families doing since.
Now that they have left “Christian religion”, they no longer give thanks to God for meals. But they were reflecting on what this habit of saying thanks for food has left them with in adult, non-religious life.
They both agreed that even the very act of saying thanks to a God when they were kids, (a God who obviously was not really there), was still a valued thing. They said it teaches people the value of being thankful for things in life.
Oh well. At least there is thankfulness!
But there is so much more benefit in thankfulness to a real and present God! According to St Paul in our text, giving thanks to God, and to each other is one of the things we are meant to do in life, and especially when we get together in worship.
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone “.
We are directed to give thanks to God for the things he gives – even “for kings and all those in authority”. Yes – saying thanks for our politicians!
Paul directs us to pray our thanks to God for the reason that it will go well for us if we do! He obviously knows that if our community is governed by people who have justice, fairness and ALL people’s well-being at the very core, then we will all have a better chance to live in peace.
I guess this is why we as a Lutheran Church have always prayed for our elected leaders, for national leaders and for pastors, teachers and our own local church leaders.
I guess this is why we, (and in fact, Israel, right throughout the Old Testament years), have this long-held practice of thanking the Lord for all his gifts in a special way at harvest time.
But giving thanks for all we are and have does not always come easy. How many times have I heard a parent say,
“Gee, I do all this stuff for the kids – cook them meals, take them here, there and everywhere, buy their clothes, cover their books, organise their lives, pay the school fees etc, etc, etc and I never get any thanks for it!”.
“I do all the garden stuff, keep the cars on the road, cook the meals, organise the kids, mow the lawn, fix the house – and what thanks do I get?!”
And then of course, there is the church volunteer lament: “I spend half my life at church. I am on 6 rosters, from leading Kids Connect to choir to band practice to funeral catering to fixing things……. and what thank do I get?!
It is easy to see that thanklessness can add to ill-feeling and conflict among us. It is not that we do things for others to get thanks, but it is nice to at least occasionally hear a word of thanks.
No wonder Paul directs us to practice the art of praying and saying thanks to God and to each other!
In the Scriptures, giving thanks to God and to others is not just about being nice or having nice manners (although manners are important).
Thankfulness is a way of life for a disciple of Jesus. It is a way of life that keeps us together in peace and helps us avoid a lot of trouble.
Thankfulness is a stance with which to face the day and relate to God. Hear these words of God on thankfulness;
You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2 Corinthians 9:11
- God gives us life, possessions, vocation, earning ability, wealth for one purpose – so that we practice generosity to him and others. This one thing results in another thing: thankfulness.
- Giving thanks breeds generosity of spirit and leads to more thankfulness. So, thanksgiving begets thanksgiving. It builds upon itself.
- Thanksgiving is an active thing that creates life and generosity and peace between people. ….
“Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving”. Ephesians 5:4
- Thanksgiving words are the words that are meant to dominate our speech and help us steer clear of other words that create fear and hatred and hurt. Thankful words are a tonic. They heal. They build up.
- What does Luther say in his explanation of the Second Commandment – the one about keeping God’s name holy?
“We are to honour and love God so that we do not use his name to curse, swear, lie or deceive, but gladly use his name to praise and thank him”.
And there is even a deeper level to this Christian way called thanksgiving. We get a hint of it in the word Jesus speaks in the gospel reading from Matthew.
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’….. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Here, “worry” is the lack of thankfulness. We worry because we are not sure of our well-being. Worry comes from doubting that the Lord really does have your life and well-being in his hands and at the centre of his heart.
Worry is turning our back on the promise that we are more beautiful than the magnificent beauty of the things we see and love in nature. Worry is placing our trust in lots of other things for our well-being.
Worry is a sign that we are clinging to other things for our life and well-being. Instead of giving thanks to God for his presence and peace that is beyond all human peace, we “run around” trying to put an end to our worry, searching here, there and everywhere but still worrying about what we eat, what we drink and what clothes we wear.
We trust our wealth to get us through. We trust medical drugs to save us. We trust science to show us the way. We trust power over others to make our way. We trust our own intellect and personality to have a great life – MORE THAN THE LORD’s WORD and PROMISES.
Worry is a sign of idolatry in our heart. Remember Luther’s words on this? He says,
“anything you rely on (above the Lord) is your god (your idol). A god (an idol) is whatever (or whoever) a person looks to for all good things and runs to for help in trouble” (Large Catechism, First Commandment, p 18).
So, where do you run when it gets hard? Where do you turn? More clothes, more food, more drink, more anger, more control, more harsh words, more judgements about others…..?
Jesus invites us to run to him. He considers us more precious than the beauty we see in all creation. We are more than “here today and gone tomorrow” in his sight.
His cross and mighty resurrection shows us that. That’s the place to run when worry, idols, fear and doubt gather in force to make the day dark.
Jesus turns our worry and fear, which leads to idolatry and doubt, into faith and peace and hope, which leads to peace and life, and most of all thankfulness for who he is, who we are in him and what he gives to us daily.
I am thinking that a thankful people are an ‘infectious’ people; that a thankful local church is a more effective and useful local church in Jesus’ mission the draw all people to himself.
But THE thing about thankfulness is really more than its benefits to you and I. Saying thank you to the Lord Jesus and others daily is the way we remain faithful in serving only one Master – loving Jesus.
Here’s a challenge for us all. Could we say thank you to the Lord every day this week and see what happens.
Could we practice by saying thanks to at least two people after worship today for something – anything.
Could we practice thanksgiving by saying thanks to our partner or really good friend once a day until next Sunday (then stop!!)
Could we say thanks to our boss, teacher or lecturer once this week – for something? Could we say thanks for something to each of our employees this week and see what happens?
Friends, give thanks to the Lord for he is good and his kindness does last – it is new every morning and God’s faithfulness to us is immense and it is trustworthy and we have seen and heard it in the living, dying and rising of Jesus.
He is worth it and so are they. And so are you.
What do you find yourself being most thankful to God for today (3 things)
People will often say they are thankful for things in their life, but not so much thankful to God, but to people or circumstances or their own ingenuity or luck! The biblical encouragement is that God is giver of all good gifts and he knows how to give the very best gifts to his people. he is our kind and loving heavenly Father who knows his children well. he knows the gifts that we REALLY need
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)
We pray in the Lord’s Prayer for God’s gifts: Gifts of ‘daily bread’, forgiveness as we forgive, strength to resist temptation to be disloyal and disrespectful of God’s grace, protection for evil and the Evil One and the avoidance of too harsh a testing. it is a good prayer for every day! it’s general assumption is that God is indeed kind and loving parent to us and has our best interest at heart everyday. I encourage you to pray the Lord’s Prayer with a heart of thanks and trust by taking everyone of the first three line – the ones about who God is “Father, Holy, and bringer of his Kingdom on earth.
Our Father in heaven
Hallowed (or holy, be your name.
Your Kingdom come
Your will be done on earth as in heaven.
After dwelling on who God is and talking with him in words of thanks and praise using these first lines as heading for your own prayers in your own words, we move to the petitions for daily help and guidance.
We use them as heading also – headings for our own words and expression to our heavenly Father.
Give us our daily bread
Forgive us as we forgive others
Lead us not into temptation (or hard testing)
Deliver (or save ) us from evil (and the Evil One)
Then we end in praise to God: Father, Son and Spirit and speak the last ‘Amen” as an exclamation mark.
Maybe using this prayer and other prayers to pray our thanks to God is what we need to do in order to know joy in our life in Christ. Thankfulness seems to build on itself and bring joy into our relationships.
I encourage you to take on those last thanks tasks and see what happens. There if course is no guarantee that out thanks will be returned, but even then, we can enjoy a clear conscience that we have done the good things as far as Jesus is concerned.
I thank you, heavenly Father, in Jesus name that you kept me safe through another night. I ask you to keep me this day too from all harm and dnager. i place myself and all you given me into your hands and ask you govern my day in your peace.