Tag: 1 Timothy 2:1-7

Prayers of the People

Sermon, Pentecost 15th C, Sunday September 22, 2019.

1 Timothy 2:1-7

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle – I am telling the truth, I am not lying – and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.

We again join Paul in his encouragement to Timothy at Ephesus. Paul began with a reminder of two foundations of being pastor and people in mission:

  1. Everything in the church depends on the sound teaching, or ‘healthy words’ or, The Word of God – Jesus’ word, and
  2. Jesus wants all people to be in his gracious community of love and is immensely patient with the lost, the found and those who are called to lead the found.

On those foundations, Paul now gets into the nitty-gritty of encouragement to a Pastor and his church. Guess where he goes first – prayer! Obvious in theory, not so easy in practice!

“….first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made         for all people.”

 Paul urges prayer – prayer for everything and for everyone – the Jesus followers and those not yet following.

 ‘First of all” suggests that this is the first thing in a list of what is crucial for being church. But if you read on after this text, you will find no ‘second’ or ‘third’. This is not ‘first of all’ in the sense of first in a list, but ‘first of all’ in the sense that this is PRIMARY – a thing of utmost, primary importance across all aspects of being church, being leaders, being a people in gospel mission.

So, whatever we do, we pray a lot, pray often, pray everywhere, all the time in all kinds of ways.

Paul describes four kinds of prayer that are primary in all we do:

  1. Petitions: This is specific appeal for a particular need.
  2. Prayers: This is general prayer for many things in a place of prayer – in worship, when we are together somewhere.
  3. Intercessions: A more urgent ‘coming together’; a bold request for another.
  4. Thanksgivings: Words of thanks to God for anything and everything.

So, prayer of all kinds is crucial for all things all the time.

And who for? Interesting that Paul begins at the top here.

“….for kings and all those in authority…”

Why pray for those in civic authority?

In 510 BC, Rome had been a republic governed by two consuls who were elected to their positions. This system was in effect for five hundred years. But it was then changed in two significant ways. Under Julius Caesar, the republic became the Empire ruled by him alone! And then gradually Rome introduced the deification of the emperor. The emperor was now a god.

After his assassination in 27 BC, Julius Caesar was soon proclaimed divine and accepted among the gods of the state. He was now able to be publicly worshiped throughout the vast Roman empire (including in Ephesus). At the time of the New Testament writing Emperor worship was a general custom everywhere.

Here comes Paul to Pastor Timothy serving in the important Roman city of Ephesus saying that he and the people should pray for kings. Note that he does not say pray TO kings but FOR kings. Christians don’t pray to anyone except God, Father, Son and Spirit, and yet, we do pray FOR leaders of all kinds.

This prayer is based on the truth that even self-declared god-kings only ‘rule’ because the Lord calls them or allows them to and that even their authority is dependent on the Lord, whether they acknowledge this or not (Romans 13:1 – Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God”).

And why does Paul urge this prayer for governments and leaders of all kinds first? Is it to uphold someone’s power or stroke someone’s ego or keep in place some corrupt rule? Never.

The whole point of Christians praying for all leaders is not just for the leader him or her, but for the whole community, the whole country and for the whole church that everyone gets to

“…. live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness”.

Friends, we pray all the time in all kinds of ways and we pray for pastors, mayors, local, state and federal leaders, leaders of our schools, our health services and every other leader – even our boss, even other world leaders not to keep them in power or to manipulate them or to have power over government or leadership but so there is peace and the possibility of godliness in relationships, business, education, commerce, care for the vulnerable and the like but even more for the gospel to run free…. Because;

This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 

We pray for our country and our community and its leaders for the sake of the well-being of all people but also for “holiness”; for the free reign of the good news of Jesus. That is way we pray and that is what we pray.

As a community of Christians, we pray every Sunday in this public gathering in the public space. It is here that we do our ‘public service’ in God’s world. We are ‘public servants’ as we pray the Prayer of the Church. We even symbolize this by having other people lead our prayers with the pastor. This is a prayer of the whole church, not only the Pastor!

When the first Christians tried to find words in their language that could teach others what Jesus’ resurrection really had done, They borrowed words they knew and filled them with Jesus. So, the word ‘ekklesia’ was a word used for what often happened when the Mayor called a meeting down at the Institute and the whole town came. The word ekklesia was used for ‘church’ – a public gathering in Jesus’ presence. When we gather here in Jesus’ presence, we are doing a public meeting in the town square on behalf of the town.

So the ekklesia gathered in public for the public. They gathered to do work on behalf of the community. This ‘work’ was called’ ‘liturgia’ – ‘Liturgy”. The Christians gathered in public  to do their public work for the public prayer or “Liturgy”.

Can you see how everything we Christians do when we gather is never only for us, but for the community. What we do here as ekklesia (church) is our public work, our public service, our liturgy in Jesus’ presence for all the world to see.

Friends we don’t just come here to get something. We come here to do some work – some prayer for others. We pray for the world and its leaders for the gospel – that it may run freely as we carry it into Monday in our words and actions.

Just in case you don’t think you have any part in this, think again, friend. You are automatically involved in this pubic work. No matter who we are and what we have been, we are public servants of the good news of life in Jesus. If you need proof, Paul gives that….

“….for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle…”

 Paul, a violent, angry, harmful lost man was called to his part in this mission. He says that he was called to be an announcer (Herald) and a sent person of God (Apostle).

If it is good enough for a bloke like that, it is good enough for you who think you may be too bad for the job or too good for the job. One thing is for sure, now you cannot be indifferent about the job!

Friends, let’s keep praying. Let’s never gather here just for me or us but for them!

Pray together. Pray alone. Pray for everything, be bold and get specific when needed. Let the gospel run free in this community because

“….there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the human, Messiah Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people”.

May we praise him as we pray for them.

 

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A Tonic of Thanks

 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.

Paul says,

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

  1. 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.
  2. Giving thanks breeds generosity of spirit and leads to more thankfulness. So, thanksgiving begets thanksgiving. It builds upon itself.
  3. 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

    1. 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.
    2. 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.

Matthew 6:31-33

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.

Thank God.

Thank people.

He is worth it and so are they. And so are you.

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

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.

PRAY

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. 
Amen.

 

 

The Proper Time

SermonLight Pass Autumn
Thanksgiving Sunday/Vintage Festival
Sunday April 19, 2015, St Petri
At the proper time

It has been a great week in the Barossa. I made it my business this time around to get around and see the Festival – see the creativity, skills and joy of the people of this Valley. The only dampener for was the dampness as I got more than a little damp on my motorbike on Thursday!

Today we marvel at the skills of human hands, the creativity of our people’s minds and above all, we glory in the truth that all of this has been shaped by and comes from the God of all seasons and time.

All week this display has spoken a message to hundreds of people. We have spoken of hope that in our seasons and times God has his seasons and times.

The message is a call – a call to trust that by faith in Jesus Christ, our seasons and times are re-shaped for the better by a gracious God of all seasons and times.

As I have been looking at this display over the last few days, I have come to recognise that this display views the seasons and times of our lives in two ways.

We see in all that is here that all we know and enjoy is a gift of God’s handiwork. We see that our human lives are so dependent and intertwined with all other created living and non-living things.

Some people have renamed “Thanksgiving Sunday” “Ecosystems Day” as an acknowledgement that ecosystems in which we live make us the beneficiaries of wonderful things by which God sustains us in life…

“…one-third of human food comes from plants that rely on bats, bees, flies, moths, beetles, birds, and butterflies to pollinate them, according to the Ecological Society of America.
Of the top 150 prescription drugs used in the U.S., 118 originate from natural sources. Nine of the top ten drugs come from plants. The ecosystem also moderates weather extremes, disperses seeds, cycles and moves nutrients, purifies air and water, detoxifies and decomposes waste, controls pests, and provides aesthetic beauty”. (https://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?m=4377&post=1925, Patricia Tull, Professor OT Theology, Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, Jeffersonville, Indiana)

So, Christians give the thanks and the praise the glory for this marvellous world to God.

However, we know very well that not everyone does this. The dark side of a Vintage Festival or any beautiful thing we create is that we marvel at all this and claim it as our work, our achievement – not a gift but a right, not a thing to be managed well with deep gratitude and humility but a thing to be mastered with power and self-interest and praise.

But now to the second message in this display…
This display is also a sign of God’s time in our time: God’s seasons in and beyond the four seasons; God’s re-ordering of human time and human life for the good. There is an ecological and seasonal year and a church year and both are God’s. One is for the ordering of all people and things for the good of all, and one is for the salvation from sin and evil and the love of all.

This display bears witness not only to God’s goodness in all creation and all creativity, but also to God’s involvement and re-shaping of our seasons and times in his way, in his man, in his plan for the life of this broken world.

1 Timothy 2:1-7
3 This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.

“This has now been witnessed to at the proper time”.
There has come a “proper time”, says the Apostle, when God re-shaped all time – re-created his broken creation – re-made his loved people.

This “proper” time was “kairos” time, as the Bible calls it. “Kairos” time is different from “chronos” time, or normal marking of time. There came a time when it was the right time, the best time, the complete time, the proper time that needed to be seized, needed to be grabbed at and held on to. That time was in the giving of the Saviour to redeem all creation and time and seasons by his own shed blood.

By his death new creation began and by his resurrection dead human beings are made whole, made new, re-calibrated for God’s new time in his new covenant of grace.

So, the call goes out today from the Lord of all time and all seasons in life, “There is one mediator between God and humankind, the man, the Messiah Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people”.

Why so? Because God “wants all people to be saved” from timeless, godless, dark emptiness. Old time is gone. God’s new time in his creation is here and today we see that the Spirit of Christ shapes our times and seasons. This beautiful display is just one more sign of God’s re-shaping of our time…..

A WEEK: It speaks of an 8 day week, not merely 7. The resurrection of Jesus is what we celebrate and receive again every 7 days. This a day beyond time – “the 8th day”, if you like – where the God of creation meets with his people en-mass and gives his gifts of new life over and over again for the life of the world.

A YEAR: Our year has not only 4 seasons of climate but God’s times within that….. Our earthly journey around the sun on planet earth is re-shaped in God’s story now. Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, over and over again…. We are kept in the gospel truth as we share the story in all four earthy seasons by these heavenly seasons.

A DAY: Our day has more than just sun rise and sunset. Our day at work or home or school or alone is shaped by God’s time – prayer in the morning and evening, or including midday as well, or even seven times per day in some Christian traditions.

From short to long, from earth to heaven, from me to the church and back again, our lives and its seasons are fashioned by the master of time for his good purposes – so that we may know him better, more fully, constantly, and that he may be known by all.

Today is a message in art and textile and produce – a message hope: time is not futile in Christ. Time has great meaning. My life is not futile. I am not simply a pawn for angry gods to move around at will with no concern for me or my loved ones. No, time is gift from a gracious God who creates you and sustains you lovingly. Your work, study, pursuits have meaning and purpose. God uses the ground, my hands, my skills, my creativity, the gifts he has given us to help his world, to heal his world, to love his world in his name.

So, friend, today is one of those “kairos” times for you. This is a time to be sought, grabbed hold of – not missed. A time of a gift being given that simply must be received.

Will thanksgiving flow from the heart for all that is, seen and unseen, or will we merely celebrate our achievements in the church and this Valley, as if they were only ours. Will we marvel at ecosystems as if they are random – something merely to be manipulated by us – because we are god?

Lord, save us from thanks given to the wrong place!

Friend, whatever your work, whatever your drive, you hopes, your dreams your skills, your brains, your talents your needs your beliefs, we say today, “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”. (Colossians 3:17)

All thanks be to Christ for life in the Valley!

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Share the top 1 or 2 things that stood out to you in the St Petri “Seasons of the church year” display and why….

I suggested that the display has two messages: One about God’s goodness in creation and the gift of our own creativity and the other about how God re-shapes our seasons and times for his saving purposes. So, we have calendars and seasons and times but then we Christians have seasons that are in and yet beyond “normal” time. What do you think about this?

Read the 1 Timothy text…. I noted the use of that word “at the proper time”. God gave himself to us in his Son at the right time, the full time, the complete time, the best time – or in Greek – “Kairos” time. By the death and resurrection from death of Jesus all time is now new time, God’s time, Kairos time and this time needs to be seized, paid attention to, acted upon…. How do you think you grab hold of Jesus and his message of love and grace?

Many don’t recognise God’s proper time in Jesus. Many in the Valley o not acknowledge that God gives both the yearly seasons and the special church seasons, and so the Vintage Festival can be merely human arrogance – taking all the credit for what is not merely human! In what ways do you see this kind of thanklessness to God at work among your family and friends and how do you respond to this when needed?

I said that God has re-ordered our time.
• We have an “8 day week” in the sense that worship is beyond time and is the completion of our week as we gather in the timeless presence of our God. So our weekly pattern is different to many.
• We have a different year – more seasons than just the climatic seasons – Advent – Pentecost….
• In the church we have a long, long pattern of prayer – morning, midday and evening – in some places and times even more – “7 times a day”.

How do you think about your time and is your day, week and year shaped by “God’s time” more or less than “normal” time and seasons?

The good news for us is that both normal time and special time are God’s and they are both gifts. All creation, seasons and people are offered the wonderful new life in God’s new creation; in God’s new time in the person of Jesus Christ!

Pray a prayer of thanks to God for your life in the Valley and seek his direction for how to live in his time.

Thanksgiving: a tonic for the soul

Sermon

Thanksgiving Day

Sunday February 12, 2012.  St Petri. Nuriootpa

 

1 Timothy 2:1-7, Matthew 6:25-33

Give thanks to God

A godly tonic

 

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

Lord, give us a hearing heart

 

Two men were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Instantly they darted toward the nearest fence. The storming bull followed in hot pursuit, and it was soon apparent they wouldn’t make it.

Terrified, the one shouted to the other, “Put up a prayer, John. We’re in for it!”

John answered, “I can’t. I’ve never made a public prayer in my life.”

“But you must!” implored his companion. “The bull is catching up to us.”

“All right,” panted John, “I’ll say the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table: ‘O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.'”

Yes, may the Lord make us truly thankful!

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 when we get together in worship. Paul  says,

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”. 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, fix their clothes, cover their books etc, etc, etc and I never get any thanks for it!”.

What about thanklessness between husbands and wives? “I do all the garden stuff, keep the cars on the road, 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, leading Sunday school, cleaning the church building, fixing things, painting things, decorating things…. and what thank do I get?!

It is easy to see that thanklessness can add to ill-feeling and conflict. 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 Christians. 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

  1. 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.
  2. Giving thanks breeds generosity of spirit and leads to more thankfulness. So, thanksgiving begets thanksgiving. It builds upon itself.
  3. 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?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:31-33

“Worry” is not thankfulness. Worry is being fearful about one’s situation. We worry because we are not sure of our well-being. Worry comes from doubting God’s promises; doubting that he 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 medicine 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.

Worry is a sign of idolatry in our heart. Remember Luther’s understanding of the first commandment, the one about loving the Lord with all our heart and mind and soul and strength? 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, p18).

So, where do you run when it gets hard? Where do you turn? More clothes,. More food,. More drink?

Jesus invites you to run to him. He considers you more precious than the beauty we see in God’s creation. You are not here today and gone tomorrow in his sight. His cross will show you that. That’s the place to run when worry, idols, fear and doubt gather in force to make the day dark. Jesus is the Mediator we need to turn our worry and fear, which leads to idolatry and doubt, into faith and peace and hope, and most of all thankfulness for who he is, who we are in him and what he gives to us daily.

Friends, I am hearing today that thanksgiving is a way of life. As we practice it by saying thanks to God and thanks to each other, it creates more thankfulness and leads to peace among us – and more and more. Not only this, but saying thank you to God and others daily is the way we remain faithful in serving only one Master – loving Jesus and actually despising our own self-serving. By practicing the art of praying and saying thanks we live out trust in Jesus’ promises to sustain us and keep us in his goodness and grace, no matter what. We put a check on our natural tendency to be self-centred, to doubt the Lord’s love for us, to constantly worry about ourselves and our families.

Here’s a challenge for us all. Could we say thank you to at least two people after worship today for something – anything.

Then could we make a goal to say thanks to our partner once a day until next Sunday (then stop!! We can’t have too much of a good thing!!)

Could we say thanks to our boss 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.

Thank God.

Thank people.

He is worth it and so are they. And so are you.