Thanksgiving, November 28, 2013
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
II Thessalonians 2:13-17
“We Ought Always to Thank God for You”
We used this same Thanksgiving format about 8 years ago – a worship service done in the order of something from the 17th Century, almost 400 years old, and almost 150 years before the USA was even considering the possibility of being a nation.
One main difference between this service and those of the days of the Pilgrims seeking religious liberty in the mid-1600s is that their sermons lasted well over an hour, and mine will be under 15 minutes.
Now some of you are wishing we could do those Prayers of Thanksgiving over again, aren’t you?
We already read today’s Scripture passage, but if you look at the back of your bulletin, you can see it again while I go over some fine points I think we dare not miss.
This is the Apostle Paul writing his second epistle to the Church in Thessalonica, and he’s talking about people who have been influenced by false teachers, preachers who have taught them a bushel of lies, works righteousness, the evil of anything material, the false doctrine of a loving God who does not care about justice, or the hot-headed God who does not love His creation, the stand-offish God, etc, etc. And then he comes to verse 13:
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters – loved by the Lord, – because God chose you as firstfruitsto be saved through the sanctifying work of the [Holy] Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the middle of all the false teaching that is all over our TV sets, filling the internet, broadcast through Twitter accounts and shared across lattes and espressos – you have heard and believed the truth – that God chose you, and saves you through the work of the Holy Spirit and your action of believing Him – so that you might share in the glory of God!
Wow! I would take that letter of endorsement any day! And friends, when we see each other being winners over the falseness of the American dream or the prosperity gospel or any scheme of religion that takes us away from Jesus Christ – we out to give thanks! I thank God for you – every week! You are awesome! You are winners!
But, and every winning team knows this – the Seattle Seahawks better know this, even this year when they have the winningest record in the NFL – you’re only as good as your current game. So Paul encourages the Church in Thessalonica – stand firm and hold fast to the Gospel truth teachings.
And then Paul adds a blessing. He says:
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
He’s already said that our sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit – we are made holy not by our own good efforts, but by the work done on our behalf.
Now he adds his hopes that “our Lord Jesus Christ” (the Son) and “God our Father” (there’s the whole Trinity) will encourage and strengthen – that means, May He embolden (not just lift up and make happy, but may He make you brave and strong in every way you demonstrate God’s glory this Thanksgiving and Advent and Christmas season
This afternoon, as you gather around your table with family and friends, or if you’re alone, as you sit in front of the TV and watch a football game or whatever, find a way to be thankful for those around you who have successfully demonstrated their Christian faith in your life, and pray to be able to do the same – in the name of Christ our Lord. Amen.
Loving and faithful God, we thank You that in Jesus Christ You have revealed the height and width, the depth and breadth of Your love. With You is the fountain of life, and in Your light we see light. May our lives reflect Your goodness and by Your Holy Spirit bring healing and salvation to others, until all creation makes its home under Your wings. Amen.
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute for Christian Worship; 2012; P. 231.