11/26/2015 – I Thessalonians 5:17-19 – “Now Thank We All Our God”

Thanksgiving 2015

 

Now Thank We All Our God

 

We all know what we’re supposed to today – thank we all our God!  Even un-believers and non-church-goers, even the most base and crass TV families stop for Thanksgiving and offer a word of gratitude to some oft-times-unnamed Higher Power.

Really we don’t believe there’s anyone to thank for most of what we have – we earned it, we deserve it, and we deserve more!

But, we’ll stop one day a year and say Thank You to God.

 

This year, perhaps more than many, we say Thank you to God and to neighbors and to our effervescent electric company. Right? Thank we all our God!

 

Some of you have heard the story behind the song, “Now Thank We All Our God.”  Listen again:

 

This is from Catherine Winkworth’s “Christian Singers of Germany.” She is the one who translated the 17th century hymn into English in the 19th century. “This classic hymn was written by a pastor (Martin Rinkart) who suffered greatly through the 30 Years War in Germany during which (through war and famine) 4/5 of the population of Germany died. He himself was in extreme poverty and when the pastors of his 2 neighboring towns died he ended up having to do the work of 3 pastors, burying 4,000 people in 1637 (50 per day!) – including his wife – when the plague hit. This was followed by a famine so severe that 30-40 people could be seen in streets fighting to the death over the corpse of a dead cat. And then right after this the Swedes invaded and demanded a ridiculous amount of money in tribute. The story goes that he went to intercede with the Swedish commander to reduce the tribute and the commander refused. At this point Rinkart turned to the crowd that was with him and said “Come my children, we can find no hearing, no mercy with men. Let us take refuge with God.” he then fell to his knees and prayed with such pathos that the commander reduced the tribute from $30,000 to $2,000. He wrote this hymn in 1644, 4 years before the Peace of Westphalia that ended the War in 1648.”

“Now, thank, we all, our God!”

Paul writes to the Church in Thessalonika,

1 Thessalonians 5:17-19 (NIV)

17 Pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit.

Paul tells us to be thankful in all circumstances – not for all circumstances, that might just be silly; but in all circumstances – for God’s power and presence, His grace and might, can be found in every situation.

 

So, today, we look at “HOW” thank we all our God.  If EVERYBODY says some sort of grace on Thanksgiving, if EVERYONE goes around their Thanksgiving dinner table and recites something they’re thankful for, then HOW ARE WE who claim to believe something with substance any DIFFERENT?

 

Among our Sunday studies on the Ten Commandments, we have heard, and today we are reminded, of two things that can make us different:

 

First,

Remember the Lord your God; for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” Deuteronomy 8:18

In good and in bad, remember the Lord your God; always give credit to the One who deserves it.  Anything we have, everything we have, is because God has entrusted it to us.

 

Second,

Each person should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” II Corinthians 9:7

When God entrusts us, He hopes we will trust Him back.  We all know the “God loves a cheerful giver” verse, but it begins with an imperative to be honest and to have integrity.  To respond to God’s love with our STUFF.

 

We will be different from our neighbors this Thanksgiving by being generous and faithful.  And when life is hard, we will find refuge with God.  Now, thank we all our God, together.  Amen.

 

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Luke 17:11-19 – THANKSGIVING message: Mining the Gold in Gratitude

Mark Wheeler
Thanksgiving, November 27, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Luke 17:11-19
“Mining the Gold in Gratitude”

We have used this same Thanksgiving format a few times over the last 10 years – 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.

I usually read from Paul’s letters on Thanksgiving; he has some very useful teachings, instructions, on giving thanks. But I thought this year we should read from the Gospels. These are narrative stories, rather than pedantic commands.
I am a part of a Clergy Cohort which was given assigned devotional readings this Fall, and when I read today’s story I was inspired to share it with you on Thanksgiving. How many of you know this story? It’s very familiar isn’t it? Here are some of my thoughts. The preacher at our November Presbytery Meeting also preached from this passage, so some of his thoughts are mixed in as well.

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”
What do you notice about this intro to the story? [Jesus was leaving Galilee and headed toward Jerusalem, where He knew He was going to suffer and die. But He stopped in a village somewhere near Samaria, a forbidden place for good Jews – and He encountered a mob of lepers, a forbidden people for good people of any race. And these lepers knew something about Jesus, and so they hollered for Jesus “have mercy” on them.]
What do you think “Have mercy on us” meant?

So Jesus heals them and sends them on their way to the local priests. Apparently, their “cleansing”/healing happened as they obeyed Jesus’ command.
But only ONE came back and thanked Jesus for healing him.
Why did the other NINE not return and give thanks?
• Maybe they were just too excited – they wanted to go show their families and friends the good news!
• Maybe they did not believe they were really healed – this sudden good feeling was just some weird fluke!
• Maybe they were so caught up in obeying Jesus’ command – they were busy trying to do all the right stuff – they just forgot – benign busyness got in the way of proper politeness.
• Maybe they were just self-centered, greedy, rude, evil people.
Notice that the ONE that did return was a Samaritan! An outsider! A reject!

And listen to how this simple story ends: 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
Why would Jesus tell the ONE that returned that his “faith has made [him] well”? They were ALL healed! They were ALL “made well”. What do you think Jesus meant?
I wonder of this story about faithful gratitude means something much deeper than just saying “Thank you”. I wonder if Jesus was teaching us about the “gold” of joy in our lives – of relationship! – of love!
I wonder if this ONE’s “wellness” was more than merely physical health – but relational, emotional, spiritual health as well.

Jesus didn’t ask about the other NINE because His feelings were hurt. He didn’t ask why they hadn’t returned because He wanted credit for His miracle! He didn’t ask where they were for His own sake at all! Jesus asked for THEIR sake! For OUR sake! Jesus wanted each of them to have full relationship with Him!
When one mines Gratitude one discovers the Gold of joy – and that joy –vein travels in both directions!

Think about a time you gave a gift to someone, and their response was, “Eh!” or maybe “Meh!” What happened? Neither they nor you experienced joy! But when the gift is received with Gratitude – both the Giver and the Receiver are filled with joy!

Do you want to make the Biggest Giver of Gifts happy! Receive Jesus, ask for more Holy Spirit, and God will be blessed beyond what we can imagine! This afternoon, invest some real time returning to Jesus, and Mining the Gold of Gratitude.

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.

Resources:
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute for Christian Worship; 2012; P. 231.

Wilbraham, Steve; “Gratitude: Our Response to God’s Grace”; Presbytery of the Inland Northwest; 11/13/14.