Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr, Iowa;
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:9–14, ESV)
(From a Sermon in Concordia Pulpit Resources, Volume 17, Part 4, Series C)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
There’s the story of Johnson and Jackson.
“Say, Johnson, don’t you recognize me?”
“Of course,” was the cold reply.
“Well, aren’t you going to say hello?”
“Hello,” an un-enthusiastic response.
“Aren’t you being a bit ungrateful Johnson?” Jackson replied, “When you were ill two years ago, who paid your doctor bills?”
“And this summer, who saved you from drowning when you got a cramp?”
“And you can pass by without even a greeting?”
“Well, sure,” said Johnson. “But what have you done for me lately?”
There is always the danger on Thanksgiving that we praise God with our words and appetites, but snub him with our thoughts and actions the days following the holiday, and the rest of the year. It’s like Johnson and Jackson. I don’t think any of us is quite that ungrateful. But, it is easy to be thankful when we have in view God taking care of a crisis, or the table full of the Thanksgiving feast. But thankfulness is forgotten unless we see God active “lately”.
Paul suggests that our life should be one of perpetual Thanksgiving.
But our Thanksgiving will be weak and short-lived if it is not based on something real. St. Paul tells us that our gratitude toward God is a matter of being “filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (v9).
What does that mean? The three are linked together; knowledge, spiritual wisdom, and understanding. Our knowledge of God grows as we read and hear his word. It’s why God has given this place so we know when and where to hear it. We observe God’s hand in history. We see God at work in nature. And he’s there in our lives. In all of that we understand more clearly. As we understand him more clearly our attitude towards life changes. We become wiser in seeing God all around. As we become wiser we become more thankful. We see God’s blessing in everything. And as we see God’s blessing that produces Thanksgiving.
Our national personality believes that we are independent and self-sufficient. Sometimes our Thanksgiving is more like “Thank you God that we don’t need you like other people do!” Just think about how dependent we really are. One person I know was stuck in Las Vegas at the airport as no planes were flying into St. Louis Monday and Tuesday. He’s hoping to be home by Thanksgiving. How many of you have enough supplies set aside to feed your selves for even a few weeks should the need arise? We are dependent on God who works through supply lines and people. Our sinful nature is selfish. We would rather be independent then dependent, especially on God. We see the blessings all around us as things we provide for ourselves. We work hard so God blesses us with the things we have. Other people are lazy they deserve what they get. What we fail to see is God working all around us. He works in the truck driver who brings us food. He works in the farmer who grows it. He works in the baker who makes it. And he works in our employer who gives us a job so that we can buy it. We are utterly dependent on God working through other people to give us everything we need.
But even more than that we are dependent on God for our spiritual needs. That sinful nature that refuses to see God as the giver of all good gifts, also thinks that our sin is small. We see other people as sinners, but ourselves is basically good. We forget that sin is the symptom of not trusting in God for all that we need. Un-thankfulness is the sin that believes that we don’t need God. The things that we do that our sinful are a result of not living in a perfect relationship with God. Sin is the result of not seeing God as the owner and provider of all things. We selfish and thankless human beings have no way to escape punishment. We have no assurance in ourselves of any outcome except eternal hell. It is only because God provides forgiveness through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we have any answer to our spiritual needs. Through the work of the Holy Spirit we are called to believe and kept in the faith. We are constantly and utterly dependent on God’s grace and mercy.
This is something that Jesus did as he lived his human life. Everywhere he went he saw God’s blessing. He gave thanks for food. He gave thanks for people. He saw God, the Father, behind all that was around him showering down gifts for the needs of everyone. He himself is the gift that brings forgiveness. He lived a life in perfect relationship with God, seeing God in every blessing and being perfectly thankful. And then in his death of the cross he suffered the punishment of eternal separation from God for our sin, especially our un-thankfulness. The gift of Jesus is that these things are ours though faith. The Holy Spirit works in Word and Sacrament to give faith that what Jesus did, his perfect life for us, and his replacement sacrifice for us, is indeed for us. Through that faith Jesus’ perfect life is ours. Through that faith, Jesus death and punishment are ours. It is only our selfish independence that prevents us from it. God give is freely. We receive it as pure gift. Once again God providing all that we need. Jesus has
has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
So, our thankfulness begins there. Jesus, our Savior, give us forgiveness. Through forgiveness we receive a relationship with God again. In a right relationship with God we see his blessings showering down on us, everywhere. Then a life of thankfulness flows to God, the giver of all good things. Amen.
The pace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.