Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving 2005, Phil 4:9-13

Thanksgiving, November 24, 2005
St. John’s, Howard, SD
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Phil 4:9-13, NIV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Children’s Message:
This package was delivered to the church yesterday. Inside is something for you! In fact inside is something for all of us. What does this say? Care Package from God
What is a care package?
It’s a special package because it’s a message about love. If you are away from home for a long time, your mom might put together a package kind of like this for you. Or suppose you know someone who is hungry and you have lots of food. You could put food in this care package and give it to the person who is hungry.
The bible verse I read just a minute ago was written by St. Paul. He knew how to use a care package. He knew that Jesus died to forgive all people and to take them to heaven. So he traveled around to many places and told people that Jesus loved them.
But some people didn’t like what Paul did, so the put him in jail. Then the people who had learned about Jesus from Paul had a chance to give a care package to him! They brought him food and clothing and because he was a pastor they also brought him books. But most importantly they reminded Paul that Jesus loved him, just as he had told them.
Now, I get to give you something from this box. Small Cross with the words “Jesus Loves You” The best gift you can receive from God is Jesus. Because he loved you so much he died on the cross for your sins. That’s a wonderful gift that he has given especially for you.
Ok, now you’ve gotten something from this box, this care package from God. Did you know you can use care package to give God’s love to other people too. What are some ways that you can show God’s love to other people? giving food to people who don’t have food. Clothing. inviting friends to Sunday School. Being kind to other children. Forgiving people who hurt you
Remember that this care package works in two ways. First, it tells you how much God loves you and blesses you. Second, you can use the package to care for others.

Ok, now for the rest of us. Like I said this is a care package from God, there are wonderful things in it for all of us. Inside are all kinds of gifts from God…
• Church Directory (fellowship); Hymnal (music); Money; Food; clothing; medicine; Recipe book; Coffee;
The care package from God offers all these things to us. But one of the nicest things about these gifts is that there is always much more than we need. God gives us gifts like these because he loves us and he wants us the have the things we need to live, but he also wants us to share them with others. It is a wonderful thing that even though we receive things from the box, we also get the box. We get the box so that we can pass gifts on to others.
We use this care package right here in our congregation. People, who receive the Good News about Jesus Christ, share what they receive from God with others. It is a natural part of being a Christian. Just think about all the ways this package is used right here in our church. We have teachers that use it to tell their students, the children who come here every week, the message of how Jesus Christ loves them. How he loved them so much that he died for them. In an important way the new chair lift is another wonderful gift from this box. It shows the folks who have a little trouble getting around that we care that they can come here and hear about Jesus. That’s a way that we show how important God’s love is, that we want to make it easy for people to come here and hear about him. On Sundays we have beautiful music here. We are blessed with three wonderful organists who take time to prepare for worship. God gives us that gift in the care package, too. He gives us talented musicians that help make our worship service meaningful, to lead us in singing about our Savior and all that he has done for us. All of these things are examples of how this package is used right here in our congregation.
We have received so much in this package that we can offer it to others right here in our community. Think of the times we’ve used Thrivent matching funds to benefit someone in the community. In a small community it’s easy to hear about people who need help and we have a chance to help them. There are many, many ways that individuals sitting here this morning use this package, out there in our community, so many ways that they show God’s love.
And there is even more. Not only have we used this care package in our community, we’ve used it around the world. Each year we set aside a part of our regular budget for world missions. Just think God gives us a care package filled with treasure, and we use it to help a missionary share that same love with someone halfway around the world. But it isn’t just money. Right now we’re filling this care package with soap for missions. LWML has all kinds of project (most of them I don’t even know about yet!) The ladies group has given gifts to seminary students, and local missionaries. All of it is God’s love in action. All of this comes to us in this care package from heaven.
This care package is a part of being a Christian congregation. This care package is part of a Christian. It’s a part of being a Christian doing our daily work serving each other, serving the people in our church and the people in our community. But, I don’t want you to get the idea that this care package is only used by you in stuff that happens here at church or through the church. As if the work that’s done here is somehow more holy than the work that you do every day. The truth is that God has placed you in your place in this community to serve other people. In fact, he has called you to be as servant to other people right where you are. The things you do every day, feeding your family, growing grain to feed the world, serving food in the school cafeteria, teaching children, selling groceries, fixing cars, etc. Whatever you do every day is the work that God gives you to do to serve other people in his name. You are a gift that God gives in this care package, too.
Of course, there are many opportunities to serve, opportunities to use this package that we miss. There are times for all of us when we know that we should share the love of God that comes in this care package but we just don’t do it. We think we’re too busy to help a neighbor who needs it, or we convince ourselves that someone else will do it. We fall short of God’s expectation for our work when we don’t always do it to our best ability. When we are lazy or do work that isn’t up to the quality it should be. We over extend breaks. We cut corners that shouldn’t be cut. And sometimes we even lie to our customers. That’s sin, and it even creeps into the work we love to do. And when it comes to sharing God’s love by telling people about Jesus, we’re afraid of what other people will think of us. “Oh, he’s one of those religious kooks.” Or “Keep your religion to yourself. I don’t need any of that religion stuff.” So in the midst of all this great stuff here in this box we often just don’t live up to God’s call to share it with others.
We show our true sinful nature, the sin that resides right here in our hearts, when we are quiet when we should talk about Jesus; when we are inactive when we should show God’s love in action; when we are lazy and unproductive at work. Because of that sin, that we all have, we don’t deserve any good gifts from God; instead we only deserve his anger and punishment. We deserve to suffer and die. The wages of sin is death. We deserve to be separated from God forever.
But, guess what? That brings us to the best thing in this box. It’s the thing I want to tell you about the most. The best thing in here is what Jesus put in here. You see, he knows that we aren’t perfect. He knows that we fail to share God’s good gifts with others. He knows that we’re afraid to speak about him. He knows about our lazy habits, and our work faults. He knows all that and he still loves us anyway. In fact, he loves us so much that he suffered and died for us. Jesus love and care for us is greater than our sin. That’s why God sends us the best thing of all in this care package. Inside is the forgiveness of sins instead of the punishment we deserve. That’s what Jesus is all about. That’s why he became a human being. God hates sin so much that he can’t just let it go on and on without punishment. So he sent Jesus, his only son, our Savior, to suffer God’s anger and punishment instead of us. Jesus took it all into the grave, our grave; our death for sin; became his. And because God’s anger and punishment was put on Jesus on the cross, it is all paid up our slate is wiped clean. That’s what forgiveness is taking away punishment that we deserve. And that’s exactly what’s in this care package for you and me. It is given to us freely through faith in Jesus, not because we do good stuff to earn it, but simply because we need it, and because we can’t do it for ourselves. Now that’s a wonderful gift, and, in fact, it is what makes all the other gifts in this care package possible.
Now, how what does the forgiveness in this box look like? Well, of course we find the gift of God’s forgiveness in his Word. In it God sends us the Good News about Jesus. It travels through the air and enters our hearts through our ears. That’s where the Holy Spirit takes up residence, through faith. The gift of forgiveness comes through water connected with God’s Word. When God brings us to be baptized he pours water on our heads, marks us as his children and washes away our sins. We get connected to all that Jesus did through what God does for us in and through baptism. And finally the gift of forgiveness comes through bread and wine. Jesus Christ himself comes to us in his very body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. St. John says it very clearly. The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 Jn 1:7 ESV) The wonderful gift is placed right into your mouth. All that Jesus did in his life, death and resurrection is given to you right there. You see that’s one of the best things about God’s gift of forgiveness found in this care package. He makes sure that you know the gift is for you. You hear it and you feel it and you taste it.
So, here’s a care package for you. Inside of it you’ll find all kinds of great things. Gifts for you and gifts for you to share. Hey there’s lots in here, so help yourself, these things are for you, but remember also that there’s plenty more where this all came from, so take what’s here and pass it on. Amen.
The peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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