One of my enduring Childhood memories was the post-Christmas ritual of being made to sit down and write thank you letters to people who had sent us gifts. Usually it had been a $1, $2 note in a card, or later a $5 or $10 note and I couldn’t say whether it was us getting older or people getting more generous or simply inflation adjustment… or all three. Usually it was from a distant relative who we’d never met, or we’d been dressed in our best clothes and told to be on our best behaviour and the best cups and saucers would have come out of the china cabinet as they’d come round for afternoon tea and a catch up. It was the right thing to do the ‘write’ thing and say thanks and include some details about what life had been like for us that year. Maybe it’s easier for kids growing up in the digital age, as we can simply flick off a txt, an email, where words and whole paragraphs can be recycled with a quick click copy and paste, or you can IM (instant message) someone on Facebook, steam, snap chat or even tweet them. The words accompanied by a photo of the child’s beaming smile while holding the gift given. But we were told it was right to say thank you, it helped us not take things for granted.
Today we’ve been giving thanks for so many different things:
· 40 years of garage sales at St Peter’s and all the people who had contributed to their success as a fundraising venture.
· Father’s day, where we give thanks for our Dad’s imperfect though we are.
· The start of the season of creation in the church calendar.
· With the hint of warm weather we can give thanks for the start of spring.
· We celebrate communion, which is also known as the Eucharist, which means giving thanks, where we give thanks for God’s great love shown in Jesus Christ.
It may not be the 10,000 reasons that the song we learned today talks of, but it’s getting up there. And in the midst of that I just quickly want to share some thoughts about the importance of Thanks giving to our faith.
Our Old Testament reading today came from Psalm 136 a psalm that starts with a threefold command to God’s people to give thanks to God, for who God is and God’s very nature, that God is good. It works its way through many reasons for God’s people to give thanks. For me I can’t help but think of one of my favourite Songs when I think of Psalm 136. The song is ‘silly love songs” by Paul McCartney and Wings, It became part of our New Zealand music landscape when Adijah had a huge hit with an urban pacific cover. Sometimes when we are driving in the car I’ll turn it up when this song comes on our playlist and sing it to Kris, much to the embarrassment of the rest of the family. But it says
You’d think the world would had enough of silly love songs,
I look around me and I see it isn’t so…Oh No,
You’d think the world would have had enough of silly love songs, but what wrong with that I like to know beccasue here I Go again…
I love you, I love you….
You see this psalm focuses on God’s loyal love for us over and over again…
His steadfast love endures for ever…God’s loyal Love, shown in creation,
His steadfast Love endures forever, God’s loyal love shown in God’s saving his people bringing them out of Egypt and guiding them through the wilderness,
His steadfast Love endures forever… God’s loyal love shown in giving the land to Israel,
His steadfast Love endures forever…and finally God’s loyal love, experienced in the life of the community singing this psalm.
It would be easy to sum up the psalm by saying every step along the way ‘God’s love endures forever’. It’s more than a silly love song it a great reality that God loves us. It could go on
His love endures forever… God sent his son Jesus into the world
His love endures for ever to bring good news to the poor
His love endures forever to give his life as a sacrifice for our sins
His love endures for ever God raised his to life again
His love endures for ever, God sent his Holy Spirit
His love endures forever, and we could work our way through the whole of church history from the opening pages of Acts to the 2015/2016 AGM reports of St Peter’s Ellerslie.
When we give thanks to God for all the things that he has done, it allows us to see things in perspective: Things that have happened not just as the flow of history but as His story, God’s story; Human life in terms of the life of God. Our story, our life then fits into that as well. We become more aware of God’s presence and movement in our lives today. In communion we remember God’s saving acts in Christ and we are strengthened as we are aware of Christ’s presence with us today.
In giving thanks for what God has done in the past it gives us strength and hope to face life today trusting God. One of the questions when it comes to the psalms is what is the real life situation that they were written for? For Psalm 136 we don’t know but in 2 Chronicles 20 King Jehoshaphat faces a vast army arrayed against him, an army made up of Moabites, Ammonite and some Meunites. He calls his army together and encourages them not to fear but to trust in God. Then he calls his army to march to battle singing ‘Give thanks to the lord for he is God his love endures forever’. Which is the first line of the Psalm, and you could imagine psalm 136 being a marching song. Like a marine cadence song… the leader singing out the line and the soldiers repeating the refrain as they keep in step. As the people of Judah come to the valley where the armies are they find only dead bodies. The armies had starting fighting each other. God had won the victory for Judah. AS we thank God for the thing he has done, it allows us to have faith as we face the armies arrayed against us, armies as Joyce Meyer says equally made up of an alliance of other ‘–ites’, the fear-ites, disease-ites, poverty-ites, broken relationship-ites, stress-ites, insecurity-ites, injustice-ites etc. there is that famous saying two prisoners were in a prison cell one looked out and saw bars the other looked up and saw stars, as we give thanks to God it enables us to look beyond both and see God’s face present in any situation.
The New Testament reading we had today comes from Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, it is part of his opening prayer for the church. Paul says that he has been giving thanks for the Philippians because of the way they responded to the gospel from the beginning. I don’t know about you but you can almost hear the echoes of Psalm 136 in those words. AS each step of the early history of church at Philippi followed by ‘his love endures forever.’ You can read that early history in Acts 16.
God lead us across the sea to Philippi ‘His love endures forever’
We found a place of Prayer outside the city ‘His love endures forever’
Lydia responded to the message and invited us to start a church at her place ‘His love endures forever’
We freed a women bound by a spirit of divination, “His love endures forever
We were thrown into prison, ‘His love endures forever.’
We sang praises and God opened the doors and the chains, “His love endures forever’.
The Philippian jailer and his household believed, ‘his love endures forever’.
The magistrate found out we were roman citizens and treated us with respect ‘His love endures forever’
The church continued to flourish and grow, ‘His love endures forever.’
They sent us a gracious gift to help and support us, ‘His love endures forever’
Because of that Paul writes to encourage them in their present situations as they face persecution and hardship. Then also because of God’s blessing in the past he is able to turn and to look at the future with hope and confidence. ‘I am confidence,’ says Paul, ‘that he who started this good work in you will carry it on to completion, until the day of Jesus Christ.’ There is confidence that the God who has lead us every step along the way by his loyal love will be able to keep on into the future. One of New Zealand’s preeminent biblical scholars EM Blaiklock says of Psalm 136 “praise is an aid to Prayer, he who most surely bears in mind what God has done for him will the more readily ask for richer blessings.’
Giving thanks for what God has done, allows us to look with trust and confidence to the future. AS we celebrate the Eucharist, we do this as well, we remember what God has done for us in Christ’s life and death, we acknowledge and know his presence with us today, to strengthen us, as surely as our bodies are strengthened by what we eat and drink. We look forwards with trust to a time when we will sit down with Jesus in the marriage feast of the Lamb. We can move forwards and work towards that in confidence that the God who has done so much for us in the past is able to bring his work to completion. AS we give thanks for spring we trust God that the new life we are seeing budding round us will come to maturity in a harvest in the right time. As we say thank you for 40 years of a garage sale and say its season has come to an end we look forward trusting that God is able to provide for us and who knows what opportunities will come for us.
We started by talking about writing thank you letters and in 2 Corinthians 3:2 Paul says that we are letters written to show what Jesus has done in this world. Ur lives are thank you letters that resound with the truth of
Give thanks for God is Good
‘His love endures forever’.