We’re praying this so that you can live lives that are worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him in every way: by producing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God; 11 by being strengthened through his glorious might so that you endure everything and have patience; 12 and by giving thanks with joy to the Father. He made it so you could take part in the inheritance, in light granted to God’s holy people. 13 He rescued us from the control of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. 14 He set us free through the Son and forgave our sins.
Hymn about Christ’s work
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God,
the one who is first over all creation,[a]
16 Because all things were created by him:
both in the heavens and on the earth,
the things that are visible and the things that are invisible.
Whether they are thrones or powers,
or rulers or authorities,
all things were created through him and for him.
17 He existed before all things,
and all things are held together in him.
18 He is the head of the body, the church,
who is the beginning,
the one who is firstborn from among the dead[b]
so that he might occupy the first place in everything.
19 Because all the fullness of God was pleased to live in him,
20 and he reconciled all things to himself through him--
whether things on earth or in the heavens.
He brought peace through the blood of his cross.
Today is what we traditionally call Thanksgiving Sunday. But it is also “Christ the King” Sunday, which is the last Sunday of the Christian Year. Next week we begin the Christian Year as Advent begins. Today, we acknowledge all that God has done for us, giving thanks, AND honor God for who God is and the gift of his Son. Jesus Christ is indeed Lord of all.
As a way to begin today, I would like us to read responsively my favorite Psalm of Thanks. It is on page 821 in the blue hymnal. It is Psalm 100. Please read the bold sections.
1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
come into God’s presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord, who made us, is God.
We are the Lord’s; we are the people of God,
the sheep of God’s pasture.
4 Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving,
and God’s courts with praise!
Give thanks and bless God’s name.
5 For the Lord is good;
God’s steadfast love endures forever;
God’s faithfulness to all generations.
I call your attention to our “Tree of Thanks.” It was empty when I first put it up. It looked barren, lifeless. Then leaves began to appear. Several of you filled out your leaves of thanks last week before you left church and put them in the bulleting basket. Literally, our thanks brought beauty to the barren limbs. It is our thanksgiving in life that highlights the beauty of God’s world around us and the life-giving presence of God within us.
Leaves are a great image of thanks. Think about it. The first leaves of the year bring the promise of Spring. Summer’s fullness is revealed in the amazing array of green foliage. In the Fall, autumn’s splendor splashes across the landscape in vivid reds and oranges and yellows. Then with winter the leaves represent the mulch which is so useful for the next year’s growth. Leaves are always giving. Scientifically, it is the leaves of the trees that exchange our carbon dioxide for the oxygen we so much need to sustain life.
Colossians 1:10-20 begins with a call to live lives worthy of and pleasing to the Lord. It uses three “by” statements, indicating how we are to live those worthy lives: by bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God. Another way of saying that might be by making the most of who we have been created to be. Second, by being strengthened by Jesus glorious might. We are to meet this and every day with the strength of the Lord, acknowledging Him as our source. And finally, by giving thanks with joy. These are wonderful, earthy images that lead us to a deeper life with God. And we give thanks!
I would say that we have two facets of giving thanks. First, we give thanks for what we have in life, received from God. Verses 12b-14 share a bit of that. In our faith, we are reminded that God had adopted us into the family, giving us the inheritance of the saints of light. We are always welcome in God’s house and family. That’s the part we are so thankful for. He continues, however, to talk about where we were before that time. We have been rescued and set free - rescued from the power of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of His Son, Jesus Christ, whom he loves. I love that image of being transferred. It is like putting the car in gear, transferring the amazing power of the engine to the wheels that move us forward. When we stop to think about it, much of what is on our tree of thanks represents what God has done for us.
The second facet of thanks is pure, joyous thanks for who God is, who Jesus is, who the holy Spirit is. Verses 15-20 celebrates Christ the King. He is the image of the Creator and, as John’s Gospel says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” He is the head of the Body, the Church, and is the firstborn from the dead. This particular reference is to remind us that we are inheriting that victory over death. All the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Jesus, and he reconciles us to himself. Jesus brings peace through the cross [vs. 20]. I am reminded of the lyrics to that amazing son, “I Can Only Imagine.” This is a song that has crossed the boundary of religious music and popular music. The refrain says,
Surrounded by You glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
God is all this, and God has done all this for our sake, to give us life that is truly life.
Thanksgiving requires attention to memory. In Dt. 26:1-11 there is a description of what the people were to do having arrived in the land God was giving Israel. It involved an offering of present fruits alongside “all the good things the Lord you God has done for you and your family.” We are to take what we are and have today, offer thanks, and remember ALL the past. The Membership and Outreach Committee of the church is creating a permanent display in the Parlor. Our “Remembrance Tree” is a way of remembering all who have been a part of this church family, living or dead. We want to celebrate all those who have been a part of this journey of faith. The bulletin cover is a rendering of what the tree will look like. It will be mounted on the wall in the parlor. It will be cut out of thin wood. We will add the wooden, engraved leaves by putting up names of those who have been or are a part of the church family. Then there will be a book in the Parlor, in alphabetical order, with a description of that person or family – our way of remembering them, celebrating them. It will be a way of giving thanks for our “Church Family”, remembering the blessings that this family has brought to us.
This Thanksgiving, wherever you are, whom ever you are with, give thanks with joy. Get historical about all the amazing things you have experienced in your past. Remember to give thanks for this day and every day. And acknowledge the amazing, loving, grace-filled presence of the Lord in your life.
Pastor Ross Kershaw