Sermon preached at St. Michael the Archangel Anglican Church in Matthews, NC, on the 24th Sunday after Trinity, November 19, 2023.
“We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Over the past couple of weeks, we have observed how Jesus calls all of His followers to live lives of forgiveness and faithfulness – forgiving others they way they expect God to forgive them and faithfully rendering unto God all due service. Today, we come to a third characteristic: thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving: The Key to Wise, Merry, and Fearless Living.
Now on the final Sunday of the Trinity Season and following last Sunday’s emphasis of “rendering unto God the things that are God’s” it seems doubly right to spend today giving thanks “to God and the father of our Lord Jesus Christ” like St. Paul (Add to that this week’s national holiday of Thanksgiving and it becomes even more fitting for us to look at the topic of thanksgiving to God).
To say the least, Paul was a man of thanksgiving; throughout his letters he uses the word “thankful,” or some variant of it 49 times, becoming the perfect model for us to follow if we too are to “give thanks always for all things unto God” (Eph.5:20). The centrality of thanksgiving in the life of the disciple cannot be overstated. By giving thanks in everything to God, we gain wisdom for salvation, merriment for living, and spiritual weaponry for warfare. Since it is the source of all such blessing, it ought to be no surprise that Scripture says such things as: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1Thess.5:18). Why else do you think the enemy of our souls has so many resources dedicated to encouraging cynicism, skepticism, anger, and hate, instead of thankful gratitude?
Wisdom for Salvation
If we are all honest, “thanksgiving” is not typically the first thing on our lips when “life” happens – when loved ones leave us, friends betray us, careers fail, or our child-hood state football team is the Saints. But even here it is God’s will for us to be thankful. We might want to “kick against the goads” on this, and it might seem like nothing more than irrational positive thinking, but the One who tells us to do it is the One who knows the entire story.
Think of Joseph, who suffered greatly (betrayed by family, sold into slavery, his character defamed, falsely imprisoned, and forgotten about) but through it all, he remained thankful to God (cf.Gen.50:15-21). And by doing so, he guarded his heart (Prov.4:23) from all malice, envy, and unforgiveness. It will do the same for us who learn to live our lives like Joseph and all the saints, abounding in thanksgiving (cf. Col.2:6-7).
Merriment for Living
Moreover, when we learn to trust in God’s plans for us, giving thanks to Him by faith, it can lift our vision above all that is presently wrong to see what is presently good. Everything that would prevent us from being thankful has a way of causing us to curve in on ourselves, and therefore preventing us from seeing all the natural wonders God has lavished upon us. Giving thanks in every circumstance can help us remember that we are more than our circumstance, and therein we can regain our wits and rediscover a “due sense of all God’s mercies” (BCP.M.P. General Thanksgiving).
Think about Psalm 104:13-15, “13 He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works. 14 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; 15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.” We can get so curved in on ourselves when our plans unravel that if we are not thankful, we will miss all the everyday blessings God is giving to us for us “to eat, drink, and be merry” (cf.Eccl.2:24-26) – preparing a table, if you will, even in the presence of all that troubles us (Ps.23).
Weaponry for Warfare
Yet this is not all. Living lives of thanksgiving not only grants us wisdom for salvation and merriment for living, but it is also a weapon for the days we are living in. Presently, our nation has declared open war on the God of heaven. Although our currency might say, “In God We Trust” (all others must pay cash), reality is our Nation “does not honor him as God or give thanks to him” (Rom.1:21). If we are going to be serious about confronting evil in our world, we must live lives of repentance that lead the opposite direction: toward honoring God as God, and giving Him thanks in the face of all those who would try to drag us down to their level of fearful, futile thinking and dark passions. Only when we show the world a God worthy of being thanked, not just in the good times, but even in the midst of heart-breaking hardship, will we begin destroying the strongholds of hell our nation is currently trust in for its power, pleasure, and protection (cf. 2Cor.10:4-6; Matt.16:18).