Ephesians 1:15-23 New International Version (NIV)
15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
I came home from working at the church Thursday evening to find my wife sitting in the living room, listening to the radio. This in and of itself is not unusual, and would not be anything significant if it was not for the music that was on the radio. On Thursday, November 17th, my wife was listening to Christmas music. I walked in to the tune of “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.” And this radio station was playing, not only a Christmas song but rather, nothing but Christmas songs.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas songs and the holiday cheer that often accompanies them. Who doesn’t love to go a wassailing every now and then? I even enjoy the occasional “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” and other goofy, secular songs. But the reason that this event gave me pause was because we were exactly one week before Thanksgiving, and this radio station was already playing Christmas music.
Do we spend enough time giving thanks? Do we spend enough time giving thanks to God and to other people? I don’t think so. Even in the church we can skip over this important holiday as we celebrate the beginning of Advent the first Sunday after Thanksgiving. But we aren’t going to let that happen this year. I want to take some time today to say thanks.
A friend of mine recently started a little bit of a debate on Facebook about Thanksgiving. He called into question whether or not what we commonly call Thanksgiving is really giving thanks at all. He mentions that what we commonly call Thanksgiving is really a gathering of people who participate in “a generic act directed at a generic deity for generic ‘blessings’ that we’ve earned through hard work, preparation and stockpiling.”
It’s not that he doesn’t like Thanksgiving; he just thinks that the holiday as we celebrate it misses the point. Here is his suggestion: “The Christian virtue of giving thanks ought to be our frame of mind, giving thanks to a specific God for specific acts and blessings named in our specific life-stories.” To that I say “amen.”
Giving thanks should be a part of who we are; it should be a part of our DNA. And while I have no problem with setting aside a day to celebrate all that we are thankful for, I by no means believe that we should only be thankful for the things that we have on one day out of the year.
My friend suggested that we be more specific in the subject of our thankfulness. We give thanks to a specific God, the god revealed to Moses in the burning bush, the god who spoke to the Israelites through the Prophets, the god revealed to us through Jesus.
In our scripture for this morning, Paul is very specific about to whom he is directing his thanks. He mentions God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in the first three verses, making some reference a member of the Trinity six times in those three verses. Specificity is important to Paul and his acts of Thanksgiving.
My friend also said that he believes we need to be more specific in what we are thankful for. Paul does the same thing. He says that he gives thanks to God for the faith of the people of Ephesus and for their love of God’s people. Paul is saying that he is thankful that the people are obeying the Greatest Commandment and the Second Greatest Commandments. The Ephesians are loving God and loving their neighbor.
Finally my friend notes that we need to be thankful to our specific God for these specific blessings that we have received in our specific life-stories. How have these things influenced you, your life, and those around you? This takes time, it takes an effort on your part, and it can be a challenge. And I want to challenge you all to do just that this week; no, to do it right now.
I am going to start. I thank my God for you, my church. I thank you for coming here on a regular basis and listening to me babble for 30 minutes each week about something that you probably already know anyway. I thank you for your financial support of this church and your financial support of me and my family. I want to thank those who don’t always get thanked. I want to thank the Sunday school teachers that prepare a lesson to challenge us to think deeper about our faith. I thank the children’s Sunday school teachers that are helping to form the next generation of the church and the Sunday school superintendent for all that she does. I thank the trustees who keep the facility in good shape, and the treasurers who pay for it and everything else that happens around here. I want to thank the ushers who do more than you can imagine, from making the coffee to taking up the offering. They are the first to arrive and often the last to leave. I want to thank those that provide rides for others and those that provide cookies and muffins most weeks. I want to thank the song leaders who provide guidance in our weekly singing and the worship leaders who guide our worship each week. I want to thank our sound guy, who also records our sermons each week. I know you often don’t notice our sound guy, and that is a sign that he is a good sound guy. I thank the librarians for providing that lending service to us all. To all of the people who hold an office, provide a service and support this church one way or another, I thank you and I thank God for you. Thanks for all that you do and thanks for being a part of my life. Now, what are you thankful for?