Psalm 136: 1-9
LUKE 17: 11-19
THANKSGIVING EVE 2020
I have been looking through old photo’s the last couple of days; in fact my friend’s wife posted an old one of me with her husband this morning from 1975 when the two of us were dressed in 19th century costumes for our town’s sesquicentennial. So, my mind has been on a journey to those times and I am realizing again that those moments have generated truly special memories. I can’t return to that day in 1975 with Jim but each memory and moment from my days in the past have helped mold me into the person I am today in the present and will be in the future. Most of those days have been good days and I am very thankful for that but even my days that have been filled with challenges have made me a stronger person. Today, I am thankful for all of the many people in my life who have walked with me through the tough times caring and embracing me while also being there and high-5’ing me during the good times.
And, the psalmist wrote, “GIVE THANKS to the LORD because HE IS GOOD! God’s faithful love lasts forever!” I looked up to the sky this morning as I do each day and then I gazed at the clouds in the afternoon, and tonight while walking over here I was looking up to the early evening hour sky and as is my habit I gave thanks! Thanks to God for all that God has given to me … thanks to God for God’s love of me through Jesus Christ … thanks to God for the future I will have when my days on earth are done.
Tuesday morning, I blew the dust off a little book that is always on my desk, THREE SIMPLE RULES: A Wesleyan Way of Living; it is a reflection of my theological connection with God. I know that the word theology is sort of like the frozen package of innards that we try to pry out of our turkey’s cavities but just as that bag contains the heart of the bird theology is the heart of our faith even if we don’t understand how it works. The book in its preface states “THREE SIMPLE RULES that will change your world.” Bishop Job writes that we live in a “fast-paced, frenzied, and complex world” but in the midst of that we are searching for a way to “overcome all that leaves us wounded and incomplete.” He considers the simplicity in these rules as radical because it requires people of faith to overcome the world by becoming Christ like in our actions, words, and thoughts. DO NO HARM … DO GOOD … STAY IN LOVE with GOD.
Friends, get up on your feet … put a smile on your face … consider what we all have … hear the psalmist and look to the heavens, “Give thanks to the Lord of all lords! God’s faithful love lasts forever.”
In Galatians, Paul writes, “The whole law is summed up in a single command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If, however,” he writes, “you bite and devour one another take care that you are not consumed by one another. Live by the Spirit.”
The truth friends is that when we live with the goal of doing no harm we not only care for all of our neighbors we also provide relief to our own minds and hearts because we are not dividing up people we know or hear about into competing sides one which we are on and one which we oppose. It is truly remarkable how our mental health and even our physical health improves when we aren’t overwhelming ourselves with a sorting game of humanity but instead focusing on DOING NO HARM to anyone. This does take work because the world wants us to return to using Junior High School childish name-calling for people we disagree with and to use words that do more harm than actions even though actions that are harmful can also ruin lives forever. However, when we live by the SPIRIT and let GOD’s SPIRIT guide us the love we show and the care we share will produce smiles in strangers’ faces verifying we are doing the right thing for God … for Christ … we can look up to the heavens nodding our heads knowing we are following the examples of our faith! We are accepting the prophet’s call to “love kindness” eliminating bitter words from our mouths and our written work and erasing any actions that might harm another.
“GIVE THANKS to the one who made the skies with skill — God’s faithful love lasts forever!” See the sparkle in the stars and then shine and sparkle each day!
John writes, “Whoever does good is from God” but those words are prefaced by these, “do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good.” I think we all have enough awareness to understand the difference between evil and good. When you see a disabled person do you attempt to bring them down or do you show them love? When someone is lying on the ground in pain do you kick dirt on them and make fun of them or do you bend to offer help? We know what good is … we know what evil is … we know what God delivered to us through Jesus. James shares with us, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. Faith by itself if it has no works is dead.” Perhaps when we start looking up in God’s Word all of the examples for living life we will again realize that we will bring honor to God using the talents and abilities God has given us … to do GOOD.
And, yesterday morning Don and Carol Strock walked into my office with an envelope … Farmer Kevin had given our church $5000 in ShopRite gift cards so we can feed the hungry. WOOHOO! He doesn’t go to our church but he knows what our church does … he has seen that our church, even in the midst of the worst pandemic in our lives, has continued to be church 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and has been serving God while loving all people on each of the 255 days since we closed our church doors in March … he knows that St. Paul’s has been bringing the light of Christ literally to the world so he made a decision to give the church $5000 of his own hard earned money so that we could feed the hungry. The challenge for each of us is to show love to all without being pestered to do so … to support the mission of our church so that disciples can be made, the hungry fed, and the hurting cared for without complaining … to share our testimony of faith while encouraging others to discover God for themselves and especially for their children to connect with God and Christ with joy just because we know that is our call and our purpose. And, then we give thanks!
And, together we rise to our feet … we raise up our arms … we look up … and we shout HALLELUJAH and “we give thanks to the only one who makes great wonders! God’s faithful love lasts forever!”
Tonight or whenever you have taken the time to worship with us through this service, I want you to consider with me whether we love God. Have you ever loved God? Considered the Creator to be in a personal relationship that you draw hearts for that you have colored in; sent love notes to; and that you smile when you know that you are loved. God, Jehovah, Abba, I AM, Yahweh, Adonai, Elohim, and other names. Do you call God out by name out of love by considering God closer than your best friend …
I ask this because God loves you and me … each of us in our sinfulness, each of us in our failures, each of us in our successes, each of us in our everyday lives, and even when we turn away and don’t love God in return; God still loves us. The psalmist challenges us, “Seek the Lord and seek His presence continually.” Jesus along the lakeside asks Peter three times, “do you love me” reinforcing the importance of our returning God’s love. If God were to TEXT you today with a heart emoji perhaps with a Jesus image saying I LOVE YOU … would you send a sincere and honest emoji back I LOVE YOU TOO.
That full circle of love is something we need to have alive in us. Just as Peter declared his love for the Messiah three times we need to live as people who love God! With our eyes focused on God and our hearts revealing Jesus we need to be filling to fall on our knees looking up to the heavens and join in the chorus … I hope tonight that you are a complete person; complete in your love of God and in having a life reflecting that.
“GIVE THANKS to the one who made the great lights! Give thanks to the only one who makes great wonders … give thanks to the Lord because God is good. God’s faithful love lasts forever!” AMEN
 THREE SIMPLE RULES: A WESLEYAN WAY OF LIVING by Rueben P. Job; Abingdon Press