November 13, 2022 We Are People Who Give Thanks In Everything (Pentecost 23)

Graphic by The Reader’s Digest

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video:

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/769228250

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c3X6cFVu9NL

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If you would prefer not to view the video, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP:

Lord, I believe: Help my unbelief. Help me to see my world as You see it.
Lord, I obey; Help my disobedience. Focus me; guide me. Prune me.
Lord, I follow;  Help me to stay on the path. Thank you for the path, for guidance, for Providence and protection.
I humbly ask for wisdom and for knowledge in every human situation. 
Lord, help me to flourish as a part of the vine. Amen.

HYMN 694 Come Ye Thankful People Come
Come, Ye Thankful People, Come by TheNCrew
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsIKn_CC55Y

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − (Dr. Colleen Hanycz, President of Xavier University)

Loving Creator,
We asked for strength, and you gave us difficulties to make us strong.
We asked for wisdom, and you gave us problems to solve.
We asked for prosperity, and you gave us purpose and brains to use.
We asked for courage, and you gave us fears to overcome.
We asked for patience, and you gave us situations where we were forced to wait.
We asked for love, and you gave us troubled people to help.
We asked for justice, and you called us to be just and to lead with integrity.
Lord, we may feel that we have received nothing that we asked for or wanted. And yet, we received everything that we needed. For this, we give thanks. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN 131 We Gather Together
THE HYMNS ENSEMBLE – We Gather Together… “Lockdown Session”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmR1JszAM1E

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: We Are People Who Give Thanks (In Everything)
Text: I Thessalonians 5:1-25, Romans 8:28
Series: We Are …

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audio … Sermon slides as a PDF file.
Saturday Video AudioWesley Sermon Audio


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SERMON NOTES

I Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray constantly, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit, 20 do not despise prophesying, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good, 22 abstain from every form of evil.

23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. 25 Brethren, pray for us.

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Gratitude as an Antidote to Aggression By Erin Holaday Ziegler
https://psychology.as.uky.edu/gratitude-antidote-aggression

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HYMN 377 It Is Well with My Soul
Guy Penrod, David Phelps – It Is Well With My Soul (Live) [Official Video] Gaither Music TV
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nJ6wQpLmuo

BENEDICTION The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

This has been an interesting week. On Friday afternoon, I drove up to Bloomington, because I was teaching Module 1 of the Certified Lay Minister Training. This is something in the United Methodist Church to where a layperson, just like you, can receive training to help a church that needs a pastor. It’s designed for little churches like Alma or Wesley or Pleasant Grove, so that if there is a shortage of pastors, and there is, people can get what they need to be able to serve in those places.

And so the sermon was recorded on Wednesday afternoon, and then I was distracted for two days. And as I was on my way home last night, I was praying and saying, “Lord, what is it that you want your people to learn from the sermon today?” Because we are a learning church, and one of the things we’re learning is how to give thanks, not just when we like what’s happening but in everything. So I’m praying, I’m saying, “Lord, what is it that the people need to hear? What is it that the people need to learn?” And I kept hearing these two words over and over again in my mind, “Aggressively thankful.”

And as I went to bed last night, I prayed and I said, “Lord, I have no clue what that means.” Around 4:30 this morning, I started having a very complicated dream about how life can be like a soap opera. And in my very complicated dream, two people, a man and a woman, were trying to find out and solve some very serious problems, because evil people had done harm. And they were trying to discover who the bad person was, who the villain was in the story, trying to discover what they had done. And just as they were about to make a breakthrough, some other person that the bad guy harmed came in with a gun and shot someone that they were trying to talk to. So literally, revenge interfered constantly with them trying to find the truth and make things better.

And I thought to myself, “Well, revenge is certainly aggressive.” And I Googled it and this picture came up. There’s a TV series that premiered in 2011 that I’ve never seen. Maybe you saw it. I never saw it. It won a number of awards, but it was called Revenge. And in the word for revenge, you see there that letter G, it’s not actually G, it’s a symbol for infinity, because revenge goes on and on and on. And the person who is expressing their anger, who is expressing their betrayal, who has been hurt, the hurt never heals if they direct their energy toward revenge. And I’m a little sleepy right now, because I’ll guarantee you, every ten minutes I woke up and I said to myself, “I sure hope I remember this.” And then I fell back into the dream and somebody else got shot. I hope I don’t fall asleep before the sermons over, to be honest! And every time I woke up, I said, “Lord, I sure hope I remember this.” And I remember some of it, but when I got up and made my coffee, I Googled it, and aggressively thankful began to make sense. Because one of the things that psychologists have found is that if you’re angry, if you have a desire for revenge, if you are aggressive and want to attack someone, what are the cures for that behavior? Not a cure that makes it go away, but a cure that makes you stop hurting is to be thankful. For you to pursue and be aggressive about being thankful.

And all of a sudden, some of the things that I talked about on Wednesday made sense to me. Because, you see, if you want to be thankful, you need to appreciate the value of the truth. Philosopher Bertrand Russell made this comment a century ago, “If you wish to become a philosopher,” by that he means a wise person, “the first thing to realize is that most people go through life with a whole world of beliefs that have no sort of rational justification.” In other words, what they believe is not so much about what’s true, but what they believe is about what will make them comfortable. Russell goes on to say, “That one man’s world of beliefs is apt to be incompatible with another man’s so that they cannot both be right. But when they have a choice between the truth and being comfortable, they choose to stay with the beliefs that they have that help them to avoid uncomfortable truth.” Here’s how Russell put it. People’s opinions are mainly designed to make them feel comfortable.

And I saw that picture of this woman drinking coffee with her feet up, maybe watching TV, and I thought to myself, “That looks really comfortable.” I know why people would go there because sometimes what we feel and what is happening and what is true makes us extremely uncomfortable.

But truth is a beautiful thing. Here’s a man, I imagine kneeling on the shore praying and he sure looks like he’s thankful. And I find myself imagining, “What is it he’s thankful for?” And of course, my imagination goes right to the idea that he’s a survivor of a shipwreck. But it also occurs to me, being a romantic person, maybe he’s thankful because he just asked a pretty girl to marry him and she said yes.

Maybe he’s thankful for another reason. I remember some 30 years ago opening a magazine and they had a section, a humorous section on the world’s shortest short stories. And one of those was the world’s shortest romance novel.

“Marry me,” he said.
“No,” she said.
And they both lived happily ever after.
[laughter]

Because truth is rare. So that’s delightful to discover it. It’s delightful to know it. But sometimes, the truth is not what we expect. Sometimes, the truth is not what we want. Sometimes, the truth is not something we understand. And we look at other people, and we assume that we understand them and their motives and why they do what they do. But, to be honest, we just don’t know. But if our main goal is comfort, we never get past the assumption about other people or about ourselves. We never get past whatever it is that makes us feel comfortable. And sadly, in our society, it’s more and more true that people will hide in what’s comfortable and won’t allow anything about their mind to change.

David Foster Wallace once said, “The truth will set you free, but not until it’s finished with you.” And friends, we need to let the truth work on us. Because when you shine a light into the darkness, you know what you see? The truth. When you let grace into your life, what it reveals is the truth about God. And I want to suggest we need the truth.

So I want to encourage you, when you’re in a dark place, to look for the light. Because when you look for the light, you’re actually looking for the truth that’s available there, hidden in the darkness. Because here is the truth; the darker it is, the faintest possible light, all of a sudden, becomes visible.

They talk about light pollution. The light that comes from street lamps and cities. You know something? You can’t see the stars, but the darker the night, the brighter the stars. And if you’re in a dark room and you’re trying to figure out the way out, you’ll find the door by looking for the light. Because in that dark place, when you see the light, when you find the truth, you will find the way out of a dark place. And then, because you’re guided by the truth, you can be thankful. And I think that’s what it means to be aggressively thankful. We aggressively look for the truth, and the truth shows us how to be thankful.

And so, 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says these words, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing.” That’s the King James Version, but means the same thing, pray constantly. And then this verse, verse 18, which is quite a riddle when you think about it: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Because when you’re in a dark place, you need to look for a reason to be thankful. And when you find that reason to be thankful, it will bring light into the darkness.

Later on, in 1 Thessalonians 5 you find these words, “May the God of peace himself sanctify you holy.? We talked about sanctifying grace two weeks ago, the fact that God doesn’t leave you in the dark; God wants you to grow. God wants you to learn. God wants to help you up and out of whatever hole you might be in and bring you to a better place. Just like the 23rd Psalm, when you’re in that valley of the shadow of death, God wants to bring you toward green pastures and still waters, a place where God restores your soul, a place to where you say, I shall not want because I have everything I need.

And it’s God that does this within us. May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly. And may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. And the God of sanctifying grace is doing that in your life and my life, today and day after day.

And part of sanctifying grace is to help us to be aggressively thankful. Romans 8:28 puts it even more plainly, “We know, Paul writes, “that in everything, God works for good.” Now, please notice I did not say that everything was good. I did not say that in your thanks you should call evil good nor did I say that you should be thankful for evil. What I did say is, no matter how dark it is, there’s some light shining … Because in every darkness, there’s some place that God is working. And God is working to bring light into darkness. We know that in everything, God works for good with those who love him. So love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.

With those who are called according to his purpose. Understand, we all have a calling. We express it every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.” Your calling is to fulfill the will of God for your life. And each one of us has a slightly different calling. There are things in common, but every single one of us is individually and beautifully made. There’s something in every situation that God wants you to do that will lead to a better life or you could say a more sanctified life. Because that’s how God works in every situation. And so down in verse 37, it says “no, in all these things,” and all these problems of the present day and all these dark things that happen, in all these things, Paul writes, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” And part of conquering the present trouble, whatever it is, I would suggest to you is to be aggressively thankful.

So I’ve decided later on this week … I’m going to wait until I’m in a good mood … I’m going to do an audit of my own life. I’m going to start with what I remember from my childhood and walk year by year through my life and aggressively seek to be thankful for things that have happened in my past. Because the psychology I read, the scripture I read, tells me that my healing for anything in the past is going to start when I can learn to be thankful. Because often, our evaluation, our understanding of what happened in the past is flawed. Our understanding is imperfect. And not only that. Sometimes we can’t be thankful for the past because we’re not done grieving yet. But there comes a point to where if I can find out in this tragedy that happened to me, that problem that beat me down, if there’s a place to where I can say, “Well, I’m thankful for this part of that…” I know that light will grow from that point where I’m thankful. Because if we are thankful that we are able to be aggressively thankful for the past, we’re going to find closure for the ways that the past holds us back by trying to keep us in the past. So I’m going to do that this week.

In addition to that, I’m going to look around. By the way, isn’t the snow pretty? Aren’t you glad it’s not like this in the picture? Aren’t you glad the snow isn’t like that? This is a mountain in Japan. Every year it snows like this. Every year, the snowplows dig out the roads. And there’s the 17, 18, 20, 24-foot-high banks of snow. That’s the present. Sometimes it can be hard for us to be thankful for the present.

But if you look around your life in the present, quite often God will shine a light that will help you to see how to get past a problem in the present. You go to a store, they’re out of chocolate icing. Well, God will show you another store. You have something that shouldn’t happen on the way home. Last night, my idiot light– and you know why they call them idiot lights? Because they’re there to help idiots. The idiot light on my car said that I had a low tire. And I thought to myself, if it gets lower, I’ll find a gas station. I never did actually look at it. But in the present, it wasn’t as bad a problem as the idiot light wanted to make it to be. We can look at the world around us to find a reason to be thankful. We can count our blessings.

And that will change how we perceive the present day. If a store doesn’t have something I want to buy, we can say to ourselves, “There must be another store that has it; I’m thankful that there’s more than one store.” You can look for reasons to be thankful. Now when you can’t find anything thankful, I’d like to recommend to you something I have always called the unofficial Minnesota state motto. And I thought about this snowbank anytime I think of Minnesota. The unofficial Minnesota state motto I would suggest is: no matter what’s wrong, you just say instead, could be worse. Could be worse. And I’ll guarantee you, brothers and sisters, it could be worse. We got three inches of snow, but it could be worse. But it’s not. Maybe we got enough snow and that we could handle it. Maybe whatever it is that’s causing us to feel upset, maybe we can handle it. Maybe being thankful will help us to be calm.

Now, you can ask yourself a question, “What am I going to do today? Where should I go today?” And sometimes people literally just don’t know. And being thankful can also help you open a door to a beautiful future. You can imagine what could happen the rest of today or the rest of this week or the rest of this month or the rest of my life. What could happen that would make me incredibly happy and thankful? And you can say to yourself, “Lord, that’s what I want.” By the way, if you’re wrong, and it would not make you happy, God will adjust reality so that you’ll learn from everything that you imagine. But it can be easy to be thankful for the future if you’ll allow yourself to have faith and hope and believe that your faith and hope can guide you in your prayers.

“Lord, it’s not this good yet, but this is what I want. Lord, life isn’t doing everything I’d like, but this is what I want.” And you can pray those prayers, and it’s like mapping them out, it’s almost like a heavenly GPS. Those prayers will help you map out what you need to do now and what you need to do next. And it will open a door to a beautiful future, a blessing. If you take time to imagine, to aggressively be thankful about what you imagine you would like to have happen in your future. I’m going to do that this week too. I predict I’m going to be very happy that day. Because when we pray for what we want to be thankful for, God begins to work in our life and in our world.

We pray this throughout the season of Pentecost. We pray this on Sunday morning as a part of worship. We ask God, “Lord, help me to stay on the right path.” Friends, I want to say to you, if you’re not certain you’re on the right path, if you’re not certain what to do, if you’re not certain about the next step, you can pause to find your truth and then find your thank you, what you’re thankful for. Because I will guarantee you … in almost every situation … your next step which will get you back on the path will keep you on the right path will be to go in the direction of where you’re thankful.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, sometimes we’re just lost and don’t know what to do next. Sometimes we’re in a dark place, and we’ve lost our way, and we don’t know which direction to go. Lord, help us in those moments to pull over to the side of the road for a minute of prayer, for a minute of thinking, for a minute to calm down, for a minute to ask ourselves and reorient ourselves to what is true. For a minute to say, “What do I want to happen?” After which I will be thankful. And then, Lord, before it happens, help us to be thankful because being thankful, aggressively thankful, will help keep us on the right path. Lord, we’re in a world where there’s so many reasons why people get upset and angry. There are so many reasons why people hurt and want to strike out in anger or revenge. Help us, Lord, to turn away from everything that hurts us and other people. And by taking a step toward being thankful, Lord, help us to get back on the right path for the best life that we can know here. And we ask this in Jesus’s name. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

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