7th Sunday of Epiphany

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your eyes, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

            ‘Thank God’ a common phrase that for many secular Australians doesn’t mean much at all. They aren’t really thanking any god, just using an old turn of phrase. But for you and me ‘Thank God’ means so much more and is so very applicable. When that sudden kangaroo misses the car, we can thank God; When someone is declared well after a long sickness, thank God; When new life is created, or old life is saved, thank Him; and Thank our Heavenly Father, your God and mine, for His wonderful gifts of life, forgiveness, peace, joy, freedom from sin and death, His son Christ Jesus.

            Throughout this letter Paul tells us to rejoice and give thanks, to endure everything that is thrown at us and to rely on Jesus. Even to rejoice if you are thrown in prison, beaten and ridiculed. Even if we suffer from drought, from sickness and from sin. In any and all situations, Jesus, through Paul, tells us to rejoice in Him. We allocate a Sunday each year to thank God for the fruits of our labours, traditionally harvests but increasingly that doesn’t really apply to us all. So instead we can thank Him by our words, our attitude and by giving back some of what He first gave us, to others in need. That is why we have the offering every Sunday, not primarily to support me, the church building, or the LCA; but rather as an opportunity to thank God for what He has given you.

            And what has He given you? He has given you food, most every day, that’s why we say ‘grace’ or ‘give thanks’ at meals. He’s also given you money and by extension all the things you buy with that money. A really handy thing those notes, nice and light, barely notice how much we can put in the offering bag … But of course God loves the cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). He is one Himself, and He also gave everything that is its existence, sustaining it and all of us right now; in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). He has given all people the option to reject His gifts, to forget Him and what He has done, to go our own way, to sin. And we often take that route, some worse than others. We tell Jesus, ‘I won’t forget to thank you’, then we say to others, ‘you worked hard for that, you can do whatever you want with it.’ Even you and I, Christians, forget to be thankful to the God we follow. We take matters into our own hands, we sin and we fail.

            But that is not the end of it, and it’s certainly not the start. When you or I go our own way, instead of Christ’s, He has given us that blessed opportunity and encouragement by His Word and the Holy Spirit to turn back to Him, to repent, and confess the truth He has told us of our failure, our forgetting and of His forgiveness, washing us clean in the waters of baptism, forgiven by the blood of Christ (1 John 1; Titus, 3:4-7; Matthew 26:28). Thank God for that! For His wonderful love and loyalty, in the face of our failure to love and betrayal. God gives you life, comfort and joy.

            This, however, is not all that Paul is writing about. Certainly to be thankful in all circumstances and to ask our Heavenly Father for anything we may need, but Paul also writes to think on, to analyse whatever is true, weighty, righteous, holy, toward love, of good report, and virtuous or praiseworthy. Now you and I know that when we meditate or ruminate of a wrong done to us we feel worse and worse, angrier and even sick it’s like a spiral downwards. When we think on things that are false, shallow, wicked, without God, toward hate, of bad report, and wicked or insulting we forget Jesus. To think over your failure or sin, to watch many of the sad things on the News, to surround your mind with evil, even if we are condemning it, is not healthy, is not God-pleasing. Those things can not bring us the peace of God or His joy, but they can lead us away from His son. Better to always remember God’s Word, what He has done through Jesus, this wonderful life He has given, the beautiful world He has created, the shocking forgiveness that He freely gives all people, the stunning love of Jesus in giving His life for you, the depth of peace that the Holy Spirit brings, the miraculous faith of our brothers and sisters adopted into God’s family, the encouragement, the blessings, there is no shortage of these wonderful and holy things. And when you think of these, we can’t help but thank God for His wonderful gifts, His grace. We are filled with His joy.

            It’s not that we forget the world and become hermits, Paul was thrown into prison because he kept getting in people’s way. Rather it’s a change of outlook, when you see a car cut you off, thank God that you didn’t crash, that He’s given you a car to travel fast and efficiently, thank Him that He gave life to you and that other driver and with thanksgiving we can bring our request to God that it doesn’t happen again. And so rejoice at all times, thank The Lord for what He has given, rely on Him for all your needs, and always recall His wonderful grace in Jesus Christ.

And the peace of God, which passes all our understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Joseph Graham