Monday, August 17, 2015

“ALWAYS Thankful!” Ephesians 5:15-20

S-1510 12SAP/3B 8/16/2015 Hymns: (O) #895; (S) #892; C) #785

Texts: Proverbs 9:1-10; Ephesians 5:6-21; John 6:51-69

Theme: “ALWAYS Thankful!” Ephesians 5:15-20

Question: “What are you thankful for?” (1st sermon at Trinity, Hartford, SD)

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost is from the Epistle Lesson. The great preacher to the Gentiles, Paul, put it this way: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:15-20).

Blessed and beautiful people of God, you who are Baptized, Redeemed, Forgiven, Blood-bought and Heaven-bound, life is not fair nor easy. We are not always thankful for what we have or get. More often than not, we grumble and complain. Rather than being thankful we lift our hands and eyes heaven-ward and ask God where are You in all of this?

Ever since the fall of man, we have had to cope with all sorts of heartaches and headaches, tragedies and trials, sorrow and sadness, death and destruction and doom and gloom. We tend to look at the cup as being half empty instead of half full. That is the nature of the beast in us.

However, Pastor Paul exhorts us to give thanks always. You and I ask the question: “Paul are you mad? Do you really want me to give thanks in every situation? What’s wrong with you man of God to give such an advice? Don’t you know that it is hard to be thankful when I don’t feel the best and things at home or work are not going well?”

That’s it precisely. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit penned these words of exhortation first to the saints at Ephesus and to us now living in the 21st century to help us see things from God’s perspective and not ours. Pastor Paul, in another book stated this: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Yet, we know it is not easy while going through hard times to be thankful. We are so focused on ourselves that we don’t see the whole picture, nor the plan of God for our lives. Add to that, the devil is constantly planting the seed of doubt in our ears and hearts by asking this questions: “Where is Your God now? If He really cared about you wouldn’t be going through these difficulties!” Sadly the old Adam in us believes these lies from the father of lies. We begin to grumble and complain. PAUSE.

I like to share with you two events that when they happened I cried and wondered where is God in all of this and why has He abandoned me?

In the summer of 1991 while I was at Concordia Seminary preparing to be a pastor, I received my vicarage assignment. I was so excited I couldn’t wait to start serving my Lord and these beloved saints. However, soon after I arrived trouble started. The devil was at work and there was a big jealousy between the pastor and me that he made my vicarage a living hell. I was accused of many things. I wept and cried myself to sleep often. I kept asking God why? Why am I suffering like this? Of course the devil was loving it. He sat on the sidelines eating popcorn and drinking Pepsi as he saw the church at war. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to continue studying for the pastoral Office. Needless to say the seminary stepped in and terminated my vicarage. This of course added to my bitterness and heartaches.

The second event happened last October as we started out on our Holy Land Nour Tour. Since I am the host of the tour, I attempt to get a good night’s rest for the long 10 hours flight. I do it by taking Melatonin. This helps me sleep and get the needed rest to begin working when we arrive. After I took the Melatonin, I also drank a glass of wine. After an hour, I wasn’t sleepy. So I decided to take another pill. The stewardess came by again and offered another glass of wine and I drank it also. (Now don’t get ahead of me) small Pause. Needless to say things began to heat up. I felt very warm that I changed my t-shirt to something lighter. Still I didn’t feel any better. On the contrary I felt worse. I decided to visit the rest room. While waiting in line I passed out completely. When I woke up I could hear someone speaking in Hebrew saying: “Give him time to come to!PAUSE.

I assure you beloved that these two events didn’t make me thankful. On the contrary they made me mad and frustrated. I am also certain, that if you review your lives you know exactly what I am talking about. You know firsthand the pain and anguish you have endured. You have had your own share of heartaches and headaches both as the beloved congregation of Trinity, Hartford and in your personal lives.

Yet, Pastor Paul tells us in the text these precious life-giving words: “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We, His precious children ought to always give thanks to Him. But how could we, when tears stain our pillows at night? How could we, when our hearts are in turmoil and trouble? How could we, when the money runs out before the end of the month, when there is no food on the table, when things look bleak, and when life is miserable?

We are able to do it only because the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives as it was in the life of Paul. Keep in mind when Paul wrote this letter, he wrote it from a Roman jail waiting to be executed by beheading. In spite of that He found a way to give thanks to the Lord, Jesus Christ in every situation.

In preparation for this sermon I read the whole letter of Ephesians and here are few golden nuggets--reasons that Paul shares with us why we should always be thankful.

We are to be thankful because we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (1:3), we have been chosen by God (1:4), we are holy and blameless (1:4), we are predestined (1:6), Adopted (1:6) redeemed (1:7), forgiven (1:7), given the richness of His grace (1:7), lavished (1:8), heirs to the throne of Grace (1:10), hopeful (1:11), saved and sealed with the Holy Spirit (1:13), guarantee of eternal life (1:14), enlightened (1:18), received God’s mercy (2:4) made alive (2:4), created for good works (2:10), brought in to the family (2:14), broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. (2:15), called saints (2:19), built up (2:22), called by the Gospel (4:1), made righteous (4:26) and Christ offered Himself for us (5:2). All of this is on account of Christ our Savior who suffered, died and rose again even for the times when we doubted His goodness in the midst of our sufferings and turmoil in our lives. His blood cleanses us for each time we feel that God has abandoned us when it was Jesus who was abandoned on the cross so that God’s promise of “I am with you always” would stand firm in every situation of life.

You see precious and beautiful people of God it is not the condition or circumstance that we are in, that drives our thankfulness. Rather it is on account of what Christ has done for us and continues to do for us. We ought to be thankful in every situation because Christ is at work in these situations to draw closer to Him and show us how much He loves us.

Through His life-giving Word and Sacraments we are encouraged to see things as Paul did when he wrote these blessed words for us and showing us to ALWAYS be thankful in everything.

Remember my two stories I shared with you earlier? First, my vicarage drama, the Lord used that incident in my life to shape me and make me the man of God I am today. Without that event in my life, I wouldn’t have been a Pastor in Armour. But God worked it for my good and for His glory.

The second event, I passed out on the plane after I took (a terrible combination) Benadryl and wine. As a result of this incident the doctor determined that I couldn’t lie in the aisle but needed to lie flat. The only place possible was in first class. So my wife and I were able to fly all the way to Israel in first class without paying for it.

Then there is, of course a third event that we are sharing together in a very new and special way today, as flock and shepherd: the fact that God has brought us together as Pastor and people that I might serve you as your pastor and that we might worship and work together serving our glorious God. This, too, is a reason to give thanks to the Lord who ALWAYS takes care of us.

As I look back, I am moved to repentance for doubting God and in humility raise my voice in thanksgiving to the Lord for His mercy. I do say thank you God for your kindness, mercy, grace and compassion for me a sinner. I urge you dear brothers and sisters to do the same. As you put on the Gospel lens, the Holy Spirit moves us to always be thankful on account of Christ our Savior and Lord who loved us and gave Himself for us. Amen.

Now the peace of God…