Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Jesus invites us to take part in his feast for the soul. He urges us to eat until we are full. Only he can satisfy our deepest hunger-the quest for eternal fellowship with him. Our main purpose in life is to get spiritual nourishment and eternal life.

A country preacher decided to skip services one Sunday morning to spend the day hiking in the wilderness. Rounding a sharp bend in the trail, he collided with a bear and was sent tumbling down a steep grade. He landed on a rock and broke both legs.

With the ferocious bear charging at him from a distance, the preacher prayed, “O Lord! I’m so sorry for skipping services today. Please forgive me and grant me just one wish. Make a Christian out of that bear that’s coming at me!”

At that very instant, the bear skidded to a halt, fell to his knees, clasped his paws together and began to pray aloud at the preacher’s feet, “Dear God, please bless this food I am about to receive.”

We are celebrating the season of Thanksgiving today and next Sunday because of our parish’s service schedule. This is the season where we give thanks to God for everything he has given us. We thank God for providing for our needs, and we especially give thanks for the gift of the harvest, whether it is from the land or the sea.

Giving thanks to God dates back to Old Testament times. In Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Moses commanded the Israelites to give thanks to God for delivering them from slavery in Egypt. They were to give thanks by giving God the first fruits of the harvest. They could not take anything for themselves until they gave the first fruits to God.

The concept of giving God the first fruits was rooted in divine property rights. All created beings of any kind belonged to God and were regarded as holy. Before the harvest could be eaten by humans, it had to be “redeemed” from profane use. If this was not done, divine justice demanded retribution. The only way to resolve this situation was to give back to God the first part of the taboo object-in this case, the harvest. This nullified God’s property rights.

The passage from Deuteronomy 26:1-11 deals with the concept of stewardship. Specifically, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, it refers to offering to God the first fruits of our labour as an act of worship, thanksgiving and dedication of ourselves and our possessions to God. By doing this, we commit ourselves to living in God’s way. We, like the Israelites, must remember and tell others how God has rescued us in the past. These remembrances strengthen our faith and give us the courage to endure in difficult times. God created us to be close to him, and rejoicing in God is a great and powerful way to draw close to him.

One of the greatest gifts God gives us is the peace that is beyond our understanding. We are encouraged to conduct ourselves in such a way that we bring that peace. Pausing to express gratitude for our blessings breathes life into our souls, especially in times of trial and heartache.

True thanksgiving means thanking God for our talents and abilities by accepting them as obligations to be invested in the common good. In other words, we are to use our talents and abilities to do God’s work in our world. True thanksgiving means thanking God for all that people have done for us by doing things for others. We must thank God for blessing us, and in return we must bless others.

Sometimes we have to wait until the fruits of God’s labour appear. Why? God might be preparing us to receive his blessings. He is often teaching us to have faith in him. Sometimes God will withhold blessings to protect us from harm that we can’t see.

We need to rejoice in that which is guaranteed-God. We need to give thanks for that which can never be taken away. God never fades, and for that we can rejoice. We are to tell God what we need. Praying about everything, including everything we need, shuts out worry. In the words of the famous song recorded a few years ago by Bobby McFerrin:

Here’s a little song I wrote

You might want to sing it note for note

Don’t worry

Be happy.

In every life we have some trouble

When you worry you make it double

Don’t worry

Be happy

When you worry your face will frown

That will bring everybody down

Don’t worry

Be happy

Prayer invites God to be involved in all areas of our lives. When he is involved in our lives, we have nothing to fear. (Pause)

In order to have a right relationship with God, we need to have an attitude of gratefulness. We need to be thankful. For example, in Luke’s version of the Parable of the Ten Lepers, which is found in Luke 17:11-19, Jesus healed ten lepers when they cried out to him. He commanded them to go and show themselves to the priest in the temple, but only one of them came back to give Jesus thanks. We are to be like the one who returned and gave thanks, and not like the other nine who were ungrateful. We need to give to God out of the blessings that he has given us. This is where the concept of tithing, or giving God 10 percent of our income, comes from.

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