Summary: How can one describe what God has given in this church, with the successes of the past year? How describe human needs, especially for the Gospel? And how describe the opportunities for inclusive worship, honest learning, and artistic expression?
Once upon a time a certain church was in an uproar. Some said that the pastor was not performing according to expectations. And so complaints were brought to the deacons, who met to consider the issue, and asked those who were grumbling, “What is the problem with the pastor?” One disaffected member voiced it very clearly. Said he, “The problem is that our pastor is invisible during the week and inscrutable on Sundays!’
I plead guilty. Invisible during the week because of other involvements. And no doubt sometimes inscrutable on Sundays. Take today, for example. Today I shall attempt to describe the indescribable. Today I will take my stand along side the apostle Paul who, after trying to speak his heart, ended his message with an exclamation, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” On this Thanksgiving Sunday, when we reflect on all that our Creator has given, we may count our many blessings and name them one by one, but it will be indescribable what the Lord has done.
So bear with me today as I struggle to describe the indescribable and to unscrew the inscrutable! Language fails for such a task. Ordinary logic will not do it. Mere rhetoric will not turn us from obligation to opportunity. No amount of preachment will drive us from pessimism to optimism. I can only point to what our God is doing, and hope that in the depths of our souls we will receive to see us energized out of anxiety and into obedience.
And all that I shall say will be based on one constant premise, one ongoing thread. You have heard it before, but hear it again: that we serve a God of abundance and not a God of scarcity. That ours is not a dilettante deity with nothing in His hands. No, ours is the God who possesses the cattle on a thousand hills, who flung the stars into space, and who has made all things. All things are made by Him and all things are at His disposal. He gives His gifts in abundance to His people, and asks only that we place these gifts into the service of His will. He asks us to trust Him to provide us with an abundant life, and out of faith then to give back for His work. He is an abundant Lord, giving us an abundant life, and He wants from us an abundant church. We serve a God of abundance and not a God of scarcity.
How then, shall I point to God’s indescribable and abundant goodness? How shall I make your heart sing and be thankful about what a God of abundance has given?
Shall I point to the vastness of space, and remind you that He has flung into the void thousands upon thousands of stars, far beyond our Milky Way galaxy? Shall I point to the immensity of even our own solar system, with the planets in their orbits, each one a witness to His providence? Or shall I come down and focus on this earth, this third rock from the sun, and ask you to think of its abundance? Here life abounds; the place teems with every form of life imaginable. Would you be thankful if I were to list the flora and fauna of earth? Or would you just find that inscrutable?
Then shall I point to our place on the planet? Shall I take in you in your mind’s eye to the gracious homes in which many of us live, to the bounteous tables at which we expect to sit on Thursday – as if we did not do so every day? Shall I ask you to count up all your stuff, from high-tech toys to comfortable cars? Will that generate gratitude? The other day someone asked me how many books there were in my house; the answer is about eight thousand. Did counting those up make me feel grateful? Or did it just seem like another burden to carry?
Oh, can I describe anything that makes us thank our God of abundance? What if I were to point to our life together in this community called church? Can we see right here God’s indescribable gifts, gifts that make us know that God is in this place? I have been working with you for only a little more than a year, but I see here some who are eager to be about the business of serving God. I see here some who are full of ideas about what their church might become. I see others who are on fire for anything God may call us to do. I see here a church which is just like the way Paul described the church at Corinth, “ready since last year, and your zeal … stirred up …”