Summary: A reason to be thankful.
“Praise the Lord!”
By: Rev. Kenneth Emerson Sauer, Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
As most of you know, since we weren’t here last Sunday, Jeanne, Ben and myself were at Jeanne’s mom’s house near Atlanta, Georgia in order to celebrate Christmas.
Jeanne has a big family that just keeps on growing.
She has three brothers, and from two of those brothers we now have three little nephews and one niece.
Anyway, Jeanne’s family has a really neat tradition that they celebrate each year—while everyone is sitting around the Christmas tree—before any gifts are opened.
Sitting in a circle, each family member shares his and her thoughts on what he or she is thankful for this year.
Quite often the word ‘family’ is repeated over and over again.
This year, when it was Jeanne’s brother Allen’s turn to say what he is thankful for his answer was: “I am thankful for the gift of being given the opportunity to serve God.”
I had a feeling Allen would say something to that affect, and it was quite moving.
Why did I have this feeling?
It’s not because Allen has said this sort of thing in the past while giving thanks at the Hoskyn home on Christmas day.
It’s because I’ve known what a great work God has been doing in Allen’s life this past year…
…and having seen first hand, experienced first hand and read about what affect this great work has had on hundreds and thousands and millions of other people throughout the past 2,000 years…
…well, I just had a feeling that this is what Allen was going to be thankful for.
In our Epistle Lesson for this morning, the apostle Paul tells us Christians what…well…in a sense what we already know.
Now, it is sort of inside stuff…
…only because of the fact that one has to have experienced it for one’s self in order to be able to relate to it and understand it.
Paul reminds us how we used to be spiritually dead or separated from the life of God back when we were trying to do things on our own…back before we accepted God’s free gift of salvation for ourselves by grace through faith.
I’ve known Allen for a good little while now.
I’ve always liked him…
…always gotten along with him alright…
…well, gee, I even performed the wedding ceremony for he and his wife just over three years ago.
But, I never could have guessed what God had in store for him…
…well, I should probably say that a little differently…
…I always could have guessed the salvation that God had in store for him…
…I just never could have guessed what Allen would do with that salvation once it was offered.
Would he accept it and run with it?
Or would he never accept it and never run with it?
Up until last year around this time, Allen seemed to have no interest at all in Christianity…
…and although he is a very gifted person…
…he has always seemed to me to be unsatisfied with life and maybe a bit unhappy.
He was a pretty heavy party-animal the first time I met him…
…among other things.
But, last Christmas, or on the Sunday following last Christmas…
Allen and his wife invited Jeanne, Ben and I to join them in attending worship services at a United Methodist Church they had been visiting…and so we went.
I was excited…I knew something was stirring.
In this day and age, for a person in their late 20’s or early thirties to suddenly decide to start going to church…
…well, I think God is calling them and they are beginning to listen.
We are living in the post-Christian era.
It is no longer the socially respectable or in-thing to attend church.
Most people, seem to find other things to do on Sunday morning…unless, unless they have a real reason for being there.
Because most of us are busy following “the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air”…that is Satan, the devil, or in Jesus’ words “the prince of this world.”
And “the prince of this world” is the one we are following if we are not following Christ.
We may try to be good enough to go to heaven while still following “the ruler of the kingdom of the air.”
We may even think we are good enough people on our own---saving our own souls through good works while ignoring the gift of faith, the gift of God Who is Jesus Christ the Lord.
Many of us feel as if we do not need to confess our sins.
After-all, we aren’t that bad.
Our sins aren’t that horrible.
We aren’t like the murderers, the adulterers, the child molesters…