Summary: Relying on God's gifts instead of the giver is a house of sand.
Oct 9, 2011 Based on Ps 65
Intro into time of Corporate Thanksgiving:
As we allow Ps 65 to guide our Thanksgiving service today, we have ascribed praise (vs 1), proclaimed our promise of steadfastness (vs 1), confessed (vs 3), and celebrated our welcome by God our Father (vs 4) – isn’t that a great picture: what festivities await us inside your holy Temple!
This second section of the Psalm sends us into our time of Corporate Praise – Pastor Sue sent an email this week asking us to come prepared with something to share as a praise, including the challenge to even think of our prayer requests as an opportunity to express thanks to God even in the midst of a challenging or difficult situation. For example I have been dealing with our facility disaster on an almost-daily basis, and so in the spirit of Thanksgiving I can choose to say thanks to God that we have great people working on solutions, that we have finally begun the repair phase, that I am learning a lot, and that the disaster was not as bad as it could have been.
Or as another example, I recall quite a few people facing serious illness who have been thankful for their suffering because it brought them closer to God and to others.
At the very least, we might recall Father Francis John Mulcahey, from the T.V. show MASH who was once caught in the mess tent saying grace. Other characters were shocked – Father, they said, what on earth can you find to be thankful about in this horrible slop? The insightful priest replied, Well, I try my best, and when it gets really bad, well then I can be thankful that at least it is not always as bad as it is that day.
In just a moment I’m going to invite your expressions of thanksgiving. But first, let’s take some instruction from Scripture.
This passage re-focuses us on to whom we are giving thanks. See, sometimes the very act of thanksgiving undermines the intent behind it. What I mean is that sometimes when we reflect on the things for which we are thankful, we shift our focus onto those things for which we are thankful rather than the One who provides those things. Onto ourselves – how good our lives are, how we appreciate our family and our homes and our freedom and our material blessings and all the rest. And that is a good starting place. But sometimes that focuses us on the gifts rather than the giver. Sometimes that focuses us on ourselves, rather than our God who has provided all these incredible things.
The Psalm, if we allow it to lead us in worship, prevents that. Take a look: whom does it describe? It is not focusing on the benefits of our relationship with God, it is focusing us on God Himself – His faithfulness (vs 5), His awesome deeds (vs 5), God as savior (vs 5), as hope (vs 5). And that is only in the first verse! Then it goes on to describe the mountains, the oceans, and the shouting nations (vs 6-7). And then we hear an appropriate response: stand in awe of (His) wonders… shouts of joy.
It brings us back to God. That is our desire and intention, even as we share the things going on in our lives. God is at the centre. God is the source. God is the answer. He is savior, hope, faithful, and full of awesome deeds. And that is where our focus needs to be.
This is also the message of Hebrews 12:1-2: Hebrews 12: And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
So, as I invite you to share your praises, with a focus on the giver rather than the gifts, let us do so with the command of 1 Thess 5:16-18 ringing in our ears: 16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
Blessed Be Your Name
The Earth is Yours
The King’s Twins:
There once was a King who had twin sons. They were his delight, and he showered them with gifts. He began each day on his throne by welcoming his sons, chatting and laughing with them, and then he would give them both a precious gift from his treasure store.
One son would take the gift and hide it away in a locked closet, afraid that others would steal it. The other would go down into the village and share the treasure with the villagers, sometimes to fund a party, sometimes to help build places to play or places to heal, and sometimes he would just quietly give to the poor of the village that they might have food.