Sermons

Summary: Keeping our minds rooted in thanksgiving for all of God's abundant mercies keeps us in tune with joyful living.

November 25, 2020

Thanksgiving Eve

Rev. Mary Erickson

Hope Lutheran Church

Philippians 4:4-9

Tuning Forks and the Key of Life

Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice.” Paul writes these words of encouragement to the church in Philippi. While writing them, he himself is in prison. He’s in a serious situation! Even so, he encourages them to rejoice always. Paul isn’t writing this as a Polyanna. He doesn’t see rejoicing as a sugar glaze on top of our troubles. No, this is something he’s learned first-hand. He learned this “always” precisely in the face of his hardships.

Paul has made rejoicing the key of his life. He has tuned his life to the realization that the peace of God has guarded and will continue to guard his heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

Paul is sharing his most treasured discovery with the Philippians. God is faithful. Rejoice in the Lord!

Paul should know. He’s lived through more hardships than he can count on his fingers and toes. In another letter, he elaborates:

“Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea. On frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” (2 Cor. 11:24-27)

It’s only in times of adversity that you can discover what you can really rely on. When all other supports are washed away, what remains is true and certain. And Paul has learned: that one reliable thing is the steadfast faithfulness of God. God has seen him through! Even in his chains, Paul now remains unshaken in hope.

We’ve all known people who retain an unquenchable joy for life even in the face of tremendous adversity. They might have terminal cancer. Or they might live in extreme poverty. They may face the daily threat of violence in the neighborhood where they live. But they remain resilient. They continue to be stalwart beacons of light to everyone around them. What they have isn’t simple optimism. It’s much more than that. They possess joy.

Joy recognizes that any present danger, any dread or any worry does not have the final word. Joy looks for and sees the hand of God at work in all things and circumstances. It actively looks for whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing or commendable. And it keeps its minds set on these things. Oh, there may be weeping for the night, but joy, JOY comes in the morning!

Joy knows that God has a plan for us, a plan for our welfare and not for evil. Joy is certain that in all things God is working for good. That joy is to be the key of our life. Faith in God is tuned to the key of joy.

Now I know what can happen to tuning! I can have my guitar tuned perfectly on Tuesday for Rachel’s Place chapel. But by Wednesday’s confirmation class, the tuning on my guitar has already shifted! So many things can work against my guitar’s tuning. The temperature in my office, the age of the guitar strings. Air pressure. What began in the correct key can drift. And sometimes all the strings drift in the same direction so I don’t even realize just how off they’ve become.

The same can happen with my attitude. It can subtly bend. Without being aware of it, my attitude can drift. My perspective subtly veers from grateful to resentful. I shift from positive to negative. My demeanor changes from sweet to sour. I drift from glad to glum.

What I need is to check my attitude, check my angle on life against a solid, unchanging truth. What I need is a tuning fork. Only the tuning fork will guard my heart and mind. Only with the tuning fork of faith in the good and gracious will of God can I remain attuned to the key of life.

And friends, this is where thanksgiving comes in. If there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things! This is what we do on the day of Thanksgiving, we think about these things. We reflect on God’s steadfast love.

And not just on Thanksgiving, but every day, we think about these things. When we first open our eyes after a night’s sleep, we say a prayer of thanksgiving. We thank God for seeing us through the night. We give thanks for another day of life on this beautiful planet. We thank God for our abundant blessings. We think about these things.

And in thinking about these things, our hearts and minds are tuned to the key of life. Rejoice, rejoice in the Lord, always; again I will say: rejoice

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