Ephesians 1:3-14 Thank You, God, for Everything
I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude. – Brené Brown
As part of our holiday celebrations at Zion this July, we are focusing this week and next on our response to the awesome workings and gifts of God. Therefore, today and next Sunday are “Thanksgiving at Zion” Sundays. In a little while we will participate in an activity designed to help us tap into our sense of gratitude and focus on the goodness of God experienced throughout our lives - in the past year or more, in the past few weeks – or whatever comes into focus for you.
We each hold in our hands the keys to naming which treasures we wish to name before God in thanksgiving.
Thank you notes are important tools for both their author and their receiver. Those who commonly write thank you notes find that the act itself raises in your deep awareness your giftedness and warm, affirming and even affectionate feelings evoked by the generosity behind them – especially those unexpected gifts you receive, or the ones you know you really didn’t “deserve.”
On the other hand, when you receive thanks for a gift, an act, or even the emotional support you have given someone, other warm, positive feelings rise within you. If you’ve ever received a thank you note from someone, especially a note not at all expected, then you know how gratifying and even humbling reading the words of heartfelt thanks on paper may be.
Thank you notes are important to both the giver and the receiver; though, they are arguably more important to the writer of the note thanks, as the simple task of writing a thank you note, of articulating the meaning of having received the gift in the first place can raise the intensity of your appreciation for it. In fact, that physical act of putting thoughtful, thankful words on paper is so powerful, that journaling your thanks is also a powerful and popular activity to raise one’s sense of joy, gratitude, and wonder in life.
Dr. Brené Brown is a licensed social worker, research professor, lecturer, author and podcast host, whose areas of expertise include the human experiences of vulnerability, courage, gratitude, shame, empathy, and what she terms, ‘wholeheartedness.’ Here is what she has to say about the connection between gratitude and joy: (This is a YouTube link) https://youtu.be/2IjSHUc7TXM
Ephesians 3:3-14, which forms our second reading today, is a letter from Paul to the church at Ephesus in which he invites our celebration and thanksgiving that in Jesus Christ, all God’s plans and purposes are made known and come to fruition through him. Thank you, God, that in Jesus, heaven and earth are united. Thank you, God, that in Jesus, we have been chosen as God’s children. Thank you, God, that in Jesus, we are promised eternal salvation. Thank you, God, that in Jesus, God’s glorious grace and forgiveness are known, and in him, our glorious destiny stands assured.
In Jesus, the truth of God’s love and promise become known; in him, we receive the gospel of salvation. Thanksgiving, praise, and unending gratitude are due the God who loves all created beings so much, that he demonstrates his will for their good life through the sending of the Son and delivery of the eternal promise for all who believe in him.
We live in an us-versus-them world. Nowhere, perhaps, is this more evident than in our history of cycles of enslavement and war, the ongoing scourge of poverty and starvation which co-exist with obscene excesses in our world of plenty. We have seen and continue, in many places, to see the effects of the in-dwelling nature of sin in a pandemic world, in a world suffering the devastating effects of global warming, in nations and religions in conflict with each other even to the point of death.
Amid that reality, Paul’s writing comes to us as a celebration of God’s love which rises above the chaos in which we dwell and reveals God’s ultimate plan of adoption and salvation for a world mired in sin.
Through the words of this letter, written a couple of millennium ago, Paul invites us to offer up our thanksgiving in a song that centers our focus on the God of all creation and mercy.To drive his point home, Paul emphasizes the words “chosen, redeemed, and sealed,” indicating that our existence is not the result of some cosmic accident or behavior, as some would suggest. Rather, God, in God’s great wisdom, creativity and love, brought all that is, into being; in and through Jesus the Christ, this same God brings us all to a world of salvation, for all eternity. In his divine will and agency, God claims us for his purposes and loves us unconditionally, together with all of humanity. Rather than singling out some and rejecting others as some creeds would profess, God’s love and mercy are inclusive. God does not exclude any but embraces all creation, including this imperfect, struggling human family in his eternal plans.
Through Jesus Christ himself, God has made it possible for all created beings to experience God’s love and mercy. This very same love makes it possible for us to know the grace and faithful relationship of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is love which inspires our sense of gratitude; and that gratitude leads us to joy.
All that being said, what more could we desire but to praise, honor, love, and worship God in abundant gratitude and unending thanksgiving? What joy do we receive as we focus on the good gifts of God? How do we prepare ourselves to be the vessels of God’s love and grace for those who don’t yet know him? Don’t yet accept him as Lord?
This week and next, we have placed in your hands a tool – a thank you card to God. It is up to you to use it, to offer God thanks for a way that you have seen God present in your life or in the world.
Please write one specific thing for which you are grateful to God. We will post these on our Thanksgiving tree and will add to the tree another set of gratitude statements for our tree next week.
During the pandemic year and longer, there have been many things that have arisen that have been disturbing, alarming, or grieving. But God has been so good to us throughout this time and has never let us go. Nor will God ever let us go.
We are God’s children. We are the sheep of his pasture. We are his beloved, for whom he sent his Son and gave his life. For all these things, we give God all our thanks and praise! Amen.