Sermon for Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost 11 
Thanksgiving Festival

Text: Psalm 147.7
Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving, make music to our God...

Make music to our God


When I was a child my parents often talked about what their families did in the days before television. Some nights they would sit around the wireless and listen to a serial, or the news. Other nights they would just sing. Some of my dadís brothers and sisters were quite musical and so to the strum of a guitar or banjo or the sound of a scratchy gramophone record they would all sing-along. Songs like Let me Call you Sweetheart, or By the Light of the Silvery Moon or country and western type songs were favourites. Entertainment was simple. But I gather it was a lot of fun.

When our kids were little we sang a lot with them. In the evenings before bedtime or as we drove along in the car we would go through the whole repertoire of songs that they had learnt at kindy or school.

On the odd occasion when Iím by myself in the car I slip in my favourite CD and sing on the top of my voice. Iím glad no one can hear me but it helps the kilometres go faster.

At our sonís wedding reception in France, there was a lot of singing. As the meal progressed, tables of people would break out in singing. Individuals would grab the microphone and sing a love song or lead in some community singing. Even two elderly great aunties got up and sang a song.

I donít know about you but it seems we donít sing very much anymore. Think back over the last week, over the last month Ė how many times have you burst out in song? Did you sing together as a family, or with your children or grandchildren? Did you sing a song as you went about your work?

Maybe you are a person who sings in the shower. Itís a good feeling to relax as the soothing hot water seems to wash away all our troubles and cares. Singing is an expression of how we feel inside about life and when we sing with others it is also an expression of how happy we feel about being together and enjoying one anotherís company. It is an expression of contentment. Itís very difficult to sing when we are feeling depressed, worried or sad.

When the singer Jenny Lind was travelling by ship for her next concert tour, she asked the captain whether he would arrange to have her woken to see a sunrise while at sea. And so, one cloudless morning he had her called at dawn. Silent and motionless, she stood on the deck, watching in absolute amazement and wonder at every change of colour in the sky and the reflection on the water, until the first golden rays appeared above the horizon. And at that moment the singer burst into song, her feelings were expressed in the music and words of Handelís Messiah. She didnít seem to notice the onlookers. She lifted her voice to the unseen hearer, to whose majesty and glory she paid honour. The captain later said: "No one will ever hear "I know My redeemer lives" sung as we heard it this morning."

As events unfold in our lives, singing is a response that we give because our hearts are bursting with gladness. Today in our text from Psalm 147 we are encouraged to "sing to the Lord with thanksgiving, make music to our God...". Isnít that a great text for our thanksgiving celebration today? We recognise everything that God has done for us and continues to do for us today, and we have come here to sing songs of thanksgiving and joy to our God who has made us, sustains our daily life, saves us through Jesus our Saviour and brings us into his kingdom through the power of the Holy Spirit.

It is clear from the Bible that God is the giver of everything we have. Luther in the Small Catechism summarises what the Bible says about the generosity of God when he explains what is meant when we pray "Give us this day our daily bread" in the Lordís Prayer. He says, "God gives daily bread to all people... Daily bread means everything that we need for our life - things like food, clothes, a place to live, money and possessions, a good marriage, loving children, good people to work with, good and honest community leaders, good government, good weather, peace, health, respect for law, a good reputation, good friends and helpful neighbours. Now that is a comprehensive list. In short, the Bible says - God gives everything.

Now that is something to sing about. We heard Jesus say before that the God who looks after birds who do nothing to earn their daily food, yet our Father in heaven looks after them. Instead of worrying about things like Ė where will my food come from, or what shall I wear, know that our heavenly Father knows exactly what we need and generously cares for us. If God has so much concern for an insignificant bird, how much more will he take care of each one of us. He is interested in everything that happens to us and cares for us, because we are counted as special in the eyes of God.

In the French Alps there is a cable car that ascends Aguille du Midi, the mountain next to Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe. The cable car ascends almost straight up until it reaches over 3800 metres, until the village below looked very small and distant. When we first looked at the cable car we thought people must have rocks in their heads to risk their life in a thing like that. But the promise of fabulous views of the mountains and Mont Blanc were too much to resist. We were assured that it was completely safe and that people make the trip every day the weather permits. So we entrusted our lives to that piece of machinery and the operator of the cable car for 20 minutes as we ascended to the top. Our trust was rewarded with the most breathtaking views of misty mountains and the sun gleaming on the snow.

If we can put our trust in a cable car and a human operator (who, by the way, was totally unsympathetic to our feelings and read a novel while we were ascending), then surely we can put our trust in the Lord who never fails, who is more powerful than steel and cables and whose care for us is far greater than an indifferent cable car operator. Why do we worry so much? God has the best interests of each one of us at heart. With a simple trust in the goodness of God, we can lay aside any anxiety that we might have and we can relax in the presence of our loving heavenly Father. We are not orphans, unloved in a strange world where we must fight for our own survival. We are his children. We are cared for by the One who will do anything to ensure we that we feel completely "at home", completely at ease. God promises this again and again in the Bible.
He watches over us like a mother hen watches over her chicks.
He holds us in the palm of his hand and protects us.
He provides for us as he provided for the people of Israel when he gave them a daily supply of manna, water and fresh meat.
When we sink in to a sea of anxiety, he reaches out with his hand and pulls us up as he did for Peter.

God gives us all this and more but isnít it true that we can be so discontented with what we have. We always want something different, something that is as good or even better than what the neighbours have, we want a more comfortable life, we want, want, want. We are even prepared to sacrifice valuable things in order to get what we want. I recall a middle-aged husband and wife lamenting the fact that their family life had suffered because they had made chasing wealth, a comfortable life and success their first priority. Itís easy to get our priorities all screwed up. We end up placing emphasis on other things than on our relationship with God and with one another. We can be distracted by so many other things and yet miss out on the most important things and people in life.

There is a little well-known story that highlights how easy we miss the point. Once a little boy fell off a jetty into the deep sea. An old sailor, without any regard for the great danger to himself, dived into the stormy water, struggled with the boy, and finally, exhausted, brought him to safety. Two days later the boy's mother came back to the same jetty, seeking the sailor who had rescued her son. Finding him, she asked, "Youíre the one who dived into the ocean to bring my boy out?" "I did", replied the sailor. The mother quickly demanded, "Then where's his hat?"

This woman had missed the point. She had been given back her son at great risk to the old man. She was concerned about unimportant things and missed out on the blessing that the sailor had given to her.

Donít we get side-tracked by trivia? We get caught up in so many unimportant things. We lose sight on the One who gives freely and generously. We forget to thank him for his goodness.

No doubt all of us would have to confess that far too often we have misused the material gifts God has given us, and forgotten who it is who has been watching over us and providing us with so many blessings. To those of us who are preoccupied with the gifts, working for them, using them, enjoying them, to the detriment of our relationship with God and with others, there is forgiveness - all made possible because of the death of Jesus on the cross. We are Christ's own and it is only through him that we have come to know God as the loving Father who cares for each of us in such an intimate and personal way. God gives us Christ for our salvation, for our eternal blessing, and we respond with thanksgiving, with praise, with the joy of being together as his family in this place and celebrating this fact. For the gift of his Son Jesus, we reserve our loudest hallelujahs of thanks and praise.

Itís little wonder that the psalmist calls on us to Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving, make music to our God... Music expresses just how we feel about the God who cares for us in so many ways. Sing to the Lord. Express your joy and thanks to him, even if you arenít a very good singer. We are called to give thanks and praise to him in the best way we know how. So "Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving, make music to our God..."

 

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
24th August, 2003
E-mail: gerhardy65@hotmail.com 

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Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from Good News Bible: Today's English Version (TEV), revised edition, © American Bible Society 1966, 1971, 1976, 1992, 1994, inclusive language with Australian usage text, 1994 
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