Sermon for the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Thanksgiving Service

Text: Psalm 136:1 & 139:13,14
"Give thanks to the Lord because he is good"
"You are the one who put me together inside my mother's body, and I praise you because of the wonderful way you created me. Everything you do is marvellous! Of this I have no doubt".

Wonderfully made

A Thanksgiving Service is a time for turning our thoughts to God and the generous ways he provides for us every day. In the days when most church people were connected to the land in some way and engaged in tilling, sowing and reaping, the Thanksgiving Service was a time for thanking God for seed, soil, rain, sunshine and good crops. For the few who still engage in sowing and reaping, even in their backyard gardens, this service is still a time to express our gratefulness for the harvest that has been received.

Most of us donít rely on crops for our daily food. Instead we go to supermarkets and purchase what others have grown, picked and manufactured. We join in thanks to God that there are those people who supply the supermarkets with goods and those who own and run the supermarkets where we can conveniently buy whatever it is that we need at any given time.

We join with the psalmist and say, "Give thanks to the Lord because he is good" (Ps 136:1) Ė he supplies me with food, clothes, and all I need to satisfy the daily needs of my body.

A Thanksgiving Service is an excellent time to thank God for the land which he has given us. Without a doubt we are extremely blessed to be living here in Australia. We know the natural beauty that the land has to offer Ė its mountains, deserts, coastlines, cities and towns, as well as its friendly people and laid back lifestyle. If you travel overseas you see many wonderful places and meet some very nice people but there is no doubt that God has provided us with one of the best places on the planet to live. We thank God for this privilege.

We thank God for stable governments that ensure peace, freedom and justice for every one alike regardless of their ethnic, religious, social and cultural backgrounds. The reading from 1 Timothy reminded us to keep on praying for those in authority "that we may live a quiet and peaceful life".

With the psalmist we say, "Give thanks to the Lord because he is good" (Ps 136:1) Ė he has provided us with so much here in Australia.

Thanksgiving is a good time to think of the people that God has placed in our lives to help us, nurture us and support us in times of difficulties. We give thanks to God for those who love us and are close to us Ė parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, close friends Ė people we can confide in and trust to look after our best interests.

There are also the many people who form the wider circle of friends who care for us and help us when they see that we are down and need some kind of encouragement and support. We have so many people in our lives who lift our spirits when we are depressed and help us to say to ourselves again,
"Hey, there really are people who care for me and appreciate me for who I am. They donít expect me to be someone Iím not and accept me for just who I am." Today at this service we thank God for the people he has given to us who make our daily lives just that bit better and who care enough to make sure that everything is going well for us and if it isnít then they do something to encourage and help us. Today, I say thank you God for the people of this congregation who support and encourage me as I serve alongside you and thank you to those who use their gifts to assist in the ministry God has given us here..

We join with the songwriter and say, "Give thanks to the Lord because he is good" (Ps 136:1) Ė he has provided some very exceptional people who make us feel special. We pray that we may also be that same kind of special person to someone else who needs our love and support.

Today it would be good if we could all say, "Thank God he has made me as I am, that he given me skills and abilities, my mind, my senses, my intellect, my talents that enable me to earn a living and enjoy life. Thank God that he not only made me but loves me just as I am". The writer of the scriptures puts it this way, "You are the one who put me together inside my mother's body, and I praise you because of the wonderful way you created me. Everything you do is marvellous! (Ps 139:13).

There is that kids song that summarises this up nicely in the closing line of the chorus, "I just thank you, Father, for making me Ďmeí."

Thatís easier said than done. So often we have negative views of who we are and what are able to do and not able to do. We are influenced so much by what society has decided is a good person. A certain body shape, hair colour, complexion, certain styles of clothing, certain physical, intellectual and sexual characteristics and so on, that itís hard to fit ourselves into the mould of what is commonly thought to be the acceptable and the up-to-the-minute person. Wasnít it reported in the papers this week how fashion designers are producing childrenís clothing that is way beyond their years to the point of sexualising them?

Whatís happened to the idea that God has made me the way I am and that he has done that for a very specific purpose? He has built into the human life various stages of growth and development and he wants us to be happy being a child, a teen, a young adult, middle aged and so on. What happens is that we want children to grow up quickly and miss their childhood so that they can be miniature adults. The middle aged person doesnít want to contemplate old age and tries to turn back the clock with diets, cosmetic surgery, pills and potions. "Give thanks to the Lord because he is good" (Ps 136:1) - Iím happy to be a child, middle aged, retired because God has planned it this way and he loves me just as I am.

God has given each of us different abilities and gifts to use for ourselves and our families. We can use our skills to provide for our daily needs or simply to enjoy, like a hobby.
Some gifts we have known about since childhood; others we are still in the process of discovering and most likely will keep on doing so until we leave this earth.
There are some gifts that we have been given that are solely to bring blessing to others. There are many here in this congregation who have been blessed with the gift of generosity and use this to help individuals and serve in the church not for any pats on the back but just because they are happy to use their God-given gift.

A boy was given a pocket knife for his birthday. He thought his pocket-knife was for throwing and making it stick into the ground or into trees or into the fence. He even tossed it at the cat. Fortunately he missed.

Grandpa had been watching his grandson and said, "Let me show you what you can do with that!" He took some soft wood, whittled, gouged and cut, and shaved for about a half-hour. When he was finished, the boy was staring at a smiling bearded face which had emerged from the block of wood.

Smiling from ear to ear, Grandpa said again, "Let me show you something else". He went to the refrigerator and using the knifeís bottle opener and opened two bottles of soft drink.

"There", Grandpa said, "you can see there are a lot of good things you can do with this knife". The boy didnít realise that his pocket knife could do so much.

Many times our gifts, our talents are like that knife. God gave us something beautiful, something with which can do a lot of good things, but placed in our hands we donít know quite what to do with it. We might have a bit of an idea what this talent might be able to do but donít really know the full potential that this gift can have in changing our lives and that of other people. Placing these gifts into Godís hands, placing our lives in his hands, then we can see how wonderful the gifts are, we can see what truly wonderful things we can accomplish with Godís gifts. When God gives us a skill or an ability you can bet he has something for us to do that will use that skill. He gives gifts for a purpose.

Itís true though there are times when we prefer not to know what abilities we have because that will mean extra commitment and maybe going out of our way to use it. There are other times when we know we can do something but donít volunteer to use our ability and assist in some kind of service that will benefit those whom God has placed in our lives.

There are other times when we feel that the gift that God has given us is not as good as someone elseís abilities and so we withdraw. The author, poet and hymn writer Henry Van Dyke said, "Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best."

It has been said, "You are the only person on earth who can use your gift". I know what is meant here and there is some truth in it, but left to ourselves most of would prefer not to use any gift that would require too much effort or to go out of our way. But our gift in the hands of God, our gift used by the Holy Spirit within us enables us to use that gift in ways we had never dreamt of before. When Jesus died on the cross he rescued us from selfishness and carelessness. He redeemed us body and soul and mind Ė all of us including our abilities. And now as his chosen children we use what he has redeemed in service to others and to the glory to God.

"Give thanks to the Lord because he is good" (Ps 136:1) - he has made us, called us to be his own people, gifted us in such individual and personal ways so that we can bring joy, support and blessing into the lives of those closest to us, to the church, and to the community as a whole. Even before we were born God knew us and knew what kind of people we would be. He knew what strengths we would have and what our weaknesses would be. He planned what gifts we would have and how he would bring others help and comfort through the use of those gifts. Today we say with the psalm writer, "I praise you because of the wonderful way you created me. Everything you do is marvellous! Of this I have no doubt".

Today at this Thanksgiving Service we thank God for the many things he provides us every day but today we also say in the words of the song, "I just thank you, Father, for making me Ďmeí." (The Butterfly Song Ė All Together Now)

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
11th October 2009

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