I Thank God for You!
3 I thank my God every time I remember you, 4 constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5 because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart,[a] for all of you share in God’s grace[b] with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
THE WORD OF THE LORD.
“I thank my God in all remembrance of you.”
These words shall be our focus this morning. “I thank my God in all remembrance of you.” And well they should be on this special day of appreciation which we call Mother’s Day and also the Festival of the Christian Home.
As I go about my life and my work here at church and in the community, I observe a great need for people – all people – to feel appreciated.
People’s need for appreciation is a vital as their need for food, water, and air. Paul said to the Philippians - “I thank my God in all remembrance of you.” Today we would simply say – “I thank God for you.”
Yet, when was the last time we actually said to the people around us these five simple words – “I thank God for you.”
People will do countless tasks, and go through rain and ruin, if they believe what they are doing in worthwhile, and they are appreciated for it.
Yet, too often we fail to do this act of saying these five words to the people we see every day. Why? Perhaps it is because of fatigue or busyness. Perhaps we take for granted the people we have around us, especially if we see them so often. They are always there, or we have known them for so many years. We easily get into the mindset that since they have been with us so long, we cannot imagine they will not be there. Yet, the day always comes when they are no longer there for us to speak to them.
Some people we fail to say – “I thank God for you” – because we rationalize it by saying – “Well, it is his or her job.” They get paid for it. But have we degraded people’s time so low in society, business, or churches that we reduce people’s efforts to be equated with money? How much is a person’s time and energy worth? Is one person’s time worth more than another person’s?
How much is it worth for a teacher or staff to commit himself or herself to teaching children? What value do we place as a commonwealth and as a society on a person’s life commitment to our children and youth?
I mention this need to show appreciation today, not only because our Scripture lesson speaks of it, but also because I have seen the need for it in the people around us. People need to hear that – “I thank God for you.”
We could begin since this is Mother’s Day by giving thanks for the mother’s and all who have raised us, who have helped us to grow and to survive.
Today, thousands of cards, flowers, and gifts, will be given, and dinners shared as a way of saying to our mothers – “I thank God for you.” And well we should. For the vast majority of us have or had mothers who loved us from the moment of inception. They were always there for us, and they would go through hell and high water to protect, nourish, and admonish us.
For instance, there was a son who lived to adulthood. However, he died before his mother did. Unfortunately, the man went to hell when he died. Therefore, a group of influential people decided to go to the gates of hell to plead for his release.
His pastor was the first emissary to go. At the gates of hell the pastor stood and shouted to the gatekeeper – “Open the gates and let this poor man out. He a came to church at least twice a year on Christmas and Easter. When the offering plate passed, he always put a dollar in, and never took change out. Release him.” However, the iron gates of hell did not move.
Next, his golfing buddy went to the gates and declared – “Let my golfing partner go. He was a good golfer, he rarely moved the ball, or exclaimed ‘winter rules.’ Open the gates of hell and let him out.” The iron gates did not move.
Finally, frustrated that he was not released, his mother charged the gates of hell, and shouted to the gatekeeper – “Open the gates and let my son out! Or else, I am coming in!” The iron gates immediately opened and the son was released.
Today is a good time to say thank you to the woman who would charge the gates of hell for you.
Of course, there are others in our family to show appreciation to today and every day. Our spouses and partners for all they do for us each day. And if our spouse or partner is no longer with us, to give thanks for the commitment and love they gave to us in the years we had together.
We should be thankful for our sons and daughters, and grandchildren, who love us even when try to show them the way. Give thanks that they are often the one who instead show us the way in our later years, and still abide with us even after the mistakes we made as parents and grandparents.
For all the relatives who enrich our lives, we should take the time while we can to say – “I thank God for you.”
And we should do the same for the people in our places of work, school, and colleges. At places of business or at school it is not so easy to display our thankfulness. But even decorum does not prevent us from saying – “I appreciate your work” – or “Thanks for what you have taught me” – or “Your comments were helpful.” True appreciation does much to encourage others.
Both comments of criticism and appreciation are remembered a lifetime. But words of appreciation builds relationships and life, while criticism often diminishes life.
And, of course, there is the appreciation we show at church. The volunteers and the non-pastoral staff here at church – and in other churches I pastored – do so much work for Christ that we should continually give thanks to God. To the people in this church we should continually say – “I thank God for you!” I think of the elders who spend long hours at session meetings or helping in worship and other tasks; the committees who work hard each month to do work for Christ in the community like the work Steve and all the people on his committee did for the KEAS church yesterday. I think of the elders like Rick, Frances, Bryan, and Clare, and others who help take communion to shut-ins. There is Nik, Gary, Chris, and Boone who keep the church building together. I remember Catesby and Rick’s work enriching us in Adult Sunday School. I think of Lily’s work with the youth and Ray’s, the choir who lead us in worship as well as the liturgists. The treasurer, Mike, who spends more time than many know working on finances, and Kate for counting the offering each week. I can continue by mentioning Laura Lee’s work as administrative assistant, Beverly as our pianist, Melanie as our choir director, Ashley and George as our sextons, and many more people I could name if I had the time.
All of you here – you who come to church here or visit here – you give of your time, talents, gifts, and energy – not expecting anything in return, but simply to worship God and to express your gratitude for God’s gift to us in Christ. All of you, if needed, would charge the gates of hell to help those in need. To all of you I say – “I thank God for you!”
Finally, I know that as mainline Protestants, and as Presbyterians, we are not very emotional. We have jokingly been referred to as the “frozen few.” That is a humorous mistake, I believe. There are warm hearts here. Warm hearts, which say in word and deed to all the ones around us – “I thank God for you!” Amen!