O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Based on Phil 4:6-20
Preached on October 7, 2018
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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
You know, I’m not feeling thankful today. Thank-half-full. Thank-three-quarters full. Perhaps more than any other day of the year. Sure. Feeling the day – warmed up a bit. But not thankful. I know its Thanksgiving, and I’m supposed to be full of thanks – but it’s not really in there, not the way its supposed to be. And I know it.
Oh, I’ve tried my best. Tried to generate it. I’ve searched my heart, looking high and low for some eternal source of warm gratefulness, but it’s not there – at least not fully – not every part of me – the way it will be in heaven – No. Like every other fallen human being - my heart isn’t pure, isn’t full of thanksgiving… because there’s something else in there – that’s getting in the way.
This is mankind’s problem, isn’t it? I mean, how could your heart be brimming with thanksgiving if it is full of worries and anxieties and fears and shame and guilt – NO - They don’t all fit in there together. Beloved, your heart was made for the one – but not all those others. So your God comes to do something about it. He comes to take all of it. Yes your thanks – but also your shame and your guilt. He comes to make Himself the place where this mixed-up mess meets – where these things that should never be together – are united and made one. And you know the place. His Name is Jesus. His throne the cross. And in His flesh hanging there – your anxieties, fears and guilt – every last concerning thought comes directly into contact with holy praise and thanksgiving. It’s all there – in Him.
There is only one place for your heart friend. One place where you can rest while life swirls around you. One place where you can find strength when yours has run out. Your heart needs Christ. And it is Christ who comes to find you.
There’s a picture of your heart on the bulletin cover. Did you know that? Take a look. What do you see? You see your heart there, the leper, impure and unclean, cast out on the fringes, begging – calling out to Christ who is coming to you. Bringing His healing - to you. Drawing near to you – to cleanse your heart and make it whole. It is not your heart that spans the gap to Him, but His beating heart that comes looking for you.
Open the mouth of your heart, beloved. Cry out to Him from the depths of who you are, “Jesus, Master – have mercy on me.” Hide nothing. Count on His mercy. Show Him the leprosy of your heart – knowing He comes to cleanse it. Open it wide to Him. Here it is Lord – frantic, sore, empty. Please, fill it. Calm it. Heal it. He is gentle. Kind. Knows how to fill your heart with gratitude. How to make it a heart leaping with thanksgiving towards Him, running back to Him, falling at His feet. BELOVED – this is what your heart was made to do – made to be. This is who you are dear Christian.
So, what does your heart do with that? The marriage – the joining of the highest most pure One from heaven, with the lowest impure one from earth? God’s full pure heart finding your hurting needy heart. How does that sit? How does that rest? Is it not the most beautiful image you could ever picture? Does it not burst forth from within you in wonder, praise and thanksgiving? There is no fuller picture. No firmer place. Here He comes to find you.
He’s going to do it again, you know. Make that picture. He’s going to come to you right here – as you fall at His feet, open your mouth and receive His holy body and blood for total forgiveness – the pure - feeding away your impurity – satisfying the needs of your body and soul – uniting Himself to you, and you to Him - calling you then to “Rise! And go on your way, for your faith has made you well.” You fell at the right feet. You trusted the purifying One.
Beloved, do not be anxious about anything. Let your arms fall down at your sides. Let your shoulders relax. Let your mind clear. The peace of God will hold your heart in Jesus. And have you think of Him. Meditate on Him. And look at Him. Instead of being anxious, up tight, worried, concerned – pray. Thank Him for listening to you, because He is – let Him know what you need. Ask Him to be with you, and give you peace.
Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Shut your eyes and picture them. Let them roll around in your head. Let them become the ruts that you travel - in your mind and in your heart. The wonderful things. The honourable, pure, true, just, lovely things. Commendable things. Virtues. The things that are worthy of holy and godly praise. Paul says listen – you learned, received, heard and saw them in me – now do them, practice the same things, produce the same things, they start in your heart and mind – in your thinking, meditating, rolling them over in your mind, picturing them. God’s peace will be with you. Look at the bulletin picture again. See Christ on the cross. Hear His promises echo through your head: “I’m here for you. You are my own. I’ve got all this under control.”
A new gratefulness will rise within you. A new desire for more of it. More of Christ. More of all His gifts. A gratefulness that has nothing to do with that old empty heart, but everything to do with Christ. And here’s the kicker: It’s not just for you.
What did Paul say? I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Jesus is doing things through you. His strength enables you to pour this new thanksgiving out on others – those around you, your loved ones – all those people you really do want to help – and even the ones you don’t. Your heart is being changed to be grateful for things it never wanted to be grateful for. Strengthened for acts of love and forgiveness it never wanted to say or do. Healed to heal. Blessed to be a blessing. Filled to fill. Christ intends to work through you, and He shapes your new heart of faith to do it.
But don’t let your old heart trick you into thinking it has figured itself out, and doesn’t need to kneel at this altar every week to be purified and strengthened and filled. It’s terrible – the moment Christ makes a little headway with us – and starts to do some meaningful work through us to those around us – our old hearts get puffed up – and we forget how our communion with Him here is what strengthens us to do all things. Don’t listen to that old heart, who always ends up empty. Shut your eyes and picture Christ coming to you again. Then run back here to fall at His feet in thanksgiving, and receive His strength for your every day. His Word to you, “Rise! And go…”
Your heart needs this pattern. All the time. Every day. And in a growing, living way on Sunday. God has come looking for you - for your tender needy heart. To fill it up and make it whole in His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Your new heart is full. Full of thanks. Full of peace. Full of God. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr