Thank You, Lord!

By Rev. Heidi L. Barham |  November 6, 2022

Click here to listen to the service 
Read Ephesians1:15 – 23 (NIV)
Now that Halloween and All Saints Day have passed, we are officially in the throes of the Thanksgiving season.  And you may assume that is why the subject for today’s sermon is THANK YOU, LORD!   
After all, this is the season of the year when our hearts and minds are focused on saying “THANK YOU, LORD!” for all of the blessings we have received since the last time we prepared to gather around the table as a family to eat that traditional meal of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce and perhaps even a little green bean casserole.
And of course, we cannot forget the most important part of the meal… the pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie and perhaps even Mom’s old-fashioned apple pie with a large dollop of whipped cream or even a big scoop of French vanilla ice cream.
And while our minds may have already started racing with thoughts of the wonderfully delicious, food-coma inducing meal that we will indulge in soon… that is not the focus of Paul’s message of thanksgiving to the church at Ephesus that we find in our New Testament lesson for this morning.
Rather, Paul is giving thanks because the Ephesians have placed their trust in Jesus as their Master… and is also giving thanks for the ways in which the church has poured out its love on the followers of Christ. 
Let’s listen again to the opening verses of our text, but this time as they come from the Message Paraphrase:

That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks.
That sounds like an awful lot of thanks – I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks.
And yet, as your Pastor, I can fully appreciate just what Paul is saying… because I cannot stop thanking God for each of you.  When I think about the outpouring of love that you demonstrate for others, I can only say, THANK YOU, LORD!
Looking out in the narthex each week and seeing the food items that have been collected for the Geauga Hunger Cupboards… I can’t help but say, THANK YOU, LORD!
As I think back to the socks that were collected this summer in partnership with one of our sister congregations in the Chagrin Valley Council of Churches… I feel led to say, THANK YOU, LORD!
When I think about our ongoing support of the Ledgewood Recovery Groups as well as the Scout Troops… I have an overwhelming urge to say, THANK YOU, LORD!
When I reflect back on our efforts at the beginning of this year when we raised $1,800 to donate blankets through Church World Service… and how we continue to exceed our annual goal year after year… how can I say anything else but THANK YOU, LORD!?
I can honestly say… I think I know how Paul must have felt.
But Paul goes on in this passage to say more than just, “Thank you” to the church.  He offers a heartfelt prayer for the believers at Ephesus.
The Message Paraphrase reads like this:
But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!”
Endless energy and boundless strength – definitely something we could all use around here, I would dare say… because there is still much work to be done as we spread the good news about Jesus. 
There are still even more opportunities… beyond what we are already doing… for us to be able to show love to others that reflects the love that we have received from the Lord ourselves.
And to be clear… the love that we have received is a love that went all the way to Calvary.  It is the love that Jesus talked about in John 15:12 – 13 when He said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Jesus gave His life for us… and we in turn are called to give our lives to others… although, thankfully, not in such a dramatic fashion as Jesus did… but we are called to give our lives in service and in witness… in sharing the gospel… the Good News about Jesus…
And in living out the Great Commission, “to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that [He has] commanded [us]” (Matt 28:19-20).
With that being said… I can’t help but think about those who have given their lives, literally, in service to others.  This coming Friday, the nation will pause to celebrate Veterans’ Day when we give thanks for those who have served… and even for those who continue to serve our country in the various branches of the military.
I would guess that I am not the only one who stops to say thank you when we men and women wearing their military paraphernalia… whether it is a hat, or a T-shirt or a jacket… whatever it is that gives us some indication that they have served our country… after all, it takes only a moment to pause and say, “Thank you for your service.” 
It is such an easy thing to do… to just say “Thank you.”  And yet, it almost always puts a smile on that person’s face.
Our men and women in uniform continually put their lives on the line to ensure that we all have the ability to live in a free country. 
And yet, we see story after story making the headlines on an almost daily basis… stories that highlight what feels like an all-out assault on that right to live in this free country.
Whether it is books being banned or restrictions being placed on women’s reproductive health… or whether it is efforts to legalize voter suppression efforts or political rhetoric that results in escalating violence…
There is no shortage of poignant reminders that we should never take our freedoms for granted… and we should never fail to stop and say, THANK YOU, LORD! for our ability to exercise those freedoms while we still can.
Now, it is important to note that none of our freedoms come without responsibility.  Perhaps you may be familiar with the saying “To whom much is given, much will be required...” (see Luke 12:48).
Well… because we have been given freedom in Christ… we have a responsibility to tell others about the amazing gift we have received. 
And in conjunction with that amazing gift… we ought to always say, THANK YOU, LORD!
I am reminded of a song that Bishop T.D. Jakes sings that simply says:
Give thanks with a grateful heart // Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks for He has given Jesus Christ, His Son
And now let the weak say I am strong // Let the poor say I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us // Give thanks
Listening to the lyrics of that song, is a reminder of just how much we have been given… we must never lose sight of the fact that God loved the world so very much that He gave His only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but will have eternal life (John 3:16).
Now I don’t know about you, but that seems like something that we should give thanks for… the precious gift of Jesus the Christ.  It is a gift that nothing else can ever compare to… because nothing and no one can ever compare to Jesus the Christ.
Now, let’s turn our attention to the closing verses of our text for the morning… where in the Message Paraphrase we read:
God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.
What these closing verses suggest is that in spite of everything that is happening in the world and to the world, all hope is not lost.
You have heard me quote John 16:33 on many, many occasions, but these words bear repeating here today… because Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Jesus gives us the assurance that this life is not all that there is… that we have the promise of greater things to come.  And because of that promise, we should have no problem in saying, THANK YOU, LORD!
Now, in just a few moments, we will be invited to stand and sing our Hymn of Discipleship, “Thank You, Lord.”  And there are just three short verses to the song.  
The first verse simply says: “Thank you, Lord, thank you, Lord, thank you, Lord, I just want to thank you, Lord.” 
Whether the calendar says it is the fourth Thursday in November or not… every day ought to be a day of Thanksgiving… and we should be able to find any number of reasons to say THANK YOU, LORD!
… because as the second verse of the song says:  “Been so good, Lord, Been so good, Lord, Been so good, Lord, I just want to thank you, Lord.”
The Lord has given us the very breath in our bodies and He is intimately acquainted with each of us… down to the very number of hairs on our head (see Matthew 10:30). 
The very fact that you and I are here today is evidence that the Lord has been so good to us.
And not only has He been good to us, the third verse of the song says:  “Been my friend, Lord, Been my friend, Lord, Been my friend, Lord, I just want to thank you, Lord.”
It all goes back to verse 13 in John 15 - Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."  And if we were to keep reading through to verse 14, we would find Jesus saying, “You are my friends if you do what I command.”
And in case anyone is unsure of exactly what has He commanded us to do… all we need to do is look at what Jesus told the Pharisee who questioned Him about which commandment in the law was the greatest. 
Jesus told him and tells us,
‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
And do you know why we love? 
As we read in 1 John 4:19, “We love, because [God] first loved us.” 
And knowing that God loved us first… from the very beginning of time… ought to give us more than enough reason to stand now and join in singing our Hymn of Discipleship: Thank You, Lord, #531