Joyfully Giving Thanks


Christ the King
Colossians 1:9b-20
24 November 2013
Elizabeth M. Deibert

When I was growing up Thanksgiving Day was always a time of gathering with my mother’s side of the family.  There were four siblings, and they took turns hosting the feast, but of course, everyone brought food.   The host family cooked the turkey and rice and gravy.   Aunt Peggy always made sweet potato casserole, not the kind with marshmallow but with crunchy nuts and brown sugar on top.   Uncle Jimmy always made coconut cake.   My mom made squash casserole with cheese on top and pecan and chess pies.   My uncle Rowland, the Baptist minister/professor and his wife Mary V, the best-dressed aunt, would tell a family history story in tandem, interrupting and correcting each other all along the way.  Their son, the eldest cousin became an expert on genealogy, so he would join in and make the story even longer.  Uncle Frank parked himself in front of the television, determined not to miss the football game.  My dad was usually milling around asking questions and listening to people.   I was the youngest cousin by six years, so it was my job to take care of my cousin’s babies, as they began to get married and have them.   We stopped gathering for thanksgiving many years ago, but I will always remember that thanksgiving is about celebrating the bounty that God has given you.  There was always more food than anyone could eat.   But more importantly, Thanksgiving was a time to appreciate your shared inheritance, your family, those who had gone before you and those who were coming after you.   It did not really matter who was in the family, or what they did or how different they were.   We were all part of something larger than ourselves and we were together to remember that and give thanks to God. 

The scripture we are reading today refers to our inheritance, for which we are called to give thanks and to realize that we are part of something far larger and deeper and broader than we can possibly comprehend.

This family into which we have been adopted is a family of great resources:  wisdom and strength, knowledge and power, of light and forgiveness, and fullness and peace.   This scripture, like the one in Philippians 2 is thought to be one of the oldest pieces of liturgy or hymns in the church – the part that starts in verse 15 – he is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.   It probably was recited in the early church, even before this letter to Colossians was written.   Along with the Christ hymn of Philippians, these words make some high and lofty claims about Christ.   And what better day to read these words than on the day the church celebrates the reign of Christ over all creation!   As I read this text, I invite you to say the word “all” with me every time it occurs.

Colossians 1:9b - 20


We have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers-- all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.  (NRSV)

Paul desires and prays fervently for the new church in Colossae that they would lead lives worthy of the Lord, bearing fruit in every good work by being filled with the knowledge of God in all spiritual wisdom, strong in the power of God, and prepared to endure everything with patience and with thanksgiving.  

This desire for Christian maturity should be our desire for one another, as it is the most important, most enduring, most ultimately sustaining and life-giving thing we can want for one another.   It is my prayer for you and the prayer of all your elders for you.   At the session meeting on Thursday night, we walked through the building, stopping to pray for the youth in their wing, the children in their rooms, and all the people in the music ministry.   We prayed for kindness and love to be spoken in the small fellowship hall which has been renamed the café and that we would never stop learning and growing in our adult meeting rooms.   We prayed that Christ would inspire us all in the new chapel and as we stood by the fountain, we gave thanks for the beauty of God’s overflowing love. 

I have joy like a fountain as the walls are coming down at Peace.  Denny has turned that mucky wretch of a fountain into a grace-filled work of art, Troy and Bob have done some amazing work on breaking down the walls and gates that divide us or crowd us.   Jim and Sherry have met with all kinds of contract people for on-going care of the property while Don, Chuck, and Henry have been setting up budgets, and financial and technological systems for our new home.  Last Sunday we had at least sixty Peace Pioneers there turning a land and building into a home.   Gerry Palmer washed windows for three days.   It was a joyous sight to see all of you painting, laying landscape timbers, washing floors, tearing down walls, and cleaning and organizing rooms.   Some sights were better left unseen – like lumberjacks Tom, Rod, and Richard hanging from the trees like monkeys, cutting branches that nearly impaled their friends as they came crashing down.   One thing is clear – this is a church of the people, by the people, and for the people.   If you have not been out yet, we hope you will come today, and will consider your own commitment to Peace for the sake of present and future generations.

Think about how the letters of Paul and others and the Gospel writers have shaped future generations by their enormous effort in a time when preserving words and passing them to others was not just the click of a button.  

Think about those who spent a lifetime in Great Britain or continental Europe building a cathedral that would bring glory to God long after they were gone.   We are building a community of faith that will outlast us and why?

Because we have seen that Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers-- all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.  (NRSV)

We are experiencing this fullness of God, in the Christ who has made Peace.   The warmth you feel in this place is the Spirit of Christ moving among people who are thankful for the peace of Christ which renews all things and leads us to forgive as we are forgiven.   It is not a trouble-free, worry-free existence.  No, Paul prays for them, as I pray for you, that you will be able to endure everything with patience.   If it were easy, you would not need to endure it.   The life of a Christ-follower is not easy, but it is wonderful and amazing, because this life is full of grace, as the choir will sing later.  

The wonder of this life is that Christ is everywhere and in all things.  Do you realize just how radical it is to say that in Christ all things were created, that in Christ all things hold together, that in Christ all things are reconciled?   This is a bold and exciting claim – that Christ is before, in the middle, and making peace in the end.  So we say with St Patrick and Christians through the generations.   Christ be with me, Christ within me.   Even in the face of terrible Typhoons and Tornadoes, Christ behind me, Christ before me.   Even in the presence of weird, troubled, and sometimes wonderful relatives and friends, whom you are glad to see depart on Thanksgiving afternoon, Christ beneath me, Christ above me.   Even in times of concern, of financial or relational strain, of illness or even approaching death, Christ in my waking, Christ in my sleeping.  

This cosmic Christ is the reason for our joyful thanksgiving every year – not just the good years.  Because Christ is before us and behind us and between us, everywhere by his Spirit sustaining us and filling us, we can travel on with confident joy, even in challenging times, even when we are uncertain or afraid.   

On this day that we Pioneers of Peace walk out of this one place where the Spirit of God has touched us and blessed us, and we give thanks for the sweet, sweet spirit in this place.  But we also know that Christ goes on with us to the new place, and that God has a plan for us there, a future filled with hope and promise.   Please remind yourselves not to fret over all the details and the differences, but to endure the all the changes with patience, knowing that God has brought us there to make of us a blessing to others.   Most of all, remember this amazing free gift of grace turns us from lost to found, from darkness to light, from having sin-sick souls to people who can say despite the storms of life, “it is well with my soul.”  

This inheritance into which we are reborn in baptism and sealed in Christ’s name makes us richly blessed in every way.   You know someone who is destined to inherit a lot doesn’t need to worry.   Notice that our inheritance as children of God in this passage is a done deal – God has already enabled us to share in it.  It is ours by grace to celebrate.  We are brothers and sisters of the King, the one who is in all and through all from the beginning of time until its end.  He is not just King of the Christians, but King of the Cosmos.  In the name of Jesus  Christ our King we travel from here to there waiting eagerly for all that is in store for us. We are confident that we will be made strong by the strength of his glorious power, as we seek evermore to put Christ first in everything and to live lives worthy of his name.