DRESSING UP FOR THANKSGIVING
Thanksgiving is probably one of the favourite times of the year for most people. It used to be that Easter and Thanksgiving were major dress-up times for people. And this morning I am going to encourage us all to dress up for and with thanksgiving. I am not suggesting we all go out and buy new clothes. We are going to look at a wardrobe that has been provided for each one of us. And that is a reason for thanksgiving. Besides that, we will look at one ongoing activity that shows the unity of the church quite unlike any other, which is also a great reason for giving thanks.
Some of you have been faithful in being out to our services here throughout the summer. Some of you have heard me preach earlier this summer. In those two previous messages I preached from the book of Colossians. The first centered on the sufficiency of Jesus as found in 1:15-20. I also used the prayer of Paul in verses 9-14 as an introduction. Then in my second message I went back and focused on that prayer itself, with all the provisions that God has made for us. You may remember Paul writing that God has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints, delivered us from the domain of darkness, transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves, he has provided us with redemption and even the forgiveness of our sins. Now that is a lot for which we should be thankful. God’s children will be thanking God for this all through eternity!
And as we come to the sermon today, here I am back in the book of Colossians. This time we are looking at 3:1-17 with a closer look at verses 12-17. Let us read it and see how we are to dress up for thanksgiving.
Colossians 3:1-17 1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Marion Soards, a New Testament professor, reminds us it is important to locate verses 12 to 17 of chapter three in their immediate literary context. Colossians 3: 1 to 17, is a recognizable section of the letter. First, in verses one to four, readers are admonished to seek heavenly ways because they have been raised with Christ. Second, verses 5 to 17 elaborate the meaning of this exhortation. Here, there is a pair of passages, one negatively focused and one positively oriented.
Colossians 3:5-11 contains two lists of five negative items that Christians are to shun. Then, in 3:12-17, there are a series of admonitions, including another list of five items. This time the five are positive items that Christians are to embrace. Our text for this Sunday contains the more positively expressed set of verses.
So, as we look at this passage, we are immediately reminded of something God has done for us. “We have been raised with Christ”; another truth to be thankful for. But Paul uses this truth to invite us to respond by setting our minds on things above. As believers that is to be our mindset. Paul re-enforces this admonishment with another amazing truth: when Christ appears in glory, we will also appear with him in that glory. Thank you Father for this truth.
As we set our minds on things above we should put to death five things that pertain to our earthly or sinful nature; that is we should not let these things live on in us. Obviously sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed are not to be a part of our lives as Christians. That is true says Paul even if they were a part of our previous ways. Then we find a second list of five things we should put off: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language. Clearly we need to put away those things. They are all so hurtful in our lives and harm those to whom we direct them. And we shouldn’t lie. All this is because as the church we are putting off the old self and putting on the new self to be just like our creator. We are changed and need to live like it.
Paul then talks in verse 11 about another quality of the body of Christ, the church. Here, in the church, he tells us there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, but Christ is all and in all. Ethnicity doesn’t matter in the church. Religious background doesn’t matter in the church. No social barriers matter in the unity of the church.
And in verse 12 to 17 we find how the body of Christ is to live together. I would like you to note that we are told three times to be thankful in these verses. Verse 15 ends with the injunction “and be thankful.” Verse 16 ends with the words, “with gratitude in your hearts.” Then verse 17 finishes with the words “giving thanks to God the father through him (Jesus).” Thanksgiving is a key component in the church functioning as it is intended to function.
What comes before “and be thankful” in verse 15? Let’s look at verses 12 to 15 more closely. We are told that because we are chosen by God, holy and dearly loved, it is fitting that we put on the wardrobe that God has provided for us. Again, the list of five items of spiritual clothing are; compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. How prominent are these qualities today? There seems to be lots of passion in our society but little compassion. We are too often looking out for number one.
In the church there is to be a caring for each other that speaks of compassion, both ours and Christ’s. We are not called to focus on just our own affairs but to be interested in others as well, even their problems. We need to put on kindness and be civil with people in our interactions, treating people with respect. All are created in the image of God and have intrinsic worth. That simple attitude seems to have gone the way of the dodo bird in our Canadian 2021 world. And what can we say about humility? It was front and center in our recent federal election, right? It seems so easy for pride to worm its way into our lives. Pride that God despises. We may joke about the man who wrote the book, Humility and How I Achieved It, including 24 pages of coloured photos; but pride plagues us all. Think of the humility of Jesus who came from heaven and becoming one of us to bring us salvation.
Is your gentleness noted by others? How about your patience? We are told to put these things on as attitudes and character traits in our lives. But we are not done even when we put on these five items of spiritual clothes. We are also told to bear with each other. We all have folks who might be called irregular people. They have some rough edges that wound us when we are together. And maybe we wound them as well. Well, bear with it, learn to work together, worship together, and get along.
And then if it isn’t just a bothersome type of thing that we don’t appreciate but it is actually a wrong that is done to us, we are then told to forgive in the same way that God has forgiven us. This is how the body is to function. How we are to act if we are part of the body, the church. Pretty demanding stuff this.
But there is more! On top of all these wonderful things, these great virtues, we are to put on love that completes our wardrobe, and then we are dressed to a T. We’ve nailed it. We are ready to march in the Thanksgiving parade. Amy Peeler suggests that knowing who we are helps us to clothe ourselves with behaviours that are fits. She then says, “Just as ill-fitting clothes detract from the beauty of a person, so too do ill-fitting behaviours detract from the image of Christ that believers should exhibit.”
Oh how important love is. It isn’t just our love but the love of Christ flowing in and through us. That is the only way love can really operate in our lives completely.
And as we do these things we can then let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. God will enable this peace as we take care to don the clothing that he urges us to put on in the previous verses. Then comes the command to be thankful. How can we not be thankful as we don these virtues, these attitudes, day by day and the peace of God rules in our hearts? The reminder seems almost to be unnecessary except that sometimes we really aren’t nearly as thankful as we should be.
Then Paul asks us to allow the word of God to dwell in us richly as we do the things the church is to do. We are to teach, we are to admonish, exhort or challenge, we are to sing with all wisdom. Our teaching or preaching must reveal the richness of the word of God, so must our exhortation and singing. If we are singing psalms then they are scripture. Our hymns and songs and choruses must always be true to the word of God. While the role of the church in the world is evangelism, the role in the church is teaching truth and worshiping God in truth. We must allow the word of God to dwell in us richly and build each other up in the faith. And our hearts will be filled with gratitude to God and to those who teach and lead us. Thankfulness should be expressed to God for sure but also to those He uses in our spiritual development.
Finally, Paul reaches the crescendo including everything that ever we do. Verse 17 says that whatever we do, whether is word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus. He has included many things that we should do or not do and how we should live but just in case we think there is something he has not covered he concludes with this all encompassing request. Everything we say and everything we do must be done in the name of the Lord Jesus. Wow!
Frank Crouch suggests that we are called to be people who embody compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience forgiveness, love, peace and thanksgiving just as Jesus did. He then points out that these qualities find little positive airplay in the North American media, entertainment, advertising and political industries. Those entities – recently described by David Fouche as society’s “multi—billion–dollar formation machine” attempt to form us into people who most desire power, possessions, and “winning.”
I am pleased to lead us in the communion as part of our worship this morning. As most are aware, the Lord’s supper is what we do in fulfilling Jesus’ instructions given on the evening prior to his death as found in the Scriptures. The last supper was recorded in gospels (Mt 26:20-30, Mark 14:17-26, Luke 22:14-23) and Paul explains and summarizes it in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.
That summary reads, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me’. In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
This memorial is one way in which the unity of the church is displayed. Around the globe today in many, many languages and cultures, this simple rite is being celebrated. In churches of many different names and traditions this celebration of the Lord’s Supper highlights the central fact of the gospel. Jesus Christ, the only Son of God shed his life blood as his body was broken by thorns, nails, and spear for our eternal salvation. In prison cells and refugee camps, in small chapels and huge cathedrals, in nursing homes and hospitals, the church universal, the body of Christ, celebrates this truth along with us this day.
What does it mean to remember and celebrate the Lord’s Supper? There will be some today who see this as a quaint rather old-fashioned way to remember the death of a wonderful teacher and good man, a wrongfully convicted felon, whose death was an unfortunate mistake. But those of us who truly believe, it will be a time of deep gratitude for the life changing sacrifice for us, as Jesus suffered the punishment and hell that we deserve and set us free. It has transformed our lives! We remember his death, his resurrection and his soon return as our King. And we commit our self to announcing this news to all people.
Please pray with me. Our Father, we are grateful for your grace that takes the cruel death of your Son on the cross and turns it into a means of grace for all who call upon the name of the Lord. Lord bless us as we celebrate our Saviour and his sacrifice for us this morning.
Enable us to actually put on the spiritual clothes that you have provided for us. May we let your peace rule in our hearts, your word dwell richly in our minds and may we be enabled to do everything we do in word or deed in Jesus’ name. And thus, prepare us for our Lord’s return we pray. Amen.