Epiphany 4


1 Corinthians 13: 1-13

Objects:   a wall hanging with the letters for love, connected by string. a ball of yarn

I have a wall hanging here that you can obviously see, spells out the word:  LOVE.   I bought this wall hanging at the Dollarama store and as you can well imagine, this is on the shelf as part of their Valentine’s items for sale. 

But, please ignore the Valentine’s Day connection and instead try to focus on the word LOVE and how we might use it in church.   Later in the worship service we are going to read from 1 Corinthians 13, a Bible passage that many people recognize and sometimes refer to as the LOVE passage. 

Now, you may look around you and wonder where the bride and groom might be hidden.   When we hear the passage from 1 Corinthians 13, we assume that we are attending a wedding.   Well, there is no wedding here today.  

Of course, 1 Corinthians 13 is used often at weddings, because it is understood as praising the value of romantic, human love.  But in reality 1 Corinthians 13 has NOTHING to do with weddings.

What is often missed, and perhaps actively ignored, is that this text was first written to a Christian community in the ancient city of Corinth that was having a very difficult time staying together.   The people who were attending the church in Corinth were struggling with the difficult realities of relationships and they ask the apostle Paul for help and advice. 

So Paul begins to address their issues and he talks to them about their relationships and what is at the foundation of their relationships.   The foundation of their relationships, says Paul, is LOVE.  Love is what we are all about because we gather in church to hear and celebrate that GOD loves us.   God loves us so much that God was willing to send Jesus to the cross in order that we might have the gifts of eternal life and forgiveness.  We forgiven and we are given the gift of heaven out of God’s LOVE.

Then of course, we soak in that love and then let God’s love flow OUT of us.   We try to love others as God loves us.  Love is at the heart of who we are and what we do.  

While Paul talks about this LOVE, Paul wants to point out that this love is CONNECTED.   Notice my wall hanging that feature the letters which spell out the word love:  L-O-V-E.  Notice that those letters are connected.  The letters on this wall-hanging are connected with silver string.  They have to be connected in order to spell out the word love. 

And this connection is VERY important. 

As Paul talks about the word love in 1 Corinthians 13, he is actually continuing his discussion from 1 Corinthians 12.   1 Corinthians 13 builds off of 1 Corinthians 12.   1 Corinthians 12 is about being one body.    Paul says that we are part of the body of Christ. 

How might we IMAGINE the fact that we are part of the body of Christ?

(Produce a ball of yarn.  Have people grab hold of the yard and then toss the ball of yarn around the church to someone else)   

I don’t know if you have ever been a part of an exercise like this.   I have taken part in this exercise in other places, holding on to my piece of the yarn and then passing the yarn to others to hold on to and then pass to someone else. 

Eventually we ALL are holding on to a piece of the yarn and the ball of yarn has made its way throughout the congregation. 

Guess what?   We have just acted out 1 Corinthians 12.   We are all part of the body of Christ; we are ALL connected.

Now what connects us?  JESUS. 

We are connected to God through the love we have experienced through Jesus.   We are called to be in community with each other to be in the body of Christ together and how we do that is through love, service and we act out of love.

Sometimes that is not easy.  Sometimes that is difficult to do, sometimes there is quite a cost as we try to love God, love each other; love our neighbourhood.  It is never easy, but God always seems to call us to a form of higher service that speaks of God and is of God. 

We are CONNECTED to each other by the LOVE of God as we have seen through JESUS.

Thanks be to God.  Amen.

(Portions of this sermon were taken from the website, Dollar Store Children’s Sermons at:  http://dskidsermons.com/2016/01/20/january-31st-2016-4th-sunday-after-the-epiphany/.

Also consideration was taken from the website, Working preacher at:  http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2734.)


Epiphany 3


Nehemiah 8: 1-3, 5-6, 8-10

Tuesday morning, on the first day of the week (the first day of my work week), I sat down and wrote on my To Do list, everything that had been booked on my cell phone calendar.  Needless to say, that calendar was fairly full but as I looked at my freshly prepared To Do list, I felt that this might be a week in which I could accomplish every task written down. 

And then I opened up my email…..

In front of me sat a bunch of emails from members of the congregation, from the Synod office, from colleagues in ministry.   Some emails involved requests for me to do a certain task or an additional task.  Some emails were of an FYI nature, but a serious nature to say the least.  Some emails were requesting my assistance and support.   And so, I thought, the journey begins.

And then, the phone started to ring…..

The phone calls I received were from people needing help in a variety of ways.   The process of walking alongside them begins.  

Then a family asked to come into the church in the afternoon to begin to talk about their sister’s funeral.   I had officiated at their mother’s funeral 13 months ago and now they were asking me to officiate for their sister who died suddenly and tragically in her home at the age of 53 years.  The process of assisting them in their grief begins.

And then, the door opened…..

During the day, someone walked in the door and said, “I need to talk to you.”  A journey with that individual has now begun. 

All of this occurred on Tuesday.   By late Tuesday afternoon, I paused and stared at my To Do list.   That To Do list looked a lot different and I realized that a great many of those tasks I had originally written down, would not likely get dealt with during the week.  

A NEW list stares back at me; I felt overwhelmed.

Beyond feeling overwhelmed, a great sadness enveloped me; here are people in turmoil and crisis and they have called upon me at the beginning of what was to be a very busy week.  I am already tired.  From whence will come the time, the energy, the ability and the strength to be of any assistance at all?  

By the way, I don’t think this is exclusive to me as a pastor.   Last week I had occasion to talk with a colleague of mine; I asked how it was going.   The response was quite similar to most things I had experienced on Tuesday.   My colleague was overwhelmed and very tired; so much to do and so little time to get it done.                                                   

From whence will come the time, the energy, the ability and the strength to be of any assistance to all those in need, all those who call upon us pastors?

By the way, this is not meant to be a “pity party” for the pastor; I do not think that this is exclusive to pastors.               

It would not surprise me to hear that a great many people, from many walks of life, feel overwhelmed by the events that swirl around them.  

As an aside, this past Monday, January 15th is called “Blue Monday.”   We have this “Blue Monday,” half-way through the first month of the New Year.   By Blue Monday, Christmas euphoria is over, the Christmas bills are coming in and most people have broken their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and get in shape.   That would include me.                                    

It is easy to feel overwhelmed; it would not surprise me if people are enveloped by great sadness, or are in turmoil and crisis and feel exhausted even before they start.                                                  
From whence will come the time, the energy, the ability and the strength to deal with everything that swirls about us?

God only knows.  And yet, I think, God does know and God knows why. 

Wednesday morning, gathering myself somewhat, I sat down with the Scripture readings for Sunday and was immediately captivated by the reading from Nehemiah.    The following phrase caught my attention most of all:   

“This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.”

As a bit of an aside, I read that and somewhat sarcastically commented to myself, “Yeah I get it, there’s no crying in baseball.” 

At that point, the week did not seem holy and yet sarcasm and cynicism aside, I was indeed captivated.   What was going on here in this passage from Nehemiah? 

Briefly, the exiles of Jerusalem return from Babylon.  Approximately 570 years before the birth of Jesus, the massive military might of Babylon crushed little Israel, destroyed the Temple and took many influential people into captivity.  Roughly 70 years earlier, 500 years before the birth of Jesus, the exiles return to take on the task of re-settling in their homeland, of re-building the Temple and the walls of the city of Jerusalem. 

The people of Israel are overwhelmed with the task before them upon their return to their homeland.   In addition to the physical reconstruction of Jerusalem there is suspicion, fear and even paranoia over the management of this task, which does not fall under the kings of Judah, but the absentee landlords of Persia.  A struggling Jerusalem needs spiritual and political leadership.  

Despite being overwhelmed, the people are gathered together.   They gather on the first day of the seventh month, which today is Rosh Hashanah (the fall new year), which is followed by Yom Kippur and the Festival of Sukkot, or Booths.   They do not gather at the temple but at the Water Gate, where all are admitted.

The Temple was an exclusive place and not everybody could enter, but everyone was allowed to enter the Water Gate.   The location of this gate is uncertain, but its name suggests proximity to the Gihon spring, Jerusalem’s only natural water source, on the eastern side of the city (cf. Neh 3:26; 12:37). The Water Gate is on the way to the pool of Siloam, and would be associated with a water-drawing ritual during the week of Sukkot (see verses 14-18).

Ezra reads from Scripture; the people are saddened because their recognize their neglect of divine commands and they fear God’s wrath (2 Kings 22:11-13); the people begin to weep,

Despite their feeling of being overwhelmed, despite their weeping, despite their sense of inadequacy, despite their fears, Ezra says to them, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.”

Ezra also said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink the sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Rather than a national day of fasting, rather than remorse or being immobilized by fear and dread, they are to celebrate; they are to feast, they are to share their food, because “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (verse 10).

Despite all that they feel, God is on the move, God is doing something.   Yes they will be called upon to contribute to that “something,” yes they will be a part of God’s holy movement.   They are standing on holy ground; they are participating in God’s realm.  God will be with them, God will surround them with love and grace and they will not weep but move forward in the joy of the Lord.  Despite their fatigue, they will be strengthened for the journey and the task.

It is easy to get bogged down; it is easy to become frozen in fear and dread.  We tire easily.   What is going on in my life and why do I feel overwhelmed?   How can I even begin to deal with all of this?  

And if we wish to speak theologically we may ask:   Where is God?                                       

What is God up to?  God ONLY knows.   God wishes for people to be enveloped in God’s love and calls upon others of us to be agents of that love.                                                               
God’s reign or God’s realm is the joy of the Lord.  God wishes for the kingdom to come and God will give us the necessary strength to move ahead.   God will be with us and God will not abandon us.   God is with us and as such, this is holy to the Lord and we are invited to stand with God on holy ground. 

God willing, we will feel that strength that grace given to us and hopefully we will feel it lifting us so that our fears can be put aside, so that God’s joy will become our strength.

This God has promised.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.


Epiphany 2


Epiphany 2
John 2: 1-11

Objects:  some glass jars/pitchers; one ordinary jar, one fancy jar
Plastic container inside baptismal font
Welcome to “God’s a gonna trouble the waters,” Part II. 

Last week during the sermon, while I talked about God troubling the waters, Shane mentioned that God troubled the waters when Jesus turned the water into wine.  

So I thought about that; did God REALLY trouble the waters when Jesus turned the water into wine?  If so, HOW?  Yes indeed, God did trouble the waters.

One of the ways God troubled the waters was due to the fact that Jesus brought about something NEW.  CHANGE always troubles the water.   Change?  :God’s a gonna trouble the waters.”

Change apparently was evident through the jars that were used as Jesus turned the water into wine.   John tells us that the jars at the wedding were very important jars, they were jars used for Jewish purification rights

These were not ordinary jars, they were fancy jars.   See the two pitchers on the baptismal font?  One pitcher is ordinary looking; you would probably find most jars like this in a home.   But the other pitcher on the font is pretty fancy looking; you would probably find a fancy pitcher like this in the church.  At church, we would not put water in an ordinary pitcher; we would have something special which would give the water poured, a sense of being special.

So here you have these fancy jars at the wedding and these fancy jars were jars used for religious reasons.  People would go into the temple in Jerusalem and pour water from these purification jars and wash their hands.   They thought that when the washed in a special way, it made them closer to God.  In a way they thought they were washing with “holy water.”  Water in jars at the temple.  Holy water.

Jesus takes the holy water, RESERVED FOR THE TEMPLE and turns it into wine. 

Excuse me?  Jesus turns the HOLY WATER into wine?   Does that seems a little sacreligious? 

God’s a gonna trouble the waters.

Jesus is changing things. 

Jesus uses the jars of purification, as a sign, pointing to a new order of things.  Jesus takes these jars of purification, filled with holy water if you will and replaces them with himself.   Big time change. 

When Jesus does this, he is saying that you don’t have to wash your hands at all the right times and in the temple, in order to be good with God; that was the OLD way of doing things.  Jesus tells them that HE will make you right with God, by suffering and dying on the cross.   We are right with God through Jesus.  That is the NEW way of doing things. 

Jesus believed, his presence and his ministry, was meant to replace these institutions and rituals.  Closeness and holiness in relationship to God, was no longer centered in performing the rituals, or being in the temple at the right time. 

Closeness to God, greater knowledge of God, was centered in JESUS.  Keeping the covenant with God no longer involved washing at the right time or in the right way.  The old covenant was being replaced by Jesus, the new covenant.  Holiness and righteousness was brought about through FAITH in Jesus. 

Jesus is the completion, the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises.  

This is a huge change in the way these people thought of God.   Jesus was the focus of that change.

God’s a gonna trouble the waters.   

Change and renewal was not the only way that God was a gonna trouble the waters. 

God was a gonna trouble the waters by unleashing the power of God through Jesus.   This first miracle was a sign of things to come. 

In the next 3 chapters that follow in the gospel of John, there will be other signs.  These signs are meant to show people that God is embodied in Jesus in the fullest and most remarkable way.  God’s reign is coming among them and they can see it taking place in these signs. 

God’s a gonna trouble the waters. 

The power of God unleashed through Jesus in this miracle and in others that followed, became a little more evident to me in a song that I heard recently.  The song was written and performed by country music legend Johnny Cash and is entitled, “He Turned the Water Into Wine.”  I have a video of that song and I would like you to listen to it.  If you want to listen to it later, you can simply Google the following:   johnny cash he turned the water into wine.

One of the reasons I like that song, is it appears that Johnny Cash is just reading along in his Bible; after Jesus turns the water into wine, other miracles follow.  Jesus had come to inaugurate the kingdom of God, that the ways and will of God would be forever cemented in Israel’s life, that God would be THE ruler overall and that Israel’s faith in God would be vindicated. 

The power of God is unleashed through Jesus.

God’s a gonna trouble the waters. 

God began to trouble the waters in a lot of ways.  Changing water into wine signaled that God was troubling the waters.

Though John the fourth evangelist accepts the reality of Christ’s miracle, it has for him, a further symbolic significance, pointing towards what Jesus was to accomplish on the cross.   There, at the cross, the old order will be replaced by the new.  Forgiveness, eternal life, God’s acceptance, unconditional acceptance of humanity will come about in the most unimaginable way.  Jesus will die to show humanity the total love and dedication that God has for humanity.  There will be no need to justify one’s self before God, there will be no need to try and measure up to human standards.  God saves, God conquors sin and death and gives the gift of eternal life, in the act of sacrifice by Jesus. 

The real and final epiphany, is the cross.  This is what the changing of the water symbolizes.

So what does this mean for us?

The power of Jesus, the power of the resurrection is NEEDED in our lives.   Change and renewal is present in Jesus and is promised in our lives.   This speaks to us as individuals AND as a congregation.

Change, hope, renewal, the power of God through Jesus come in a wide variety of circumstances.   This miracle takes place on the third day!  Resurrection!  Purity through faith in Jesus!   It speaks of HOPE for a myriad of circumstances.  I think about some of these circumstances:

-       Family and personal struggles, from health, to relationships to finances….   one could go on and on. 

-       Considerations of change and renewal in congregational life.  As WE look to the future, we wonder:  “Where are we going?  What is going to happen to us?  What will our church look like?” 

-       The struggle of those in our community and society who are at a disadvantage.

In every one of these instances, the message for us is that the son of God, who has the power to change water into wine, will change our circumstances and renew us.

Christ is with us and we are given the hope that a better day will dawn. 

Our witness to this comes through our own celebration of new wine AND new bread. 

WE don’t change water into wine, but we recognize the new wine as it is presented to us in Holy Communion.   We are given wine, we are given Christ, which moves us, motivates us, gives us a sense of God’s presence and lets us know that the power of the resurrection is alive and active in our midst. 

With the bread and wine, we are given hope and strength for the future. 

New wine for everybody!  The power of God in us through Christ!  Thanks be to God!  


The Baptism of Our Lord
Isaiah 43:  1-7
Psalm 29
Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22

I need some children to come up and help me out and maybe even bear witness to what is going to happen in the bowl of our baptismal font.

As the children can probably attest, the baptismal font is empty, but now I am going to empty a pitcher of water into the baptismal font.   As I pour the pitcher of water into the bowl, the water crashes and splashes and swirls.  It doesn’t take long however, for the water to become calm.  

What happens when I pour in another pitcher of water?  The water poured into the bowl stirs up the water that is already in the bowl.  Of course, it doesn’t take long for the water to become calm and smooth.

Now watch me stir up the water with my hand.  What do you see?   The water is stirred, it is bothered and it splashes and swirls and moves. 

Now what do you think would happen to this bowl of water, if we were to leave it sitting still for a week?  The water would become stale and stinky and gross.   How to avoid the water becoming stale?  We would add more water, so I will pour in another pitcher of water.   From time to time, I would have to come and stir the water with my hand so that it doesn’t sit long. 

So we avoid stale water by replenishing the water and stirring it up, that way the water stays fresher.  We stir up the water; we “trouble” the water.

We “trouble” the water.

Later on today, we are going to sing a song entitled, Wade in the Water.   There is a refrain or line that gets repeated, and it goes like this, “God’s a gonna trouble the water.”

            “God’s a gonna trouble the water.”

What does that mean?  It means that God is going to stir up the water and make it move and flow and bubble and splash and crash. 

It also means that God has stirred things up; God has made a splash in the world throughout history. 

Long, long ago, the people of Israel were held captive in Egypt and they were slaves, toiling under the whip of the Pharaoh.   Now Pharaoh thought that the waters of Egypt were calm and pleasing, but the waters were not calm for the Hebrew slaves.                                                              
God stirred things up.  God troubled the water, so much that God convinced Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go free. 

Our Old Testament reading from the prophet Isaiah makes note of this:

But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.                                    

For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.

One of the ways that God troubled the waters for Pharaoh and Egypt was to bring all those plagues upon Egypt, not the least of which was turning the waters of the Nile River into blood.                                                                                                                             

God troubles the waters and the people of Israel go free.

The psalm writer in Psalm 29, notes the ability of God to trouble the waters.  The psalm writer says:

The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over mighty waters.

Many, many years later, God would trouble the waters in an amazing way.   First of all, God troubled the waters by sending John the Baptist.                                                                                      

John the Baptist looked around his homeland of Israel and he saw that Israel was becoming stale and poisoned.  While the leaders of Israel thought the waters were calm, John stirred the waters and called everyone to go out to the waters of the Jordan River, to be baptized.  John`s baptism of repentance was meant to trouble the waters, to convince people to turn around and become a God-fearing, God-following compassionate nation.                                                              
But John the Baptist was not the only one to stir the waters. 

God REALLY troubles the waters, REALLY stirs the waters big time, by sending Jesus.  Jesus walks into the Jordan River, is baptized by John and God begins to stir the waters.                          

Jesus, the son of God, embarks upon his ministry which includes everybody, encourages everybody to share the abundance of creation; it is a ministry of love and compassion.   The ministry and teaching of Jesus are something that has never been seen before .                                                  
God REALLY troubles the waters.  Jesus speaks the mind of God, shows the heart of God and ultimately God troubles the waters in the most amazing way, sending Jesus to the cross to suffer and die for our forgiveness of sins and for our eternal life.  Sin and death has no claim upon us.                                                                                         God TROUBLES the waters and God has not stopped troubling the waters.  

Earlier I had mentioned that we are going to sing a song entitled, Wade in the Water which features the refrain, “God’s a gonna trouble the water.”

That song comes out of the United States and it is an African American spiritual.  It is a song that was written by African Americans at a time when many of them were slaves.   They sang this song because it gave them hope that someday they would be free people. 

How were they going to become free people?   

“God’s a gonna trouble the water.”

They prayed and they believed that God would trouble the waters that God would stir the waters and much like the people of Israel, they would be free.  And God did trouble the waters and God did stir the waters and they were made free.                                                                                     

Ever since, God has CONTINUED to trouble the waters, stir the waters and African American people have continued to make strides in many areas of their society.  They have a long way to go in many regards but God will NOT stop troubling the waters and life will continue to change for them and all people. 

             “God’s a gonna trouble the water.”

God troubles OUR waters.   We have been baptized in water like this and when we were baptized the waters were quite calm before the waters were poured over our heads.  But from then on, God troubles our baptismal waters

            When we were baptized God commanded us to let our lights so shine before others so that they might see the glory of God the Father.   God has called us to bear God`s creative and redeeming word to all the world. 

Ever since THEN, God troubles our waters, calling us to action.  God troubles the waters, stirs the waters and invites us to be a part of that splashing water.   As God stirs the water, God invites us to take part, to bring in the kingdom of God, to make a world that God desires and wishes for all people. 

Later on, while you are in Sunday school, the adults are going to remember their baptisms and say yes to those baptisms.   As they do this, I am going to ask them the following questions: 

You have made public profession of your faith.

Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism:

  • to live among God’s faithful people,
  • to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper,
  • to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,
  • to serve all people, following the example of Jesus,
  • and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?

In other words, I will ask the adults if they are ready to have God trouble their waters.  Are they ready to have God stir up the waters?  Are they ready to participate in God`s dream of justice and equality and compassion?

Some will likely say yes, some will say maybe.   God knows when we are ready to participate in living out God`s dream, but that never stops God from troubling the waters.  

God is always moving, always stirring things up, God is always changing this world to make things better for all.

God`s a gonna trouble the waters.  Amen. 


January 3


Christmas 2
As all of you well know, New Year’s has come and gone.   New Year’s Eve is an interesting phenomenon in that we celebrate and we kind of wave good bye to the old year and then welcome the new year with great fanfare.   Our celebration lasts for the rest of the evening and early morning and then maybe carries on into New Year’s Day; one last kick at the cat as we clean out our larders of all the Christmas baking  and chocolates.                                                     

After that, how do we ring the New Year?                                                                                         
Of course we all know the drill; we continue to recognize the New Year by making New Year’s resolutions.                                                  
I suspect that of all the resolutions which are made, the number one resolution would be to lose weight.  More people join gyms and exercise facilities, or buy exercise equipment than we can imagine.  

In a way, the same applies for me.   I got this Fit Bit device for Christmas. 

Immediately upon opening this gift, Darlene wanted me to put it on.   I resisted and said that I was going to break it out of the package on New Year’s Day.   I didn’t want to mess up my Christmas and miss all that baking and all those goodies.  No way!   It’s Christmas and I was determined to fill my face. 

But on New Year’s Day, out came the Fit Bit with great fanfare and I took my first walk on the dikes with my Fit Bit.  In 56 minutes I walked 2.79 miles, took 6700 steps and burned 390 calories.   And so my new year begins.  I did not make a New Year’s resolution, but I think I have bought into the traditional way of ringing in the New Year.

How do you ring in the New Year?

Of course, we know and often take part in the traditional ways.   But how about a different consideration?

Today we consider something else.  Today is another edition in our series on Stewardship, with our theme of “A Year of Grateful Living.”   Today we acknowledge that this Sunday’s stewardship comes in the context of a new year.  Instead of dwelling upon the traditional ways of ringing in the New Year, we want to encourage you to think of other ways in which you could ring in the new year. 

In this “Year of Grateful Living,” how about living gratefully?

Before we deal with that question, some Biblical considerations.  

Consider the Old Testament reading from Jeremiah. 

The prophet Jeremiah reminds the people of Israel that God has generously redeemed them and brought them out of exile in Babylon.   A bit more than 500 years before Jesus, Israel had been overrun by Babylon, the world super-power.   Israel had strayed from God had been disobedient to God and some felt that the consequence was death, destruction and exile to Babylon.   Seventy years after their captivity in Babylon, God returns them to their homeland.                          

The people of Israel return to their homeland and have the chance to start all over again.  In effect a new year has dawned for them; a fresh start is before them.  

How shall they ring in the dawning of this new era?  The prophet Jeremiah suggests that they worship and praise God.   The prophet says:  

They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again.

Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

The people of Israel live gratefully, they worship and praise God and acknowledge the grace and mercy of God who redeems them despite their lack of faithfulness towards God.

The psalm writer in Psalm 147:12-20 suggests the same type of grateful living: 

Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!  For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you.  He grants peace within your borders; he fills you with the finest of wheat…….   Praise the LORD!

The writer of the book of Ephesians in the New Testatment, expounds upon this  grateful living.  The writer says: 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places….   In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…

…..so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.

We live for the praise of Christ’s glory, we live like Christ, emulating his grace, his compassion, his actions, his words, his deeds.   We live gratefully.

In this “Year of Grateful Living,” how about living gratefully?  

How do we live gratefully, how do we live this out?   Granted, like the Israelites, or the early Christian church, we can live this out by worshiping and praising God.   Of course there are other ways. 

Of course, paying attention to your health is a way of living gratefully.   Attending to our spiritual lives is a good way of living gratefully.   The list of items at the bottom of this sermon were posted on Facebook yesterday and I thought it was a wonderful way of living gratefully.

Charity and service to others, are wonderful ways of living gratefully and I am sure you can come up with many more.  

Actually I heard a wonderful story of gratefulness while listening to TSN Sports Radio 1040 AM.  Tom Mayenknecht was speaking about the new year and the year gone by and reflected upon the death of his father last year.   He talked about how difficult it was and how it left a hole in his life, but now he thinks in terms of gratefulness.   Tom said that he was grateful that he was his father’s son and how important it was for him to live up to all the good things his father had done.   You don’t hear that on sports radio too often. 

Even in the midst of sadness and sorrow, gratefulness can peek out and we can find a way to live gratefully. 

How about one more way of living this out? 

The Stewardship Committee of this congregation has some thoughts in that regard.   We have for you, in the Fellowship Hall, a calendar.   For the month of January, we would encourage you to take the calendars home and fill in the days, with something for which you are grateful.             

Don’t work ahead, fill in each day.   At the end of January, bring it back to church to share and we will post on the bulletin board, or keep it on your fridge door to remind yourself.

May the grace of God, the life of Christ and things like this calendar, remind you of grateful living and inspire you to live gratefully.