Based on Deuteronomy 26: 1-11 and Philippians 4: 4-9
In our Thanksgiving worship service this morning, our hymns, our prayers, our scriptures, and our shared messages have been woven together in a variety of ways that remind us of how abundantly God has blessed us this year and over the years.
In that abundant blessing, there is also the sense of being called into the challenge of being a blessing for one another, both within and beyond our walls.
Opening Prayer: Holy One, gather us in on this Thanksgiving Sunday in 2016. They say a picture tells a thousand words and in gazing upon our processional display of food stuffs brought forward on behalf of the people at First United Church this day, may we know that we, too, are called into ever widening circles of blessing and challenge for the sake of the hungry and the homeless. Amen.
In our readings both from the Hebrew and the Christian texts this morning, we hear two different stories about how God’s abundant blessing calls God’s people into the challenge and the blessing of becoming blessings for one another.
In the reading from Deuteronomy there is the story of how Moses and God’s people were abundantly blessed.
In their acceptance of that blessing, they were also abundantly challenged to become a blessing to one another and to all those who take up the threads of their story.
In its hearing once again this morning, we, too, are reminded of how God’s abundant blessing calls us to ‘go and make a difference’ in the world the lies just beyond our doors; a world located right here in the city of Vancouver where the impacts of poverty, homeless, and hunger are becoming more and more obvious by the minute.
In anticipating our second reading from the scripture this morning, one attributed to the story of the apostle Paul, we remember how his life was transformed by his witness to the presence of Jesus, the Christ.
As a result, we recall also some of the dangers and snares of Paul’s acceptance of the blessing and the challenge of developing and supporting the life of the early church in the Mediterranean region in those days after Jesus walked the earth.
Here this morning, in a letter of thanksgiving from Paul to the people at Philippi, one of the early church outposts of the Roman Empire, we hear how he encourages them to be a blessing to one another and to others with the walls of the early church and where possible, beyond its doors.
Even in prison awaiting his own death, Paul calls those followers in the way of Jesus to remember their focus and to respond to the abundant blessing of God whose presence in their lives and, by extension, our own, into ever widening perpetual circles of blessing and challenge.
How will they (and we) be sustained in the living out of that challenge?
The apostle Paul says this: ‘through rejoicing; through embodying a gentleness that takes its model from Jesus the Christ; through praying without ceasing; and through trusting in a God of abundant blessing whose peace surpasses all understanding’ they, and we, will be fortified for ministry and mission.
On the occasion of reflecting on these stories from scripture almost 2000 years later, stories that remind us of the abundance of God’s blessing and the inherent challenge and call to be a blessing both within and beyond the walls of our church in this time and in this place, we respond by singing together “Rejoice in the Lord Always”.