“For You We Pray”
Colossians 1:1-14, November 24th, 2019
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these ancient words attributed to the Apostle Paul to the Colossians, chapter one verses one thru fourteen.”
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.
“Having heard these words with our ears let us consider how they shall stimulate our prayers as we enter into a time of thanksgiving.”
“For You We Pray”
The Apostle Paul was not writing a Thanksgiving letter to the Colossians, yet he did raise up a word of thanks in the first verses of today’s reading. “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 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.” /Colossians 1:11-12/ When we take to heart this message we can easily allow our very core, our spirits to come together in a prayer of Thanksgiving, for all which our God has done and is doing for us through the birth, life and yes even the death of the Son of God, Jesus the Christ. Indeed, today is the Sunday before Thanksgiving, upon which we move quickly into our four Sunday’s of Advent as we prepare ourselves for our annual celebration of the birth of the Christ child!
Therefore, let us take our cue from Paul’s letter to seek out opportunities to begin, giving thanks for the first harvest which in our secular world here in North America, within which tradition lifts up, is the time, when early Pilgrims from Europe, harvested there first bountiful crops and shared it with those whom lived among them. My favorite scripture at Thanksgiving comes from the Book of Psalms, specifically Psalm 100. “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Early in the history of how others came to God, they learned the ritual of giving thanks. Truly, if one has a grateful heart, one’s very spirit shall more fully join with the Living Spirit of Christ, in the pursuit of following the very will of God in one’s daily activities. This has been a simple truth since the beginning of humankind. As today’s scripture from Paul’s letter also leads us to reflect on all we ought to be thankful for, let us open ourselves to a simple prayer. Indeed, this passage, like the Psalms before it was often used as a form of prayer and a time of meditation, perhaps even used as a form of hymnody.
Natalie Babbitt gives a modest thought for us to consider. “Like all magnificent things, it’s very simple.” For many this simple offering of thanks is hidden in Paul’s words. Yet, it truly is quite simple. Even in the midst difficult and trying times, we ought to find time, by either stepping back a bit, or by reflection, and see the silver lining in all things. For surely the Master Craftsman, the Creator of all that is, has gifted us multiple times. Paul tells us, and especially those whom he first wrote his letter to, that we, whom have been brought into the fellowship of Christ, we have been gifted the fullness of life, as surely as any child who has been adopted to reap the fullness of the inheritance of which the saints before us have secured! The very Spirit, the Shining Light of God through Christ is given to us! What a gift! What a Joy. Thanks be to God!
The Rev. Kathryn Matthews, retired dean of Amistad Chapel, takes us deeper into the heart of this writing attributed to the Apostle. “Paul wants to make it abundantly clear that Christ is not just one among many competing approaches to life, not just the first among equals: Christ is at the very center of the meaning of everything, for all people. The question of Jesus Christ is of primary importance in the lives of his followers, not just something we think about on Sunday morning, or when someone asks us what church we go to, but a question that shapes our whole life. For Christians in every age, following Jesus is a big-time “game-changer.” In the words written down for us to hear this day we can feel the fulness of the inspiration that Rev. Matthews holds up for us. “(God) has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of (God’s) beloved Son, in whom we have (liberation, full recovery,) the forgiveness of sins.” /Colossians 1:13-14/
The Rev. Matthews continues as she brings our writing back into the Twenty-First Century, with all its harsh realities! “We may feel overwhelmed by insolvable problems: war, hunger, poverty, and damage to the environment, but here are the roots of Christian hope, for God in Christ is at work in the world, in the big picture of all creation, and in everything that affects us personally in our own little lives, as well.” We can easily add to this array of struggles and calamities, with such things as the divisive division of our nation in our ideologies, our principles and our beliefs, to which we proclaim are the driving force of the very pulse of what makes us a great nation. Rev. Matthews then asks of us a rhetorical question which so many of us ask ourselves virtually every day! “What is the power that helps you get through your day and the struggles of your life?”
As Americans we proudly pledge our allegiance to the red, white and blue, the flag which we so proudly display. We recently celebrated Veteran’s day, reminding ourselves of those who have fought for our freedoms and for liberty for all peoples. Every veteran and every family of those past, present and future, want to be reassured that their sacrifices, our sacrifices have not been in vain! We as a people take this seriously and to heart. Surely, therefore we passionately strive to support what we each so fervently cherish and believe in. Picking up on Rev. Matthews question: what is it that empowers you each day? If it is only “the public struggles” to find truth in our midst – then this shall surely heighten your stress and the tension in your life. Yet, if we respond to the question as Christians, surely, we know where to turn!
Every day we need to clarify our personal priorities. If this is not your conscious thought, perhaps you may want to add this to your list of morning rituals. On my personal priority list, upon waking, I fervently strive to acknowledge the presence of God and invite the Living Spirit of the Holy one into my life, as well as my consciousness and my every choice, as I begin my day. No, I am far from perfect, but as soon as I am consciously aware, my day is upside down until I acknowledge my need for God’s inspiration and direction. How do you start your day? A great many of us have busy schedules and we do our best to get it all done. However, if we meditate on the news that is ‘throbbing’ and ‘pulsating’ in our consciousness in every nock and cranny of our lives, (If this is our focus,) then we need to step back and consider putting additional time and effort into seeking God’s presence in our lives, and asking for more guidance in our choices, choices which we all make every day!
Ask yourself another question: “Whom have you prayed for today?” Yes, of course we ask God to help us first! Yes, we do. And that is good, just so long as we are asking God to help us so that “we can be of maximum service to God and others!” /Author Anonymous/ I want to ask you this day to consider praying for others – other than yourself. If we are each prepared to enter the festive time of Thanksgiving, then prayerfully, we will have an abundance of gratitude in our hearts as we move forward. Paul’s opening remarks are truly his prayer for the church: “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.” /Colossians 1:13/ We need to receive this prayer believing that our God has heard it and that it shall be so! We also need to ‘pass this prayer forward’ to others who possibly need this inspirational and hope filled prayer.
As we bring our time of devotion and reflection to a close, let us consider the need for expanding our circle of prayer. Your prayers, our prayers are needed for our country as we continue to struggle through the divide that has pitted us against one another. Traditionally, Thanksgiving brings forth the best in people, at least it brings out our common desire to eat and our natural desire not to eat alone. With this being said: let us fervently pray that this time will bring us back, to a place where Americans, can again see their neighbors and even their closest friends and family, not as adversaries in a public debate, but rather as fellow travelers in this journey of life.
Let our times of prayer begin to include those who disagree with us. Let’s not limit our prayer time to one ‘particular’ disagreement. In our scripture the letter writer was speaking how God “has rescued us from the power of darkness…” /Colossians 1:13/ If we believe in the power of God’s mercy, then surely God’s grace can pull us from the darkness of life’s fears, life’s diversities and divisions. Let us pray with hope in our hearts.
This week, our prayers need to be for everyone. Let us pray for others, as well as ourselves to be able to be with loved ones, friends and acquaintances, sharing moments of joyful thankfulness for all which we do have. Let us make this our prayer for others all around us as well as ourselves.