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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sermon 11182012 Thanksgiving Sunday 24th Sunday After Trinity

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

Let us pray!  Most gracious God, according to Your wisdom and at the proper time, the deep waters are opened and clouds drop gentle moisture.  We praise and thank You for our harvest this season, for the fertility of the soil, for the harvesting of crops, for the safety of the laborers, and for all other blessings which You generously pour on our nation.  Give us a full understanding of Your mercy, and enable us in our lives to be respectful, holy, obedient and thankful to You and Your will throughout all our days, for all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

If one were able to watch movies from end to beginning knowing the results prior to learning the struggles, the perspective or lessons learned would be lost on most of us.  As humans in order to gain and maintain our connection and engagement, we have to be introduced to a compelling thought, idea or concept that ‘catches’, captures and maintains our interest.  Sermons are no different, week in and week out, I have to begin the sermon with a visual picture that everyone can understand and relate to.  For some Pastor’s and Preacher’s like Rick Warren of Saddleback Community Church in California, his suggestion is to begin with people’s needs, then show where God’s Word speaks to the need and then make the personal application.  This approach though simple has enabled Pastor Rick Warren to reach more individuals for Jesus Christ because of the simplistic approach.

This morning I’d like to use a similar approach.  Today we celebrate Thanksgiving in the life of Emmanuel Lutheran Church.  It isn’t about turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie.  We come to give God thanks for bringing us again through another year of harvesting wheat and corn, but also celebrating the third movie in our Films of Faith Series entitled Facing the Giants.  Just as Coach Taylor with his new Philosophy inspired the team to ‘give it all they had’, ‘prepare for rain’ and ‘praise God when they won and praise God when they lost’, the Thanksgiving the team had after winning the State Title wasn’t for the victory, it was for ultimately learning the lesson of ‘Trusting God’ in everything.

When the team finally trusted God for their destiny, they ultimately received God’s greatest blessing of not only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but a reason to be thankful for God’s fulfilling His promise in, to and through them off the field as well as on the field.  The students studies turned around, relationships that were tenuous at best between Father and Son and fellow students, with ‘forgiveness’ and healing became right and the community saw the impact that Coach Taylor was having upon the lives of the players, their families, the community and ultimately the school with winning the State Championship Title.

In stark contrast to our Gospel where life was returned to a woman who had been sick for many years and the raising of the dead young girl of the synagogue leader, their thanksgiving was life and more of it provided by Jesus Christ.  Yet, the reality was their thanksgiving unlike the football team with the State Championship or even we today with a bountiful harvest of wheat in the spring and corn this fall was directly impacted by Jesus Christ.

When we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ our lives will be radically changed.  No longer will the ‘speed bumps’ of life cause us to loose control, because we learn and trust God fully to walk with us through these times and inspire us to not only trust Him more fully, but in having a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, we are freed from the doubt that pervades our society.  Remember at the beginning of the movie of Facing the Giants where Brock when hearing about the loss of one of the top players ‘doubted the potential and possibilities of the team’, then became a champion of belief after the ‘death crawl’.  Only after having true trust, faith and hope with what he could not see and the relationship with His Lord and Savior did he enjoy the complete impact upon his life to the fullest.

We are no different here today at Emmanuel.  Three years ago, we as a congregation sat wondering what our future would be.  There was not a full-time Pastor here in the pulpit or parsonage.  The relationship between Emmanuel and the ELCA was tenuous at best.  Attendance was down, morale was down and doubt of keeping the doors open and the church going was hovering in, over and throughout the congregation.
But today, three short years later, Emmanuel in trust, faith and hope has joined Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, called and funded successfully a full-time pastor, made capital improvements by adding a handicapped accessible bathroom, painting the fellowship hall, offering the community a free Films of Faith and we have some great plans for the future of the church.  All of this in one sense is like the end of a movie, where we have in trust and relationship with Jesus Christ reaped the harvest intended for Emmanuel.  This is why we can come today and in true Thanksgiving thank God for His abiding with us during this journey.  God has been and continues to be active with and among each of us today and we with Thankful hearts, hands and voices can share with one another the bountiful feast He offers us, not only of turkey and all the fixings down stairs, but of the Holy Supper we are about to receive around the Altar of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Our receipt of Jesus Christ precious Body and Blood not only fulfills the promise God made to us in our baptism, but Jesus Body and Blood are meant to strengthen us for the journey of life we are on and enable us to give God true Thanks and Praise.  In Facing the Giants at the end of the movie after the State Title win, Coach Taylor came home and was told he had made the team.  No longer was it a matter of only being a coach, a mentor or about to become a father, Coach Taylor understood giving God thanks and praise for the gifts of his life was not commanded, but his greatest opportunity.  Remember the mantra of the team, praise and thank God when they win and praise and thank God when they lost.  We to here at Emmanuel have this opportunity as well.  Let’s join together and praise and thank God, not only for what has been loss in our lives and our church, but truly come together on bended knee and praise and thank God for the blessings He has given each of us today.  For this is the promise He fulfills for all of mankind, but especially for all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel offering our praise and thanks this morning especially for the gift of His Son and our Savior Jesus Christ for all of us saints.  AMEN.
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