And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.

Colossians 3:15

Welcome to this celebration of our thanksgiving.

What is expected here is the most boring and irrelevant homily / sermon ever created, which we have all heard at least 42 times (I’m guessing the average age here is 42 – and that means 42 Thanksgivings with Jesus jammed in there via a service and a sermon).

Here the preacher expounds on all the things we have to be thankful for – the stuff, the family around us, friends, our Church, and safe travels. Maybe some good luck at the casino?

Having heard all that, what are you and I left to walk away with? What has God given to be thankful for today, and for the times ahead? How is God equipping us to live everyday as His faithful followers and disciples, living in peace and thanksgiving?

Tough questions.

St. Paul was faced with a tough situation. The Church at Colossae (Colossians live in Colossae) was confused, distracted, ill-informed, going through the motions, and even getting the motions wrong. Sounds familiar? It sounds much like our lives today, even churches today. When do we catch a break?

Hey, here comes Thanksgiving. Perhaps we could get a break at Thanksgiving?

As we get nearer that day we hope to take a moment away from confusion, distraction, mis-information, and the day-to-day routines, the going through the motions, and even messing those up. We hope for respite. But one day won’t do it. The peace of Christ and thanksgiving won’t be made permanent in our lives by an annual observance.

Thanks be to God for St. Paul. As he did for the Colossians, so he does for us today. He’s writing to refocus us.To get us out of lives based on being fooled – and set on where we need to be and really want to be. Paul is working to equip us as Christ followers and disciples, to live everyday changed and on fire for God’s way of life, and to live our lives in true peace and thanksgiving.

Here’s Paul’s keys to the life we really want, to lives marked by ongoing peace and thanksgiving. Paul does this through what we call a bridge.

The musicians here, and those musically inclined know what a bridge is. It is a transformative musical statement connecting one section of music to the next.

The first section of Paul’s music is how we live together. He says: Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 

This is about how we live together as Christ’s followers and His disciples. Think of the cure that is here. We are made right with God and each other by living lives of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another, forgiving each other by wearing lives wrapped in love. This kind of life binds everything together in perfect harmony. This is the first verse of the song. This is the equipment we need to get over confusion, distraction, mis-information, and day-to-day routines. These are the tools we have right now to draw in those who will only know Jesus through who we are. We no longer just go through the motions, we make the motions, we change life around us into lives of Christ centered peace and thanksgiving. Let this be the way we call the tune.

Then comes the bridge followed by the second verse: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Living lives of discipleship, being true full time followers of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, we focus on scripture and gathering. We teach each other, show the way forward through the wisdom we have gained, and then gather together to sing psalms and hymns with hearts focused on God the Father through His Son Jesus.

See, the bridge: And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful is the link between love of each other and toward all people and the loving and thankful service we need to completely focus on God. The “peace of Christ” ruling in our hearts binds us in the way that is more than a sermon, but rather is our toolkit for life. Equipped to live as faithful followers and disciples gives us cause to be truly thankful.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

The month of November is dedicated to remembering our dearly departed. As I reflect on this month, I cannot help but pause to consider what will happen to me. I do not do this to be morbid or to dwell on dark things, in fact I try to focus on those I will leave behind. I guess that’s one of those habits of a part time genealogist. I also like to annoy my family by telling them the songs I would like played at the post funeral repast. The one song I would love to have played is “Knocking On Heaven’s Door.” Any version is fine: Bob Dylan, Guns N’ Roses, or Eric Clapton. I particularly like Warren Zevon’s version or the Polish version by Babsztyl – “Pukając do nieba bram.” We often feel we are standing just outside heaven’s door. We stand there knocking. This takes two forms. One form of knocking is the kind we do every day – looking for reasons, seeking help, trying to get to an answer. The other form of knocking is the one we anticipate doing. What it will be like when I get there. Will I be left on the porch, at the gate, knocking and waiting? The hardest thing to get in our walk of faith is the sort of confidence that tells us ‘the door will be open.’ Yet, that is what Jesus promises us. The words above, taken from Matthew, Chapter 7, are the start of His promise. Jesus goes on to say: “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” He goes on to describe how our Heavenly Father will provide good to those who ask. He didn’t say these things so we would wonder or be fearful. In the Polish version, the singer cries out: Błagam Panie otwórz mi Zanim mrok pochłonie mnie. [I beg You, Lord, open the door Before darkness consumes me.] As we face this month of memory, and perhaps some self-reflection, let us take time to ask Jesus to reinforce our confidence. Let us realize we are never outside the door. We don’t have to knock, He has already opened the door for us.

Our newsletter discusses the month of November, the remembrance of our dearly departed, and includes a memorial for our former Pastor, Rt. Rev. śp. Stanley Bilinski, who entered his eternal rest just as the month began. Taking a simultaneously somber and hopeful approach, our newsletter covers events throughout the month. We prepare for the mailing of our Valentine’s Raffle tickets, the events of Advent, and two beautiful reflections on sharing our faith – plus one positive missionary step each of us can take. We also wish everyone a great Thanksgiving. Consider using the prayer included in the Newsletter.

Check out all this and more in our November 2018 Newsletter.

Time for
doing.

Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.

Today’s message from scripture is one of doing (while rejoicing).

As we listen to Paul’s instructions to the Thessalonians, it sounds much like the instruction of every parent when they drop their children off somewhere. “Always be respectful. Listen closely. Pick up after yourself. Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ Call me if you need anything. In fact, just call me period.” The list goes on. Most of the time those words are not even heard, because our children know them by heart. They have heard them repeatedly. But, like Paul, we have to wonder if they connect. Hearing is different from grasping and doing.

Reading Paul’s list of final exhortations, we are called to tune in attentively. Not only to listen, but to put these easy to remember admonitions into practice: REJOICE, PRAY, GIVE THANKS, DO NOT QUENCH, DO NOT DESPISE, TEST EVERYTHING, REFRAIN FROM EVIL.

Like to Letter of St. James, the First Letter to the Thessalonians is thought to be one of the earliest writings in the Christian community. Paul is laying out directions for how Christians are to live. What are we to do every day? These things: REJOICE, PRAY, GIVE THANKS, DO NOT QUENCH, DO NOT DESPISE, TEST EVERYTHING, REFRAIN FROM EVIL.

We do not really hear it in English, but in Paul’s Greek, he laid these out in poetic form, a sort of mnemonic device, with a special rhythm so they would be easily remembered. He wanted the faithful to have this in their ears, on their tongues every day, like a song you cannot get out of your head.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all things! These imperatives are to be our individual response toward God. We are to recognize God as the source of our daily joy and we are to offer Him thanksgiving. We are to do so regardless of what is going on around us or even very close to us. We are to find joy and reason to give thanks ALWAYS.

Especially telling, the Thessalonians were facing tragedies and deaths at the time of this letter. Things that were not joyful were shaking their faith, darkening their hearts. Paul reminds them as he reminds us – If these human and earthly things, which have no power over the person faith, over people with the promise of eternal life, and who look to the immanent return of Christ can shake us, what value is our faith, our devotion, our worship? People of real faith cannot be shaken because we stand on Christ Jesus. We own His salvation.

The next set of admonitions apply to us as a faith community, as the Church. We together are to recognize God working right here, among us. Do not quench the Spirt, do not despise prophetic words, test everything and retain what is good! God is at work here, and we see it daily, weekly. We are to take full part in that and re to do it together. We are to be open to God’s voice through the work of the Holy Spirt while at the same time testing to ensure we are consistent with scripture and Holy Tradition.

We are not to be passive or complacent in this time of waiting. We are to sing Paul’s song of God-centered action – rejoicing, praying, giving thanks, discerning, and testing. We are to live this song, this poem. It is to be the rhythm of our lives – our imperative as Jesus’ people. Let’s be His!