Psalm 107:1-2; 136:1-9, 23-26
O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy.
O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever. To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever. To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever. To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever. To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever: The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever: The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever.
Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever: And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever. Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.
Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face evermore! Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth.
Read Ephesians 5:1-20.
Because of your confession in Christ, I baptize you now in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, for the forgiveness of your sins and so you may receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and walk in newness of life. I have spoken those words or words very similar almost every time I baptize someone. Very early in my experience of baptizing people I learned that those words carried a lot of freight. After leaving out certain phrases (i.e. for the forgiveness of sins or to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit) I was approached by anxious brothers and sister concerned that the baptism was somehow invalid because of my error in recitation. I have since resolved it in my mind that the power of baptism is not dependent on my ability as a baptizer but it rests completely in the mercy of God and the saving power of Christs blood.
But I have learned that the words we speak at a baptism are meaningful. We use words to describe the reality and truth of baptism. And we also use those words to communicate to everyone what is really taking place in the experience of baptism. Just recalling the words spoken at your baptism should remind you of the reality that you have been immersed into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Your sins have been forgiven. You share in the gift of the Holy Spirit. You have new life.
These words are not the words that have always been spoken at baptisms everywhere. Other words have been used to express the same truth, and in the text we just read we have what may very well be the words used in the first century churches: Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. Paul is recalling these words for the Christians in Ephesus so that will remember who they are. He returns not only to the words of the baptism, but he also unpacks the freight that those words carry ...
We are dearly loved children. We are children of light. This is family language. God is our Father and we are a family. And that has meaning as well. We are called to live up to the family name. We are to be imitators of God. And thats why we need to return to these words that shape us. In a culture that isnt always in synch with Gods ways, it can be challenging to try and imitate God. And there is always a tendency to slip away from the center of Gods way into one of two ruts on either side ...
One option is to be consumed with the values that are contrary to Gods values. Paul describes this as darkness and foolishness. Falling into the darkness and foolishness immerses us into all kinds of immorality and impurity. Not simply sexual immorality, but also impurity such as greed: (I hope you got your PS3 if you stood in line for one. In some nations people stand in line for food, but here in America we will stand in line for a video game system that costs more than what some people in the world make in an entire year.) Tis the season the shopping season - but watch out for the immorality and consumption of greed. Thats not you! You are children of light, you are people who live by the wisdom of God. The reason there isnt to be even a hint of such impurity is because this isnt proper for Gods family. Its not that someone is going to scowl at us or sneer because we break the rules it is because that is not who we are!
The other rut is to become cynical and combative against a culture that runs counter to God. This happens when we are constantly condemning of others. But thats not our identity as Gods children either. We do not have to resort to dirty politics and negative campaigning. We dont have to talk about what the disobedient do in secret we arent interested in scandals and rumors. We arent so angry or cynical that we are reduced to obscenity, foolish talk, and filthy joking. We are not going to partner with those who talk a lot of empty words. We dont have to get drunk in our despair and self-destruction. None of this is what it means to be Gods people.
The sad result of Gods children breathing out hateful and combative words is seen in Sam Harris recent book, Letter to a Christian Nation. ...
Thousands of people have written to tell me that I am wrong not to believe in God. The most hostile of these communications have come from Christians. This is ironic, as Christians generally imagine that no faith imparts the virtues of love and forgiveness more effectively than their own. The truth is that many who claim to be transformed by Christs love are deeply, even murderously, intolerant of criticism. While we may want to ascribe this to human nature, it is clear that such hatred draws considerable support from the Bible. How do I know this? The most disturbed of my correspondents always cite chapter and verse. Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation
As much as I may disagree with Harris philosophy and worldview, I do believe that he has probably been confronted by angry Christians who demonstrate an unloving spirit. Some might say, Well we shouldnt give in to an atheist like Harris. What do his feelings matter? This is isnt just about the Sam Harris in the world its about imitating our Father and living up to the name he gave us. Its about living a life of love just like Christ who gave himself up for us (and Sam Harris!).
Our family is a Thanksgiving Family. Instead of obscenity, foolish talking, and coarse joking, we give thanks. We speak a family language and it is a language of praise. We give thanks to God and encourage one another with our words. We are the Thanksgiving family and we need to be wise.
Rather we are filled with the Spirit. We sing praises, even though we are persecuted. We are a thanksgiving people and we need to be very careful how we live. We need to be wise and make the most of the opportunities around us because these are dark days. And the way to make the most of our opportunities is to be a people who express Thanksgiving in our words and in our actions.
Brothers and sisters, remember who you are. We are people whose native tongue is Thanksgiving. We are children of light. This is our time to shine!
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthymeditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
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