The ABC’s of Praise… No More, No Less!

Your preacher's in an odd spot! I want to ask you to do an unholy thing today. (Shhh… don't tell a soul.) I want you to remember something. I term this unholy because God makes us in God's own image. And it appears God treasures a good forgetery better than a good memory, by divine/personal example. After all, it's the Lord who promises, "I will forgive your iniquity and remember their sin… no more." God promises us a great forgetery, a comfort to those of us remembering less well. Here we thought we were getting old. ‘Turns out we're simply getting more holy! Now, forgive me, but I challenge you to remember. I want you to remember this week the ABC's of praise, giving God no more, and no less! And I remind you we've spoken of this before, specifically in the light of Psalm 103! We're going to extend our understanding by turning to Jesus. And all of this as we approach Thanksgiving.  

Ahh, Thanksgiving. So what have we got to give thanks for? It's too cold too early. The economy has moved from nervous to unnerving. We've got troops bogged down in two wars. There's a certain uncertainty that always comes with a change in administration. Read the bulletin and our own church's finances could surely use some help. Turkeys all across the country are upset at their prospects for this week. And did I mention flu season has started early? (Do get your shots!) Thanksgiving? And that would be for…? FOR THE SHEER AND MAGNIFICENT GOODNESS OF GOD! Enter Psalm 103. Remember we lifted these words just a few weeks ago. Together we learned that the 22 verses of the psalm are headed by each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. By its very structure the psalm bears witness to the astonishing wonder of God. It takes all we've got, literally A-Z to sing God's praise. In the midst of so much going wrong these days, here's our first cause for thanks. God. The character of God. The very nature of God. The expression of God. The insistent, assisting, ever presence of God. "BLESS THE Lord, O my soul… and forget not all his benefits. He forgives, heals, redeems, crowns. He is steadfast love and mercy. He makes his ways known. (God never keeps God's godliness a secret!) Merciful. Gracious. Great. God takes pity on us. And God keeps his Word to us. Yea, God! 

So how are we doin', singin' the ABC's of God's praise? Can we thank God for every attribute we can name? Remember? (I told you I'd ask.) Weeks ago we lifted thanks for God from A to Z. Let's do it today and all days, all over again. (Congregation fills blanks.)

God, our great God is Invincible Reliable/redeemer
Almighty Joy like a river Son of righteousness
Benevolent King of kings Truth
Comforter Lord & love to the end Understanding
Deliverer Mighty Victorious
Everlasting Never leaving/forsaking Waymaker
Forgiving Omniscient, omnipresent X-ray vision
God by himself Powerful Yours for the asking
Healer, highest, holy Quick to forgive Zenith, #1

Raphael Warnock

O, this week, this Thanksgiving week, when you're feelin' a little low payin' for the feast, write these, your ABC's of thanks and praise across the bottom of your grocery bill. When you take your check you wish were bigger to the bank, or get the e-acknowledgement of direct deposit, write this on the back. Scribe your ABC's on the back of your doctor's appointment card when you take it to the office. Tell ‘em the health care plan you're in. Forget about your HMO, PPO and POS. Tell your doctor you're just thankin' God this week you're in God's Psalm 103 Plan! Ps. 103: 4. You've got all his benefits! vs. 5. When your life is the pits, He redeems your life from the pit! (Back to) vs. 3. You tell your doctor to run all the tests. But you're not relyin' on those, no matter how many of your cats they scan. Because: you personally have the promise of God that he personally will heal you of all your diseases. Even if it takes God both sides of eternity to do it! And best of all, there are no deductibles. And no co-pay. Your every iniquity and inability is covered, and not one of your sins is uncovered, even if they were pre-existing conditions! In fact, don't just stop at the doctor's office; call your insurance agent, too. Tell him this week, thank God, you've got a marvelous new "Whole life Policy," and the premium has been fully paid! You are entirely covered, this-life-to-next. And you might wanna mention, thank God, you've got a new agent, and his name is Jesus! Thanksgiving! FOR THE SHEER AND MAGNIFICENT GOODNESS OF GOD! There's the ABC's of it! 

Psalm 103 gives us a glorious "No More Possible" understanding of the God we offer thanks and praise. And in case you've never noticed, Matthew 25 gives us a "No Less" picture of the Kingdom this very God is out to bring. Jesus paints the picture. For Him it's "The Last Judgement." And also "the First Sign" of the Kingdom! He offers each of us a place in it. Our Savior is at pains to offer us an image of the giving required in any true Thanksgiving! By simply uttering the words, Jesus makes it clear. No era, no expression of the times, personal or shared, blessed or distressed, can cancel out this giving. There is an unexpectedness about this giving that God Godself attaches to a thankful life. And there is an abandon about it. ‘A nothing-held-back-ness! ‘An insistence this kind of giving is in every time and circumstance, for me/for you.  

How many times have we heard the recitation of this? How many times have we connected it to the obligation to give God thanks by giving God-in-Christ glory in this way? When the Son of man comes in his glory, He'll sit on his glorious throne. Before him every one of us. He places the sheep at his right, the goats at the left. To those at his right he'll say, "Come, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the start. I was hungry, you gave me food; thirsty, you gave me drink; a stranger, you welcomed me. ‘Naked you clothed me; ‘sick and you visited me; ‘in prison and you came to me." The [thankful] righteous answer, "When?" And the King will answer, "As you did to the least, you did to me." Then he will say to his left, "Depart, for you did not." The words are so familiar. But these teachings are not.Two things here. First. There is a complete reversal of values. Second, there is an utter re-valuation of the times! We are unaccustomed to hearing of either. (As a preaching pastor, I bear some responsibility for that, with all my colleagues. And I confess my sin to you and to God.) Jesus' urging us to compassion wasn't new then, isn't now. It's what kind people do (with/out) faith. What's new is that we do it with those we doubt, judge, distrust, disrespect, or even despise. They called these folks sinners all. Often such folks give us the creeps. And that's what we call ‘em, creeps! Christ completely reverses things in God's name. He tells us God has a bias in favor of those we disfavor. And he says that by casting aside our own pride and self-interest, we bless them and bless ourselves. In fact, it is the most sacred way we give God thanks for our own giftedness in Christ. Jesus says so. To drive the point home he dies for them as surely and as sacrificially as for us. Here's the other thing. We especially need to hear it these days. Jesus insists on our giving, despite the times and despite our circumstances. It's a spiritual thing, not just a charity! Jesus directs us to give with abandon when times are difficult to reveal to us the One God who can give us everything, and will. He wants us to understand properly, the Power that provides and the Father who protects us on earth and projects us onto eternity. Interesting. Perhaps it ought to register with us. The most generous decade of American life, from the Revolution to the present, adjusted for inflation: 1930-1939… the span of the Great Depression. ‘The decade of greatest church attendance? The same.  

The ABC's of Praise… No More, No Less! Thank God for the sheer and magnificent goodness of God! And give with thanks, whenever, however you can. ‘With the whole of your heart and the full of your spiritual and material resources. ‘Especially when the times say "no", and you look on the places and faces in need, and would rather not say (hand out) "Here," but "Go". A joyous, gentle, generous Thanksgiving to you all.

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