Prayer, Praise & Thanksgiving

All Age Psalm 23

If the links don’t work for you, here is John’s video presentation “Psalm 23”. The songs are Be Bold, Be Strong, Father’s House and The Lord’s My Shepherd. The Top of the Pops.

Todays reading is Colossians 1:1-14Open Link in New Window.

Here is today’s reflection by Revd Ian Tomkins.

Last Tuesday’s minute’s silence to remember and pay tribute to those key workers who have died during the COVID-19 epidemic, was moving and poignant. For those on the frontline of this effort, it was a precious moment of stillness to remember colleagues. For others in their homes, it was a special moment—of stillness within the stillness, to think about the love, compassion and dedication of these courageous men and women. We are deeply thankful.

For me, and I am sure for many of us, the opportunity to be still and have that moment alongside others—to take the time to acknowledge my thankfulness in a very specific way, was not just a poignant and sad moment—the grief, pain, exhaustion, anxiety, confusion etc. It was also a gift of grace—and a fresh moment to count my blessings, blessings that include not only all those who are so selflessly working to keep me safe and well, but also the blessings that build me up and give me life and hope day by day, both for this present time and also for the future.

The bible reading I chose for today speaks powerfully into this—both the act of thankfulness when times are tough, as well as the transformative experience of being thankful.

Paul’s letter to the Colossians was written while he was in prison far away, possibly during his first imprisonment in Rome. Paul would be imprisoned again for his faith, and would die for what he believed in. So remember, those words you heard just now were from someone who had every reason for anxiety and despair.

Yet the beginning of this letter is full of thanksgiving and praise. The Christian church in Colossi was young. It wasn’t directly founded by Paul, because he never actually went there. But it was almost certainly started as a result of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus and the surrounding region, as those inspired to the commitment of Christian faith took the Good News of Jesus into the region.

This new young church was struggling—with insidious attacks of false teaching undermining their confidence and hope. Remember, to be a follower of Jesus Christ during those times was likely to put you at great personal risk, as the horrific persecution of Christians by various Roman rulers showed all to clearly. But in spite of this, the hope of Jesus Christ not only survived, but grew and grew.

Paul writes to the church in Colossi to encourage, guiding, reminding and reaffirming them in truth; and from prison, Paul’s first words are of thanksgiving and praise. The beginning of the letter not only expresses thanksgiving for his brothers and sisters in Christ, it also immediately roots that thanksgiving in the reminder of what sustains them and keeps them going – their faithfulness and their love for others, founded on the solid rock of the hope that knowing Jesus brings, both to their present lives and also the future.

‘We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints – the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you.’

Colossians 1:3-5Open Link in New Window

Faith, love, hope—and truth—the one truth of which we can always be certain in an uncertain world, that Jesus Christ died for each and every person, and rose again to overcome all that is dark in life, to overcome death itself.

You and I can read this letter as if it were written to us too. As I do, not only am I personally encouraged by the faithfulness and conviction of this brave and courageous servant of God, I am also reminded of how thankful I am for others, whose lives give witness to the often sacrificial nature of love. We love the Lord our God, with heart, soul, mind and strength, so that we are filled with his spirit of grace, to then love our neighbour as ourselves.

I found it moving and encouraging that when our prime Minister Boris Johnson came out of hospital after being dangerously ill and close to death, in his emotional tribute to those who had selflessly cared for him, he referenced what is best in all the care he received and which is being given 24 hours a day to others. ‘It is powered by love’, he said.

God is love, and we find understanding of that love and that truth in knowing Jesus Christ, the most beautiful and perfect expression of love and truth.

The apostle Paul, from a situation of huge personal adversity and struggle, gave thanks for all he knew and understood of the love he saw in others. This not only gave encouragement to others, it also brought him great personal encouragement too, in what to many of us, would have seemed an impossibly awful situation.

There is not one moment of one day, when the God of love is not with us, alongside us and loving us. Like Paul, I am so thankful for that and thankful too, for how this love is shown in and through the lives of others.

At the beginning of the Church of England’s Morning Prayer service are some beautiful words, which help me every day, to count my blessings and to express my thanksgiving first. As I do this, I am reminded of the hope that we can always have in Jesus, before the rest of the day unfolds. I say it often, especially when I am not feeling like it! It goes like this.

“The night has passed and the day lies open before us; let us pray with one heart and mind.

As we rejoice in the gift of this new day, so may the light of your presence, O God, set our hearts on fire with love for you; now and forever.“

May I encourage you, today and in this coming week, to read the opening words of thanksgiving and praise in this letter of Paul to the Colossians? You will see Paul goes onto say—from his personal experience, that as we do so, we will discover three great gifts—fortitude or endurance, patience—and Joy.

God bless you this week.

There will be a video version of the service and a podcast of the sermon.

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