First Lutheran Church Plainville, Kansas
Peace Lutheran Church Natoma, Kansas
I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God that was given in Christ Jesus – 1 Corinthians 1:4
St. Paul writes these specific words to the church at Corinth, but he writes similar words to the churches in Ephesus, Galatia, Thessalonica, Philippi, Colossae and Rome. In one way or another, he writes that he gives thanks for the faithful, for the baptized, for those who confess the name of Jesus.
The irony of course, is that St. Paul later writes in these same letters words that are not always so reflective of one who is thankful to a people that one would wonder whether or not they are faithful. But to start, St. Paul gives thanks for the faith that his hearers have; even when they are not always as faithful as he would desire.
We often forget this detail about St. Paul’s letters, always going for his teachings on women or the Lord’s Supper or inclusion of Gentiles as opposed to the mention of thanksgiving for the faithful.
Of course, we do not just gloss over this phrase in the Epistles, but we also forget them when we deal with each other.
How often we focus in the sermon, or in Bible study, or in conversation on those who are not in church; on those who do not participate in one group or another; about those whose offerings are slow in coming or even about those who worship in ways that seem strange to us. We spend countless hours discussing the ills of society and how the world continues to stray further and further away from God’s Word. We shudder to imagine how hot the fires will be for those who have rejected the Christian faith.
But how often do we give thanks for those who have remained faithful?
How often do you look out over the congregation on Sunday morning and give thanks for the young family who come bringing their children, teaching them the faith? How often do you see the elderly hobbling up to the altar rail and give thanks for their determination? How often do you see a teenager singing the liturgy and give thanks for their participation? How often do you hear the readings and the sermon and give thanks that the Word is being proclaimed in your midst? How often do you see an announcement in the bulletin and give thanks that the work of the Church continues in this place? Did you give thanks that the lost sheep returned after a period away?
Most of those answers are probably no; we forget to give thanks for the faithfulness of those around us, we neglect to remember the good while listing off the negative.
And yet, today, St. Paul reminds us to give thanks for the faith of those around us. Give thanks that they have heard the Word; give thanks that they have remembered their baptism; give thanks that they hunger and thirst for the body and blood of Christ; give thanks that they desire to hear the words of absolution spoken.
Do those who are faithful still need to hear words of Law and Gospel? They certainly do; just as you need to hear those words; and remember that St. Paul delivers those words to the same people he gives thanks for. But we give thanks that they are present to hear that word.
Give thanks for the faith that each of your brothers and sisters in Christ has, and pray that they would be strengthened in it now and for eternity.
God Bless! Pastor Schmidt