Giving thanks is so much more than saying grace before a meal. It may include this, but it goes way beyond it.
Paul’s constant personal giving of thanks, and encouragement to give thanks, is a feature of his life and letters. A cursory reading could make it appear incidental, a nice opening phrase, or filler that has cultural value, in that it is a common form of greeting. But, we would miss the point entirely were we to treat giving thanks so casually.
Giving thanks is a significant part of his letters. It is the New Testament equivalent, and some, of Old Testament regulations for approaching a holy God in worship. This being so, the giving of thanks assumes an importance that is difficult to over state, and one that is not wise to under project.
Suddenly we are faced with something that isn’t just a cute phrase, as though giving thanks was largely a positive habit that had wonderful side benefits in outlook and relationships. In other words it is a good habit that has good outcome – good for you.
Pragmatism, however, is not the modus operandi of giving thanks – the praise and worship of God is.
Giving thanks demands of us much more than the perfunctory, the casual, or an erratic fulfilment. It requires heart, obedience, and consistency.
If approach to God in the Old Testament era were highly regulated, specified and serious, why would we imagine that the worship of God for us is something less? It is certainly more wonderful, and is based on a better way through the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ, and it isn’t demanded of us that we appear with lambs and bulls for sacrifice, but this isn’t to cheapen or to make casual our worship of God. It is still costly – bloody in its own way.
When the nation approached God in worship and sacrifice their individual feelings weren’t even on the agenda. God was. Our feelings were of little to no account in the temple-based worship of the law.
We, however, have mistaken the freedom to give thanks and worship with the right to be guided (hijacked) by our current emotional state.
For this reason Paul speaks of a sacrifice of praise. It is a sacrifice in that it is offered to God, and it is a sacrifice in that it is done regardless, regularly, in spite of our feelings, and is God focused not outcome oriented.
We are the poorer if our worship is impelled by our feelings. We are the richer if we worship no matter the circumstance.
Giving thanks is not an optional extra – it is fundamental, and it is a lens through which we will see much of God’s nature and goodness. Failure in one is failure in the other.
“Give Thanks to the Lord for He is Good.”
Written by Simon McIntyre
Once you say something it is hard to retract, though not impossible. Once you write something retraction is virtually impossible. Once you tweet something it is all over red rover. There is no coming back. Lazarus himself would have been tweeted (hounded) back into the tomb, being told he can’t possibly be raised from the dead. It’s unacceptable, discriminatory, and raises false hopes.
You will be held to account for every last letter, and if you said something ill advised, spur of the moment stuff, even playfully, you will be tried, judged, and executed by the new guillotine – social media. (In fact it is hardly social at all).
Human nature guarantees that social media – touted as being such a boon to the world, life changing – will inevitably descend into the abyss of less than humane human responses: jealousy, hatred, and all sorts of despicable me.
We are attaching actual value to how many followers we have, how often we are retweeted, liked, clicked and ticked.
We are told we don’t exist unless we are online. Last time I checked (not Facebook) I am still self-aware and exist aside from any online profile – happily so. Would to God more people realized, ‘what is a man profited if he has the most followers, and, in so doing, loses his soul?’ In fact I would suggest the more followers you clamor to have the more vacuous you are likely to be.
Not that is it is all doom and gloom. Social Media can be informative, fun, connective, and interesting, as in human nature can surprise, delight and thrill us.
How do we effectively use this medium? Are there rules of engagement that ensure we make the most of a mass means of communication that can have positive value?
We should be using all and every means to promote whatever is honorable, just, pure, commendable, excellent, or worthy of praise.
Make the most of the capacity to communicate truth, love, and life. And sprinkle it with fun.
Social media is a great means of encouraging others, instead of the all to common trend of assassinating them.
Encouragement gives courage. Champion each other with a barrage of likes and retweets.
It is great for pithy sayings, although not a lot of people are capable of them.
Beauty should be celebrated, as should virtue – the latter is harder, granted, in 140 letters or a photo.
Promote good things, and not the angst of others.
Engage others rather than merely pontificating.
There is much that can be done to add to our experience, and not detract from it, to lift our spirit and inspire us.
WHAT ABOUT INSTAGRAM?
what’s not to love?
It is a great way to connect with people in a manner that 1000 words may not, unless you are a literary writer. I love to see my family, their smiles, their little joys, their daily lives. It is personal. It works.
It is an excellent medium (although I have never actually met one) to capture a moment, something beautiful – as attested by any number of sunrise and sunsets – or a scene worth sharing, an event from a personal perspective.
A holiday, a wedding, a meeting, a meal. Friends together.
It can be a lot of fun – silly captions and word plays.
All good harmless fun, promoting connectivity otherwise not easily available, and a chance to be a little creative.
what’s not to hate?
Selfies – an ugly obsession, even if you are beautiful.
The perception that everything you do is amazing, every place you go is exotic. Heaven help your friends if they can’t match your fabulous life – which I happen to know you don’t lead.
Photos of the food you are about to consume – when else would you invite the world to your table, and how big can a steak be?
Sayings as banal as they are short. Solomon would blanch.
Likes. How many did I get? They always get more! How can I boost my likes?
It has been 10 minutes since I last looked. See you later.
word of caution…
Social Media is a place to express anything you like, so it would seem, but seeing as we march to a different beat we may need to consider some strictures on our expression for the sake of the following.
One, least considered, is that we all represent each other. We need to consider, does what we write, comment on, text, tweet, re-tweet, or like, represent C3 and its generally accepted non- partisan approach, especially in regards politics? Does it represent faith, hope, and love? Does it represent the mindset and attitude of the leader of C3 –Phil Pringle?
Secondly, in the early days of C3 we made a decision to include in our Policy that our pulpits were to be for the preaching of the Gospel, not for personal gain, and that we would do all we could to avoid contentious and/or political statements or political parties, named Christian or not.
Our experience was that when we start to make political statements, particularly as they favor one party over another, we are likely to divide the people we are reaching – in that there is no position in politics that is unequivocally Christian. And there never has been as His kingdom is not of this world. Jesus spoke these words to the representative of the most powerful nation in the world, to a man who teased him with his power to release him from death. Jesus wouldn’t have a bar of his offer, nor his claim to any real power.
I stand by this Policy in our church, in a nation deeply divided between Conservative and Democratic Socialist Governments. We have something to say that transcends and dwarfs the powers of this age.
Being partisan in the pulpit robs the pulpit of its power.
We play into the hands of weakness when we propagate a specific party or philosophy.
Thirdly it is very difficult, as in impossible, to follow the injunction of the Apostle Paul to pray for all in authority when we are hammering them on social media – like it or not, our pulpit as well. It is to be remembered the very person he asked the believers to pray for was most likely the one under whose reign Paul was martyred – Nero.
His prayer had little to do with agreeing or not about the polices and practices of the Roman world. He prayed for them so that we might live quiet and peaceable lives, so that the gospel would have free reign, and God His way.
Church history is replete with wonderful examples of how believers interacted with those in authority. Eusebius, the early church historian remarks as to the gracious demeanor of Polycarp shown the arresting officers who were to take him to his death. He made a meal for them and treated them civilly, even lovingly. Even more interesting, and profoundly instructive, is how he addressed the man that was sentencing him to a gruesome death. The Proconsul virtually begged him to foreswear his Christ. Polycarp answered with determined grace but never once personally attacked the man who set him alight.
In short, you can’t pray effectively for people you are condemning. We aren’t being asked to agree with policy, but we are being asked to pray for those whom God has set over us – if we are to believe Paul.
Written by Simon Mcintyre
No-one need tell us marriage is taking a significant hit, and that divorce rates continue to rise. And that what is true of the community is becoming all too familiar in God’s church. Divorce has become the preferred option to working through difficulty. It is simply easier. Or rather, it is sold to us that it is. The results militate against the advertising. Children suffer – no matter how much the parents insist they have an amicable relationship with their ‘former.’ Women are primarily the losers, poverty increases, crime rises and jail looms.
One-way through is to re-engineer marriage so that it becomes a smorgasbord rather than a set meal. Options are being added daily that are neither sustainable nor natural – in the sense that it takes a man and woman to initiate, birth and properly sustain a family. Anything else is literally unproductive, therefore unnatural, without any appeal to moral codes.
I suspect, or at least hope, this will go the same way as restaurants that have salad and food bars. They have been found to contain a lot of ‘less than desirable’ little extras.
A casual approach to Holy Matrimony, an increasingly popular trend, is part cause and part reflection of marriage breakdown.
Whilst we uphold marriage as honorable and holy – the Roman Catholic Church believes it to be a sacrament – we undo our intentions by agreeing with the world around us that is personalizing and making marriage ceremonies more and more blasé. We meet under trees, on the beach, in the clouds (Skydiving vows), in queues (see A Reflection), anywhere. We dress as though we were at a party. The minister wears casual clothes, the wedding guests even more so, the parents privately disappointed that the wedding day looks less sartorially attended to than a day at the races.
Wherever something becomes casual, outdoors-ee, it loses something, and it is this constant leeching of the holy, the serious, from the wedding ceremony that ultimately works towards undermining the institution of marriage. As it begins, so it goes.
This isn’t the rant of someone older, as though that in itself invalidates what is said. It is the rant of someone who sees the church treading the same cultural patterns of the world it is called to be light and salt to. (Worryingly we don’t recognize this – worldliness is thinking that what the world does is normal, therefore acceptable.)
Marriage is sacred and serious and requires an environment that fosters its sacredness, and not one that engenders a lessening of its sacred purpose. Solemn and joyful.
And this starts at the start – the wedding ceremony. When we dumb down this day we are dumbing down a future. We are falling into the trap of cheapening the act, therefore cheapening its purpose and what it speaks to and about.
The grand pronouncement of Moses, underpinning human history, upheld by Jesus, and believed by the church, is becoming a quaint little ceremony. We aren’t helping ourselves. We are secularizing the sacred by the art of being casual.
A couple waiting in line at the first US screening got hitched with a Star Wars (look alike) cast. The Celebrant was Obi-wan-Kenobi, and the Father Darth Vader. Not sure who Chewy was?
The crowd cheered and yelled, and my heart sank.
Marriage has been so trivialized that we think this constitutes a marriage celebration. What happens if the husband turns on the Franchise, or outs Darth Vader as a plastic version of himself.
And what tie binds, except the ever-fickle definition of love – something I am in until am not anymore.
Of course you could always look at this as, just fun – which I am sure it was to them. And life should have fun, for goodness sakes. Fun, however, does have context, and I’m not so sure a marriage ceremony should be merely fun, or hinged around fun, much less Star Wars – a fun movie itself.
Marriage is the springboard of social health and wellbeing. Linking it to Star Wars is like giving a light sabre to a child – damage is inevitable. I will go to see Star Wars. Can’t wait! But I’m unlikely to renew my vows before, during, or after the screening.
Written by Simon Mcintyre