Give Thanks. Give Back. Give Joy.

Preacher: Jessie Houff

Scripture: Ephesians 1:15-23. Matthew 25: 31-46. Psalm 100

Today, we are focusing on three scriptures, each with a different theme and what each message means. We’re going to reflect on giving thanks, giving back, and giving joy. As I read, an artwork will be next to the message. I invite everyone to listen and reflect on how you give thanks, give back, and give joy today and every day moving forward.

For this message, I want everyone to think about Giving Thanks. What does that mean to you? How does this message tell us to give thanks?

Ephesians 1:15-23: Give Thanks

“I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

“A reinterpretation of Norman Rockwell’s iconic illustration “Freedom of Worship” Rockwell’s classic illustrations of the “Four Freedoms,” have been given a photographic update by artists Hank Willis Thomas and Emily Shur. The project is part of a campaign by the arts organization For Freedoms and just one of dozens of different versions of the image.” –

For this message, I want you to think about what Giving Back means. How do you give back? How does this message speak to you about giving back?

Matthew 25: 31-46: Give Back

Mural in Neuendettelsau, Germany 

Seven Works of Mercy. Mural in Diakonie Conference Center. Neuendettelsau, Germany.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’

And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

One of the reasons I love art so much is that you don’t have to have words or even a lot of detail for a piece to be representational. This mural (of which I could not find the artsits name) is simple yet tells the story of all these beautiful deeds we heard about in Matthew. Silhouettes represent another kindness. We don’t need to see the people to understand what’s going on. Thanksgiving is usually a time when we think of how we can give back. We may donate money or give products to those in need. Food, clothing. Personally, a great way to give back would be to stay safe and protect others. Wearing of a mask can save so many lives. Staying indoors and reducing the amount of time you spend outdoors is good too, though we have to remember to give back even when we’re indoors. My family is planning on coming, so we are eagerly awaiting all of our Covid tests to hopefully come back negative. How can we give back this year?

Psalm 100: Give Joy

Finally, we give Joy. What does it mean to give joy? How does this message tell us to spread joy in all we do?

Jump for Joy by ArtByCorby on Etsy

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come into his presence with singing. Know that the LORD is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”

Next week starts the Advent season. I have never looked forward to Christmas more in my life. There is so much to celebrate and the expression of Joy is ever present during this season. There is joy in Mary and Elizabeth, which is why I love this painting so much. Though she knew she would undergo judgement and pressure, she was able to celebrate with her close relative who also was expecting a child. This image was taken from a shot from the film, “The Nativity Story” in 2006. I love how this artist took a moment from another artists’ rendition of this story. None of us were there in the moment these two met and Elizabeth’s baby jumped for joy, but I imagine the moment looked a lot like this. 

We are all preparing for a different kind of Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. I think this will give us an opportunity to look inward; celebrate precious time together, cook good food, support local businesses and perhaps even making or own Christmas decorations from things in our own home.

Let us give thanks

We will give back

And we will give joy!


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