Thank You

Thank You

Easter 4 (NL2) John B. Valentine
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 April 21, 2024


There’s something kind of intriguing about this morning’s scripture lessons.

You see ... we’ve got two texts today ... Acts chapter 17 and 1 Thessalonians chapter 1 ... rather than the usual one ... which in and of itself is a bit intriguing ...

But ... having them paired together as they are ...

• they’re “intriguing” because this is one of the few times in the Bible where we’ve got a “third-person” account ... an historical reporting ABOUT the Thessalonians ... alongside a “first-person” account ... a piece of correspondence TO the Thessalonians .... and

• they’re “intriguing” because they allows us to see what it meant to both ‘outsiders’ and ‘insiders’ to encounter those early Christians who’d “been turning the world upside down” ... and

• they’re “intriguing” because they allows us to look at the “facts” of the matter ... as told in the Book of Acts ... and hold them up against the “feelings” of the matter ... as told in 1st Thessalonians ... and

• they’re “intriguing” because it invites us to be historical and theological at one and the same time!

Speaking of which ... I would be remiss were I not to tell you that there’s a subset of folks in our congregation whose ears really ought to perk right up when I talk about things like this ...

You see ... for the last two-and-a-half years now ... there’s been a dozen or so folks who’ve been gathering together twice a month and walking through this big fat beast of a book entitled “The New Testament in Its World” ... and looking at the historical context and the theological import of each fo the twenty seven books in the New Testament ...

Steve and Nina ... and Sharon and Janine ... and Bea and Bill ... and Juanita and Elaine ... and Donald and Paula ... and the eminently-erudite over-achiever Bob ...

And next week they’ll officially be graduates of that course ...

And I’m really proud of their commitment to that course-work and their commitment to getting to know the Bible better ... so props to them!

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Anyhow ... I want to take as my text this morning just one brief snippet from the letter ... not the historical report ... we heard read a little bit ago from 1st Thessalonians ... wherein Paul and his compatriots write:

“We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And the reason that I want to take that as my text is because ... it turns out ... my mom was right!

Seriously ... were any of the rest of you get schooled by your moms at a ripe young age as to the importance of saying “thank you”?

Any of the rest of you have a mom who ...

• Who reminded you to say “thank you” to the teller at the bank when you deposited your birthday money in your passbook savings account ... back in the day when there were savings accounts that actually bore interest and actual tellers at the bank?

• Who required you to write “thank you notes” to those folks who shared a gift with you at Christmas or your birthday?

• Who refreshed your memory about the importance of saying “thank you” on your way out the door after a sleep-over at a friend’s house?

The way I remember it ...

MY first impulse was to just enjoy the gift or the good thing that had come my way ...

But MY MOM’S first impulse was to thank the other person for what they had done for me.

“If you’re not willing to take the time to say ‘thank you’”... she’d say ... “maybe you aren’t deserving of whatever it was that they gave you in the first place.”

And it turns out ... Mom was right ... Mom was always right ... but for more reasons than she knew.

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You know ... I was reading an article the other day about a fellow named Blake Griffin. Any of you happen to catch that on the sports page?

Blake Griffin ... until earlier this week ... was a professional basketball player

And the article I referenced was one in which Blake Griffin announced his retirement ... in which he wrote:

“I never really envisioned myself as the guy who would have a ‘letter to basketball’ retirement announcement. And I’m still not going to be that guy. But as I reflected on my career, the one feeling I kept coming back to and the one thing I wanted to express was thankfulness.

“I’m thankful for every single moment — not just the good ones: the wins, the awards, the dunks, and the memorable times spent with family, friends, fans, teammates, and coaches. I could continue on about the people in my life who have contributed immensely to my career, but in this short non-letter, I have to acknowledge my parents ... and my brother ... for their unconditional support and guidance. Lastly, my agent .... who has been a steadfast voice of reason and my wartime consigliere — thank you.

“I am equally thankful for the not-so-good-moments: the losses, the injuries, the wayyyy too many surgeries, the lessons, the heartbreaks, and it wouldn’t be a sports retirement letter without acknowledging the ‘haters.’ All of these experiences made my 14 years in the league truly unforgettable, and I can’t help but to just feel thankful.

“The game of basketball has given me so much in this life, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Last but certainly not least, here comes the obligatory ‘I’m excited for my next chapter’ part: just kidding, I’m done.

“Thank you.”

Now ... by my own admission ... I was never a big Blake Griffin Fan.

• I didn’t much root for him in college when he played for the Oklahoma Sooners ...

• I didn’t much root for him when he was drafted by the Clippers ... because I just don’t like the Clippers ...

• I didn’t root for him after he got traded to the Pistons ... because the Pistons were kind of a joke when he was there ...

• And I certainly didn’t root for him when he played for the Nets and then the Celtics.

In fact ... you might have even lumped me in there with all the Blake Griffin haters that he referenced in that letter ...

But I couldn’t help but say “well-done” when it came to that retirement letter which he wrote ... his ‘thank you to basketball’ bit.

Because ... at the end of the day ... when all was said and done ... Blake Griffin figured it out.

He ... like my mom ... figured out that those two simply words ... “Thank you” ... when paired together ... are two of the most powerful words in the English language.

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Speaking of saying “thank you” ... I think that Saint Paul ... for his own part ... figured out the potency of those two words as well.

Whether it came to him by education at the hands of another ... or just by self-discovery from life-experience ... Saint Paul came to know that saying “thank you” was important.

You see ... it would seem ... by HIS own admission ... couldn’t give thanks to these Thessalonian Christians enough!

• Here ... at the beginning of the letter ... he has the affirmation of thanksgiving for these folks who were near and dear to his heart ... “We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers”

• And ... if we were to flip over to 1st Thessalonians chapter two ... we’d see that Paul shifts his focus just a little bit ... and starts naming some of the particular reasons he has to be thankful for those folks ... saying ... “We constantly give thanks to God ... that ... you received the word of God that you heard from us.”

• And then again ... in chapter three ... he comes back to the same idea ... and declares ... “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?”

In fact ... there’s such a spirit of thankfulness in this letter that it led one scholar to comment that “There is more thanksgiving here than most biblical interpreters know how to handle!!”

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But enough with how thankfulness mattered to Paul and Blake Griffin and my mom.

Here’s why I think thankfulness should matter to you and me.

You see ...

Saying “thank you” to somebody else changes whomever it is that we’re saying “thank you” to ... it changes our relationship with that person ... AND it changes US!

• It changes the person we’re saying “thank you” to because it acknowledges them and builds them up and gives them a sense of recognition. It recognizes them as significant and important. It tells them that they are valuable.

In fact ... there is no better way to live into Paul’s exhortation to “encourage one another and build up each other” than by saying “thank you” for the ways in which

• It changes the relationship we share with the person we’re saying “thank you” to because it acknowledges not just that they matter ... and that what they do matters ... but that it matters TO YOU!

So they aren’t just valuable ... they are valued ... by you! They are appreciated ... by you! They matter ... TO YOU!

But then again ... saying “thank you” doesn’t just change our neighbor ... and our relationship with our neighbor ... it actually changes US!

I mean ... what’s happens to you when you say “thank you”??

• It reminds you that somebody else is capable of doing something of value ... that YOU aren’t the only person that matters.

• It reminds you that you are part of the larger web that is the human community.

• AND it invites you to hit the reset button on your own sense of self-importance ... and to season your day with a touch of that most Christian of all the virtues ... HUMILITY.

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I know that I’ve told some of you about this before ... but again this past Lent ... I took on as my Lenten discipline the task of writing “thank you” notes to folks ... this time to other pastors in our synod.

A “thank you” note a day for forty days ... to other leaders of the church.

As always ... though it was a relatively ‘simple’ thing to do ... it was also a ‘powerful’ one.

• Just writing someone’s address on an envelope caused me to think about the particular place that person calls ‘home’ ...

• And just writing their name on that card ... and writing my name at the end of that card ... caused me to reflect on who they were to me ... and who I was to them.

• And naming ... like Saint Paul did with the Thessalonians in this lesson that we read ... why it was that I was particularly thankful for that person reminded me that this thing we call “church” is always “group work” and never an “individual assignment.”

• And ... as always ... I was reminded that thankfulness is contagious ... as more than half the people I wrote a “thank you” card to ... emailed or called or wrote me back.

Though it wasn’t my primary intention ... saying “thanks” to someone else helps them remember that they too are a precious part of the human community and particularly the church community ... that they too are interconnected with others.

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Which leaves me with the suspicion that all of us ...

Here at church ... in our families ... and out and about in the world ...

Somehow we further the Kingdom of God each and every time we say “Thank you” ... whether we say it to God or to those whom God calls our neighbors.

Because ... in a certain way ... we are created to say “Thanks” ... both to God AND to our neighbors

Or ... as a certain wise woman once said: "If we're not willing to take the time to say ‘thank you'... maybe we aren't deserving of what God has given us in the first place."

“Thank You” was/is a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine on the 4th Sunday of Easter — April 21, 2024.  The text upon which it is based is the opening verse of 1 Thessalonians.  To access a copy of this week’s worship bulletin, click here: Worship Order 20240421