Pentecost Sunday – Narrative Lectionary 4
May 20, 2018
Grace, Mankato, MN
Philippians 4.4-7; Acts 2.1-21
“… in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.”
Like all parents, we had bedtime rituals for our daughters as they were growing up. For example, since we have two daughters, Cindy and I would switch off reading to one of them each night. But, an important part of the routine was keeping a prayer journal. One night we’d ask the girls for a “please” prayer and we’d write it in the journal. “Please help grandma to feel better. The next night it would be a “thank you” prayer. “Thank you for helping grandma to feel better.” The practice taught them the two basic prayers, “please” and “thank you,” and through the journal they were able to see how God answered them.
It never occurred to me to combine the “please and thank you prayers” into one prayer. But it does occur to the Apostle Paul, who tells the Philippians, “… in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” In other words, “thank you and please.” As we’ve seen in our brief foray into Philippians, though Paul didn’t found the church, they have a great affection for each other. He cared deeply about their struggles, both from the outside and on the inside. His letter is designed to help them in their lives of faith.
In this text, Paul reminds the Philippians of two things: first, God wants to hear from them. That’s important because we need to know that we are not alone and that God shares the load with us. Second, Paul wants them to know that in sharing their burdens, it’s important to do so with gratitude and thanksgiving. This is something that my spiritual director has been gently but firmly beating into my head for some time, to deep the practice of gratitude. This isn’t a “don’t worry, be happy” attitude; rather, it’s recognizing God’s care and presence for us in the midst of our struggles.
Martin Luther came up with a practice for praying through the scriptures that can be helpful here and he uses the acronym of “TRIP.” T stands for “Thanks” and you are ask what in the passage or in your life are you thankful for or where can you express gratitude? R stands for “Regret” and here you admit that you fall short of what God intends for you and that you participate in your problems. In other words, what are you sorry for? I stands for “Intercession.”; what is it that we’d like God to do for us, in us or with us? Finally, P stands for “Purpose” and, based on the forgoing, what might God be calling us to do in response?
Today we are celebrating Pentecost, that event where the Holy Spirit is poured out on that early group of believers and what we call the birth of the church. It is right that we are also celebrating our graduating high school seniors with quilts and scholarships. It is our hope that the quilts we give them will be reminders of how much they are loved. But the quilts are also a reminder to them to practice gratitude in the midst of difficult times, to know that no matter what happens in life that God is with them and there’s a place that cares about them. Think of the quilts as the Holy Spirit with batting. For all us, we can think of Holy Communion the same way: giving thanks for God’s presence in the midst of daily life. It’s as easy as “thank you and please.” Amen.