Ed & Annie, it is great to celebrate this event with you. There is no doubt that 50 years of marriage is something to celebrate.
Carla and I have appreciated the opportunity we have had to get to know you and to be in the church together and also to work together with you in your role as deacon couple. I always appreciated your wisdom and your concern when you served in that role. We appreciated your faithfulness, your understanding of situations and your compassion. Thank you for that and thanks for inviting me to share a few words this evening.
I like the fact that you wanted a definite tone of thanksgiving, so when I began to think about what to say, those are the words which I looked for in Scripture. There are two things which I would like to say, which I found in some verses in the Bible.
I. We Thank God for You
First of all, I would like to say, on behalf of myself, your guests and your children that we thank God for you. That may not be what you expected me to say on this occasion, but the phrase comes directly out of I Thessalonians 1:2, 3 where we read, "We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."
The “we” in this verse I am taking to mean all those who are gathered here today. Of course I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself and suspect that others have similar feelings.
The next thing that is worthy of note in this verse is that the thanksgiving is directed not at you, but at God for you. I think there is a difference in thinking that way. It is not inappropriate to thank you for many things and I am sure that all of us could thank you, but that is not the direction of the verse. The direction of the verse is that we thank God for you. That implies something significant. It implies that God has given you to your family, your church and your friends as a gift. God is the giver of that gift. It implies that whatever you have to offer, whatever you are and however you bless people is something that God has done in you and through you. So even though we are thanking for you, the direction of the thanks is to God for what He has done in and through you.
Three things are mentioned in the text for which Paul is thanking God for the Thessalonians and I think they are inappropriate for you as well.
He mentions that he is thankful to God for their work produced by faith. There are so many ways in which this is true of you. We also can say thanks to God for the work you have done because you are people of faith. Specifically, your faith in God has prompted you to raise your children to believe in God. You have passed your faith on to them. That is a work produced by faith. You have been faithful servants in the church. I know mostly about your work as deacons which you did faithfully for many years. I also know that there is much more that you have done because you have faith in God.
Secondly he mentions “your labor prompted by love.” Once again, this is something about which we thank God for you. Love, the love which comes from God and has been poured out in your hearts by the Holy Spirit, has shaped you and has prompted many of the things you have been involved in. The fact that your children enjoy coming home and spending time with you says something about a love built relationship. I have seen your compassion and care in taking care of the needs of people who have struggled in the church and community. That too is a labor of love and we thank God that you responded to His love for you with a love that was lived out.
The third thing he mentions is your “endurance inspired by hope.” I know that life has not always been easy for you. You have had your share of challenges, with your family, with your farming and with other things. Yet in the midst of those challenges, we have seen that you are people of hope. The hope in the Lord Jesus which assures you of one who forgives sins, one who is present with you to guide and one who has assured you of eternal life is what has guided your path and strengthened your hearts in all of life.
So we thank God that you have been people of faith, people of love and people of hope.
II. We Thank God with You
But today we also thank God with you. I know that as you celebrate 50 years of marriage, you do so with joy in what God has given you. Psalm 92:1-5 encourages us with the appropriateness of giving thanks to God. There we read, "It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp. For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands. How great are your works, O Lord, how profound your thoughts!"
There are many great thoughts in this Psalm. It affirms how good it is to praise God. It encourages us to sing praises to Him. It encourages that we ought to have a life of giving thanks and praise to God.
Today, however, I want to draw your attention to the three times in this Psalm where it speaks about the reason for praising God. In verses 4, 5 it talks about being glad for God’s deeds, singing for joy at the work of His hands and declaring that God’s works are great. What an appropriate way of expressing what is happening here today. God has done many things for you. What are they? Some things we know about. Some things only you know about. As you sit here today, what is it that you recognize as something that God has done? How has He blessed you with things that could only be attributed to His hand? Some of them have been stated already in the program, others are in your hearts. We join you in saying thanks to God and praising Him for all of them.
Among all of the things which God has done for which I know you are thankful, there is certainly gratitude to God for His grace in calling you His children. Colossians 1:12-14 expresses thanks for this great gift when it says, "giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
This verse is a verse declaring thanks to God for what He has done. It speaks about one specific thing that He has done and that is He has rescued you from darkness and brought you into the kingdom of light. He has redeemed you from your sin and from eternal death and He has forgiven your sins and has made you saints who are qualified to share in an inheritance which is incredible and eternal.
For this great act of God, which I know you appreciate, we join you in praising God for what He has done.
I applaud you for choosing to say thank you to God. As you reflect back over the 50 years you have been together, I suspect that your mind has landed on many images, many memories, some pleasant and some not so pleasant. Yet you have chosen to put them all together under the one umbrella of God and you are choosing to give thanks to Him for the whole.
We join you in that thanksgiving. We thank God for you because He has done some great things in you and through you. We thank God with you as you remember all of His amazing deeds. May God be praised!