Like a skilled artisan, God can help us weave a beautiful life by thoughtfully living with others.

The Bible offers us deep wisdom about how to live a beautiful life. There are three phrases we can embrace that will help us weave a God-honoring life. Saying, “Thank you. Forgive me. Goodbye,” can help us appreciate the people in our lives. I reflect upon this from these three passages.

Introduction

Early in our marriage, Barb and I collaborated with various artists on a short-term mission trip to New Delhi, India. New Delhi is a world-class city, so there was plenty to see, and one day we visited a bustling textile market and purchased this beautiful, hand-crafted blanket that pops with color after all these years.

The artisan wove the sun, birds, elephants, butterflies, and flowers into this blanket. Turning it over, you see the overlapping threads and layers. And, if you find a certain corner, you will see where one afternoon one of the best dogs in the world, Matches, who had a red nose, decided to chew on it.

The blanket itself is a reminder of that market, those streets, and those people. It’s also a reminder of that very spicy tikka masala I asked politely only to be mild but to no avail. 

To be on the other side of the world, to talk with siblings in the faith, and siblings from other faiths as well, and to share in smiles, stories, and knowledge was very special. 

Just like a hand-sewn fabric, our lives are interwoven with connections with others. Some of these connections are short-term – our classmates, childhood neighbors, or coworkers. Some of these connections endure for years, decades, and even our whole life. Together they make a beautiful life.

Right now, you are weaving a thread through the lives of the people you meet. I believe you are here today or watching this because you have some sense deep in yourself that you want to weave a better thread. When it is all said and done, you want people to reflect on your life and say, “Thank God, I knew them. Lord, what a beautiful life you created through them.”

The good news is there is deep wisdom in our faith that teaches us how to craft a beautiful life as we interact with others. So profound is the wisdom it can not only strengthen the bonds we currently have, but it can mend relationships that have suffered great tears.  

Today I want to talk to you about three phrases you can incorporate into your life to help you weave a better thread and craft a beautiful life.

The first thread is cultivating the habit of saying, “Thank you.” 

1. Thank You

Everyone loves hearing thank you. Thank you is not just acknowledging a favor done, but it is acknowledging a person’s presence and help in your life. “Thank you,” expresses how much their actions, big or small, have enriched your journey. Many people wonder, “Do I matter? Do I have a purpose? Am I making an impact?” When you tell them, “Thank you.” You are answering the question with a resounding, “Yes! and this is how.”

I’m talking beyond the “thank you for passing the salt,” thank-yous, which are important. I’m talking about expressing to people how they have helped you specifically. Tell them they matter.

This past Monday afternoon I received a phone call from Reverend Bob Geehan. Rev. Geehan was the pastor of this congregation for about 17 years before me. There was a two-year interim during which Pastor Dave Hondorp served as the transition pastor, and God also brought us Pastor Dave’s wonderful wife, Marvelle.

It had been a while since Rev. Geehan and I had talked, so he caught me up on his and Cheryl’s most recent move in Fort Worth. When we talk, he always asks me about my family, and he always asks about you. He permitted me to share the following.

He said, “Jason, you know, I had my retirement party, and you just never know who’s going to show up and sometimes people you really want to show up can’t, but I think I expressed myself well. I talked deeply from my heart, but when you feel like you can, would you let the congregation know something.”

I got my pen and paper ready.

“Tell them thank you. I so appreciate the bedrock experience of having the support of the congregation through good times and tough times, sometimes of my own making, and thank you for loving me the way Christians always love, and that is deeply.”

Bob and Cheryl still think of you, love you, pray for you, and give thanks to God for you. Most of all, they let you know about it.  How good does that feel to hear that? Wonderful!

That is what is happening in our passage from Philippians. Paul has served this church, and he says, “I thank God every time I remember you.” Wow! What an impact they must have had on this man. Every time I think about you, I say, “Thank you, God, that somehow our paths crossed, and our threads became intertwined.”

This relationship between them is such a good picture of what beautiful relationships can be. If you wanted to preach a three-point (or 4) sermon on this passage, you could say that their relationship was personal, prayerful, and powerful and it reinforced to them that God is praiseworthy.

Cultivating “thank you” into your life, helps your awareness. You are less likely to take people for granted. It cuts away at feelings of entitlement. It helps you notice the good things and it encourages and lifts others up. What greater gift could we give to someone than to say, “This is what you mean to me.”? 

Proverbs 18:21 states, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruit.” The world can be so discouraging, but you have the power with your words, to feed someone good words and to nourish them simply by telling them the truth!

As you weave your life’s thread, saying thank you is a powerful way to create special bonds with others. The second phrase is just as potent, and that is, “Forgive me.” 

2. Forgive Me

The first phrase notices the other person and their impact on you. “Forgive me,” notices the impact you have on the other person.

Several weeks ago, I preached about forgiveness, what it is and isn’t. I know some of you may still be working through that. I’m still praying for you. 

Sometimes we are the ones who need to apologize. We all make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes hurt the people we care about.

Why is saying, “Forgive me,” so important? First, it’s not just about the words, it’s about you taking responsibility for your actions. When you acknowledge that you have torn the fabric of the relationship, the healing and mending process can begin. 

Thank you is important, but saying “forgive me,” is another way of telling the person you care about them. 

Notice in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5, Jesus is talking about the topic of forgiveness from this side of the issue. He taught, “If you are worshipping and you remember that someone has something against you, leave your gift and seek to be reconciled.”

In that context, Jesus is talking about people who are fighting and insulting each other, and they are on the cusp of lawsuits. It’s a bad situation and he implores them, “Solve it.” If you go to court, you are going to end up with a win-and-lose solution. See if you can take ownership of your part of the situation and reconcile and thus possibly save the relationship from further damage.

Is this easy? No. Is carrying the cross of discipleship easy? No. It may be a process, but in most cases, embracing the phrase, “forgive me,” will prevent situations from escalating beyond your control.

I heard someone explain it like this: imagine someone hurts you or you hurt them, and you are aware of it. If you don’t apologize, imagine a brick being laid between you and them. If you address it, the brick goes away. If you don’t, it stays. Each time the person thinks of how you hurt them; another brick is added. Brick after brick goes up. If forgiveness doesn’t come about, a wall will form between both of you. It’s much easier to deal with one brick than to tear down a wall.

­Saying, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me,” removes the brick.

Life is messy, but humble forgiveness and taking ownership of your fault gives room for the master creator, God, to weave grace into the relationship. We never know how it is going to resolve, but owning what is ours gives the relationship a better chance of survival.

Thank you notices the contributions of the other person. Forgive me notices your impact on the other person and shows that you take ownership of the thread you are weaving in their life. And the third phrase, “Goodbye,” shows you cherish the time you have together.

3. Good-bye

In our third passage, Paul and the church in Ephesus are saying goodbye. 

The reason Paul ended up in their life is because he followed God’s call, and it led him there. And now, after three years of living and working together, God is calling him elsewhere.

Over a whole chapter, Paul reminisces over the shared life they have woven together. We worked together, he says, so that we could help those in our church and community who could not help themselves—the weak. We remembered the example of our Lord Jesus, who set the example that our lives should be about the other person instead of ourselves—it is more blessed to give than to receive.

And for the last time, Paul closed his sermon and they all knelt and prayed. Those siblings in the faith showered him in hugs, tears, kisses, and prayers, and they grieved because they knew Paul was in their lives for a reason and for a season and they blessed him with a heartfelt goodbye.

When I was on staff at Trinity Presbyterian in Santa Ana, California, we had a steady stream of interns, who were planning to go into ministry, due to our partnership with a nearby top-tier college. I made it a priority to be with them because I knew we had a limited time together and that a person’s first foray into ministry can have a pivotal influence on the rest of their life and career. 

There was something about having a sense of an ending that made me treasure the time and the opportunity to get to know some of these creative, fun, and intelligent young men and women. 

The Bible speaks to that very thing, in Psalm 90, when the writer says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (repeat) We gain wisdom when we realize the finite nature of the time we have together. It doesn’t have to be morose; it can be energizing and cause us to focus on what matters most.

Notice in the Acts passage, the nature of the verb: they brought Paul to the ship. They actively let go. They said goodbye, “And I give you to God for what God has for you next.” 

Not an easy thing to pray, but it is good to acknowledge that God is always moving in people’s lives and so our role as a Christian church is to encourage and build up everyone while they are here.

We do well to see the people around us as precious and not take them or our time together for granted. God has brought us all together for a reason and for a season. You are in this church for a season—short-term or long-term. You are in this church for a reason. What is the reason? It is more blessed to give than receive, so how is God calling you to weave your life into the fabric of this church? Remember, a rope made of three strands is not easily broken.

This is why we are wearing name tags. If we are going to weave a life together, perhaps we should know each other’s names because some of us are new and it’s kind of daunting to learn everyone’s name at once. It takes time. 

After service, staying for the coffee hour is a wonderful way to strengthen the fabric of our church. Next month we will have another potluck. It’s going to be so good, and the kids are going to have a blast. You are never too old or too young to weave a better thread.

Conclusion

These three phrases are threads of respect, appreciation, and understanding that we can weave into the fabric of our relationships. This is the evidence of the Spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ working in us and through us.

Imagine a church tightly bound by these habits of gratitude, contrition, and blessing. What a life-changing community that would be!

How great it would be and how pleasing if in this big marketplace, people came in and out of your life and looked at you and saw the threads of kindness, respect, appreciation, and understanding and said, “Wow, I’d like to live a life like that.”

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