Monday, November 26, 2012

Sermon -- Thanksgiving Eve (November 21, 2012)

In the name + of Jesus.

     St. Paul wrote, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” (Philippians 4:11-12)  St. Paul had seen the highs and lows of it.  He knew feast and famine.  He knew joy and sorrow.  He knew peace and persecution.  He knew what it was to enjoy fellowship with his Christians friends and he knew what it was to flee from his enemies.  What is remarkable is this: He was content in the midst of it all.  When he enjoyed having abundance, he did not forget the God who blessed him so richly.  When he endured the lean times, he did not despise God who withheld blessings from him.  That is because he knew he had a loving and merciful Father in heaven no matter what.  Though his circumstances changed, his God did not.  The Father knew exactly what Paul needed at all times, and the Father always supplied St. Paul’s needs.

     Now, we are almost 2,000 years removed from the days of St. Paul.  So we might think, “Sure.  It was easy for Paul.  He did not have a family to fret about.  He did not have the bills I have.  He never faced the prospect that he could be downsized from his job.  God always took care of him.”  It is easy to paint an image in our minds which suggests that Paul had no real problems.  But that is what we do in our sinful hearts.  Each of us convinces ourselves, “There are no greater problems than my problems.”  We dismiss other people’s fears and minimize their problems.  It is all because we are self-absorbed and self-important sinners.  Do you know why my problems are significant and yours aren’t?  Because my problems are mine and yours aren’t.  That is a cruel, egotistical, and even idolatrous way to look at things, but we are all cruel, egotistical, and even idolatrous.  Repent.

     We may imagine St. Paul breezing through life without any real concerns or worries.  Of course, this is not true.  Read through 2 Corinthians 10-11 and you will learn of St. Paul’s many woes and struggles – woes and struggles that you have never had to face.  But that doesn’t really matter.  It is not a competition.  We are not here to determine who is having a harder life – you vs. St. Paul.  And it is pointless to compare your blessings or your struggles with your siblings, your neighbor, or with the people in the church with you.  God blesses everyone differently.  He gives both blessings and crosses, and he hands them out differently to each one of us.  But no matter what you enjoy or what you endure, you all have a loving and merciful Father in heaven who knows exactly what you need.  And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in Christ Jesus.

     St. Paul wrote, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.” (Philippians 4:11)  Chances are you have experienced both.  Reflecting upon this year may fill you with grief rather than gratitude.  No matter what, King Solomon would have you remember this: “When times are good, be happy, but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.” (Ecclesiastes 7:14)  No matter which times God is putting you through, he remains your good and merciful Father in heaven.  He knows your needs, and my God will supply every need of yours.

     It is the nature of sinners to question God’s actions, God’s love, and God’s wisdom.  That is what caused Adam and Eve to rebel in the Garden of Eden.  It is what causes you to resent God for the way he blesses you – whether giving you plenty and variety or restricting you to scant little. 

     Children do not know what is best for them.  They can make some silly demands and foolish choices.  So it is for you.  You are children of the heavenly Father.  He knows all things; you do not.  He knows every reason behind your circumstances; you knowledge is limited.  You crave what you want; God knows best what you truly need, and is able to deliver on it.  My God will supply every need of yours. 

     The Father knows that your greatest need is your eternal salvation.  He always acts with this in mind.  This is what moved him to send his only begotten Son into the world.  Jesus lived and died for you.  He supplied all the willing obedience you have not given.  The Son of Man lived without having a place to call his own.  He died with his only possession being his garments, and even those were taken from him.  And yet he spent his life praising and thanking his Father.  Jesus has atoned for your discontent with his gratitude.  Jesus covers your complaints with his words of praise.  And he shed his holy, precious blood to redeem you from all your sins.  Why?  Because this is precisely what you need.  If you would have eternal life, you need to be found righteous and you need your sins removed.  Therefore, Jesus willingly and gladly lived and died for you.  In Baptism he gave you the righteousness you need.  In the Lord’s Supper, Jesus gives you the forgiveness you need.  Whoever believes in Jesus has the Advocate he needs at the final judgment.  Your salvation is secure.  God has supplied every need of yours.

     If the Lord cares that much for you to do this so that you would dwell with him for eternity, will he not also love and preserve you for this momentary time?  Your heavenly Father knows what you need.  And what you may need is to learn that every blessing in this world is fleeting and that all worldly treasures are not to be trusted.  If that is what you need, you can be sure that your Father in heaven will supply it.  The Lord disciplines those he loves.  If he loves you as his own child, the Lord will bless you as is best for you – whether high or low, whether in abundance or in need.  All that he has you enjoy or endure is for your good whether you know it or not. 

     My God will supply every need of yours, no matter what.  No matter what changes you have to endure, your heavenly Father does not change.  That is why St. Paul could write, “In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:12-13) 

     Perhaps the Lord will pour out abundance in the months to come.  Perhaps he will remove blessings from you to teach you to forsake this world and to yearn for heaven.  Perhaps the economy will thrive.  Perhaps these past years have been a mere appetizer for the depression that is coming.  Perhaps your situation will get better than you’ve ever dreamed it could.  Perhaps it will become more dire than you think you can handle.  Perhaps.  I don’t know.  You don’t either.  I doubt St. Paul planned to spend so many years in prison that his ministry would have to be done through epistles.  St. Paul was probably also amazed that he had survived as much as he already had.  Whether God blesses you with abundance or pittance, you need not fret.  Whatever God gives you, he gives it to you because it is what you need.  And he gives it to you because he is your good and merciful Father in heaven.

     I don’t know how God will bless you.  You don’t either.  What God has not revealed to you – don’t worry about it.  You don’t need to know it.  It is God’s concern.  Your comfort is what God has made known to you.  Know this: Your God does not change.  He is your good and merciful Father in heaven.  His love does not waver.  His forgiveness covers you.  His strength sustains you.  He knows your needs and does all things for your good.  He watches over your life on earth and reserves your place in heaven.  So let your heart be content.  Let your lips give thanks.  Put your mind at ease.  My God will supply every need of yours.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

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