Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sermon -- Thanksgiving (November 26, 2014)

MATTHEW 6:25-34

In the name + of Jesus.

     Thanksgiving is an easy holiday because we have been blessed with so much.  God’s generosity has given us blessings that excel in both abundance and variety.  Our grocery stores do not know seasons.  You can buy any kind of fruit or vegetable at any time of the year.  The only thing our wardrobes seem to be lacking is space.  If we are sick of whatever season we are in, we can take a flight to visit a different climate and find better weather.  If we want to escape reality altogether, there is a whole cyber-world out there to visit.  The times in which we live are amazing.  We often surpass the science fiction of just a century ago.
     We depend on technology to do things more efficiently, but we don’t live on technology.  The staples of life remain the same since the days of the Garden of Eden.  Our needs are the basics—food, clothing, and shelter.  If the bulk of the world’s history could exist without wi-fi and electricity, you could too.  But no one survives without food, clothing, and shelter.  These are what your heavenly Father has promised to give you, and your heavenly Father has been faithful in doing so for another year.  The Lord is faithful—so be thankful, not anxious.
     We live in the most luxurious time and place in the history of the world, yet we still stress and fret.  Why?  Because we don’t trust God to supply our needs.  We wish we could be God—convinced that, if we had almighty power, we would never lack anything.  But we aren’t God.  We have to rely on our Father in heaven to supply our needs.  We are wholly dependent upon God, and we hate it.  We do not trust God.  We do not believe that our Father really loves us.  Repent; for your whole life is totally dependent upon the Lord.    
     Jesus urges you to consider the birds of the air and the wildflowers in the fields.  They do not stress.  They are not anxious.  They are wholly dependent upon the Lord, and it causes them no concern at all.  The birds busy themselves, making nests and finding food for their young.  Then they sit on power lines or in branches and chirp or sing away.  They do what God has given them to do and do not worry about how their Father in heaven will provide for them—because he always does.  Even the cardinals and the blue jays stay throughout the winter months, knowing that the Father will care for them.
     The wildflowers do not care either.  They do not care if you pay attention to them or if you despise them as weeds.  The wildflowers bloom and grow, because that is what God has given them to do.  They beautify the meadows and even the strips of grass on the side of the freeway.  No matter how much King Solomon tried to dress himself up, it was nothing compared to the pedals on the daisies or the vibrant color of dandelions. 
     God has been faithful in providing for the birds of the air and the wildflowers in the field year after year.  Jesus asks you: Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26)  And Jesus assures you: “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  … your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. (Matthew 6:31-32)”  And then Jesus promises you: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)  You are much more valuable to God than birds and flowers.  If your Father cares for them, he cares for you more.  Your Father in heaven knows what your needs are.  He is not ignorant of your life.  And your Father in heaven is not incapable of giving you what you need to live.  On the contrary, he has promised he will.  Again this year, he did.  The Lord does not utter empty words.  These are divine promises.  The Lord is faithful—so be thankful, not anxious.
     At Thanksgiving, we tend to focus on God’s First Article gifts.  That is, we remember what Martin Luther detailed in his explanation of the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed: He gave me “my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my mind, and all my abilities.  [And he daily and richly provides] clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, cattle, and all that I own, and all that I need to keep my body and life.”  All these things our Father in heaven faithfully gives us.  He varies how much he gives to each person, but each person has what he needs.  The Lord has always been faithful about that—so be thankful, not anxious.
     Even the most adamant atheist or vile felon can celebrate Thanksgiving because these people receive God’s gifts too.  Though they may not acknowledge the Lord, they still benefit from the Lord’s kindness.  The Lord still does not show favoritism when he hands out his First Article blessings.  “Your Father who is in heaven … makes his sun shine on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)  Your Father in heaven even loves those who despise him and fight against him.  The Lord is faithful even in loving his enemies—so be thankful, not anxious.
     Though God shows love by giving enough goods to fill Wal-Mart, Target, and Kroger, or your wardrobe, pantry, and garage, his greatest love was shown to you by the Savior he sent to you.  God’s love is not seen in his First Article gifts, but in his Second Article gifts.  In other words, God demonstrates his love by what Martin Luther detailed in his explanation of the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed: “He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent sufferings and death.  All this he did that I should be his own and live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.”
     Even while you were his enemy, the Lord loved you.  God has been merciful to you by sending Jesus Christ to suffer the punishment for your ingratitude, your worry, and every other evil.  The Lord has rained down his grace on the unjust by acquitting you from all your guilt.  Jesus has done the greatest good for you in making you righteous, innocent, and blessed in the sight of his Father.  And the Lord is faithful with this gracious love.  Even though you and I grumble about God’s blessings and complain about how God reigns over all things, God does not cut us off.  We confess that we deserve his punishment, both now and in eternity.  Yet, God continues to bless us both now and will for eternity.  He continues to pour out his gifts.  He supplies what we need for this life, and he has secured our place in the life to come.  The Lord is faithful—so be thankful, not anxious.
     Therefore, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. (Matthew 6:33)  For, his kingdom will never be destroyed and his righteousness will never be devalued.  Jesus’ righteousness makes you an heir of heaven.  Jesus’ kingdom is where you are set apart as the Lord’s beloved now and forever.  The Lord’s faithfulness means that you will always have what you need—enough to eat and drink and keep warm and dry, and enough to find peace for your conscience, comfort in times of stress and sorrow, and hope for the life to come.  You do not have to be anxious, as if you have to wrestle with God for his blessings.  And you do not have to fear that God is ignorant of your needs or impotent to supply them.  The Lord is faithful; so give thanks to the Lord.  He is good, and his faithful love endures forever. 

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

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