Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Day Sermon

Thanksgiving Day – Luke 12:13-21 - November 28th, 2013

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
          “Someone in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’”  Well, here we are on Thanksgiving Day, and Pastor Brown has pulled a fast one on us.  The ten lepers are gone, and we hear this reading instead – the reading from Luke 12, the reading appointed for the celebration of the harvest.  Why?  Because this actually drives to the heart of the benefit to Christians of Thanksgiving, it points out what we are trying to avoid with a focus on thanks.  The purpose of thanksgiving is not so that we will get more blessings, not that we will get more stuff, but rather that we will enjoy the blessings we have.

          Consider the fellow in our crowd.  There he is, listening to Christ, and he feels the need to pipe up, to interject.  Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.  This has nothing to do with what Jesus had been talking about in Luke 12.  He had been warning against hypocrisy, He has said that you should not fear those who mess with the body, but rather fear God, for He will care for you.  And then, out of the blue, Jesus, make my brother pony up the cash.  Do you see it?  Here Jesus has been warning against self-righteousness and showiness, and rather pointing to God and His great care both now and for all eternity – and it goes completely over this guy’s head.  And why?  Because he is so focused on getting more, getting part of what his brother has.  He ignores what he has.

          And this is why Jesus is somewhat curt with the fellow.  “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And He said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  I’m here preaching life and salvation, and you want to turn me into Judge Judy?  Dude, what’s wrong with you?  Do you see what is going on?  I’m talking about life, eternal life – and you are all hot and bothered about just stuff.  Your life isn’t stuff, isn’t junk now.  Look, it’s an inheritance – that’s a reminder that your dad died, that he didn’t take it with him.  I am here preaching eternal life, and you’re ignoring it because of covetousness.  What’s wrong with you?

          Sometimes it’s good to learn and understand what something is by pondering its opposite.  The opposite of thankfulness isn’t being unthankful – if you are unthankful you’re not anything, you’re just not doing anything.  No, the true opposite of thankfulness is coveting.  Consider, when one is thankful, one sees what one has, one enjoys it, one delights in it, and one expresses that joy and delight.  Check this out, it’s awesome.  And now, consider covetousness.  No longer do you see what you have, what you can and ought to be delighting in.  No, rather… see what that person has.  Look at what my brother has.  Look at what is in my neighbor’s drive way, see what the other guy in the office gets… and that envy, that covetousness comes in and it creeps through everything and permeates the way you look at life and blessings and everything, and it sours everything.  And you no longer see the blessings you have right in front of you, and all sense of thankfulness evaporates and is replaced with jealousy and disappointment and anger and indignation.  The man in the crowd, he can’t see his blessings, he can’t even hear of everlasting life – no, no, show me the money.

          And this is especially apt for us in America, where the “American Dream” is to have a better house, a better car, to have a better phone, to keep up with what your neighbors have.  This is especially apt for us in America, the richest country in the world where we have so many wonderful luxuries, but also the commercials and ads telling us that we need to have more and more if we want life to be happy, where we need to make our plans to go shopping early tomorrow morning… or maybe tonight, otherwise we’ll miss out on joy and happiness this Christmas because junior won’t have that toy that he just has to have, because the missus won’t have that thing she just needs, because I won’t get my tablet or TV.  We live in a culture that thrives and runs on covetousness and envy – it is what literally drives our economy.  And so we ought this day pay attention to the parable Jesus now speaks.

          And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have no where to store my crops?’  And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down by barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years: relax, eat, drink, and be merry.’”  And there was a rich man in a rich land… there was an American in America who hit the American Dream.  Growth.  Progress.  Prosperity.  We’ve got to expand the business, we’ve got to open up another location – the money is rolling in hand over foot, and see how wonderful life will be once I just get this last bit of expansion done.  Then I can rest and enjoy what I have.

          But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and all the things you prepared, whose will they be?  So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God.”  Oops.  Not going to make it to retirement.  And do you see the tragedy of this, why it’s a great reminder for Thanksgiving day?  The man was already rich… this isn’t Jed Clampett with nothing suddenly finding the black gold and moving to Beverly Hills – the man was rich already… but it wasn’t enough, he wasn’t satisfied, and he never enjoyed, he never delighted in it.  He never was thankful… and so he misses out on it.

          As Christians, we know that God doesn’t need our thanks – we aren’t pagans where we think that if we aren’t thankful God’s going to cut us off the gravy train.  God isn’t some petty relative who cuts you out of the will if you don’t jump through hoops and butter him up.  But rather this – we, you and I, need to be thankful for our own benefit.  Thankfulness is a good thing, a blessing for us, because when God makes us to pause, to see just how richly we are blessed, when we see what He has provided for us, not only are we able to enjoy what we have now, but we are prepared for the greater and more wondrous blessings we will have for all eternity in Christ.

          Consider this.  We’re going to have a feast today.  Oh, I suppose Martha Stewart might be putting on one that is more spiffy, or that Donald Trump’s might be more sophisticated and fancy – but here, or at your homes, a good meal.  Something to delight in, to rejoice in – and it would be a shame to show up to that meal thinking, “Well, it’s not as nice as what they’re eating in the White House today.”  No, God calls us away from that covetousness, away from that sinfulness, calls us to see what He has provided not for the guy on the other side of the fence, but for us, and says, “See, this is here for you to rejoice and delight it.”

          But it doesn’t end there.  There is a greater feast to come.  Christ Jesus knows your struggles with sin, He knows the temptations you fight, He knows the way the world tries to twist you and fill you with discontent.  And so, He has planned for your rescue and release from the world.  He says to you, enjoy your feast now, enjoy all your blessings now – but there’s something better to come.  I have gone to the Cross, I have suffered and died for you, I have risen, and do you know what that means?  Oh, you feast now – but that ain’t nothing compared to the feast of all eternity that You and I are going to have.  Yes, you have blessings now, even in this fallen world where moth and rust destroy, where death comes and leaves you squabbling over the inheritance. Nope, I have died, and I have left you as your inheritance the New Heavens and the New Earth, where Eden is restored, where the wine never runs out, where there is no more destruction, where it is all very good once again.  Enjoy your life here, enjoy the appetizers – for the full feast is coming soon, and because of Me you are forgiven and ready for it.

          This is what Christ has proclaimed to you.  This is what He has given you, this is how He makes you to see both your life now and the eternal life which is yours in Him.  God grant that He ever more make and keep us thankful, so that we always see and remember His great gifts to us!  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +

1 comment:

the Old Adam said...

Nice job, Rev.!

Thanks for that gospel Word on Thanksgiving, for those of us who are quite often, much less than thankful and in desperate need of a Savior.