Thanksgiving Day Sermon on Thursday November 22nd, 2018, at 11 a.m.

 

 

The Lessons: Joel 2:21-27; Psalm 126; 1 Timothy 2:1-7; St. Matthew 6:25-33

The Text: St. Matthew 6:25-33

The Topic: Have no anxiety about the material things of this life; instead, seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness.

INTRODUCTION

An atheist was walking through the woods, admiring all the “accidents” that evolution had created. “What majestic trees! What powerful rivers! What beautiful animals!” he said.

Suddenly he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. Turning to look, he saw a seven-foot grizzly bear charging toward him. He ran as fast as he could up the path.

He looked over his shoulder and saw the grizzly was closing in on him. He was so scared that tears came to his eyes. His heart was pounding. He tried to run faster but then tripped and fell to the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up, but the bear was over him, raising its right paw to strike him.

“O my God!” cried the atheist.

Time stopped. The bear froze. The forest was silent. Even the river stopped moving.

As a bright light shone on the man, a voice came out of the sky, “You deny my existence for all these years, teach others that I don’t exist, and even credit creation to a cosmic accident. Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer?”

The atheist looked directly into the light and said, “I would feel like a hypocrite to become a Christian after all these years, but perhaps you could make the bear a Christian?”

“Very well,” said the voice.

The light went out. The river ran. The sounds of the forest resumed. Then the bear dropped its right paw, brought both paws together, bowed its head, and spoke: “Lord, for this food which I am about to receive, I am truly thankful.”

— Anonymous [1]

The idea of a day of thanksgiving on which the people of a nation should assemble together to give thanks to God for their many blessings is a noble and honorable one. The presidential proclamations of Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln concerning Thanksgiving Day reflect their awareness of how our nation should respond to God in thanksgiving for the many blessings God has bestowed upon it. If we are tempted to think that we do not need a national Thanksgiving Day, let us consider how many other nations do not even have such a day in their calendar of national holidays, when the nation is encouraged to give thanks to God for all his blessings. There are other national holidays which encourage patriotism and nationalism, but Thanksgiving Day reminds us of what the Bible frequently encourages God’s people to do – give thanks to Him. Giving thanks and praise to God reminds us also of how dependent we are on God for all that we need. Not only do we remember how dependence on God when we give thanks to him, but we also look to exemplify in our own lives the Christian lifestyle of faith in God to supply all our needs. This does not mean that we cease from our daily work, but that we do our best in all that we do, while we trust in God to meet our needs.

A LIFE FREE OF ANXIETY ABOUT MATERIAL NEEDS

In today’s Gospel Lesson, the Lord Jesus Christ tells his disciples not to be anxious about food or drink or clothes (Matt. 6:25). Why does he tell them this? They were being called to a lifestyle in which money was not to be made so important as to displace God in their lives. At the end of the verse preceding the opening verse of our Lesson, the Lord had said, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24b, KJV). Mammon, or material wealth, cannot be served on a par with God. You have to prioritize the love of God. When you do, he may lead you to do work that does not pay very well, or he may lead at least some Christians to do this. Instead of being afraid that they will not survive in hard times, Christians must trust God to meet their needs. There may even be times when they are without work, when God sustains them, as he sustained Elijah in the wilderness with a stream of water, the Brook Cherith, and scraps of food brought by ravens (1 Kings 17:1-7). It is to the birds themselves that the Lord refers when he asks his disciples to consider how God feeds them, though they do not sow or reap or gather grain into barns (Matthew 6:26).

In view of the fact that God feeds the birds, he will also feed his people, who are much more valuable to him than birds. Since God clothes the wild flowers and grass of the field beautifully, he will also much more provide clothes for the disciples of His Son.

Furthermore, our anxiety achieves nothing in our lives, except to fuel distrust of God’s promises, and rebellion against his will. It doesn’t bring to us the material things for which we are anxious. Corrie ten Boom said:

Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength. [2]

 

A LIFE IN WHICH WE SEEK FIRST GOD’S KINGDOM AND RIGHTEOUSNESS

Knowing that God knows his people need the basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, a home in which to live, Christians are called to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness. Then they will find that God will add to them the things that they really need.

But what is a life like in which the kingdom of God and his righteousness are top priorities. It is a life lived in Christ, by faith in him, in which we frequently express our praise to God and our thanksgiving for all that he has given us in Christ and done for us. It is a life that shows love for God above all and a conscious and thankful dependence on Him.



[1] p. 477, Craig Brian Larson & Phyllis Ten Elshof (General Editors): 1001 Illustrations that Connect. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, Christianity Today International, 2008.

[2] http://www.wiseoldsayings.com/anxiety-quotes/

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